The Battle of Donbas could be decisive in Ukraine

Russia turned its attention to Donbas, a region of mines and factories where Russian-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014.


AP | The Kremlin has made it clear that it expects Ukraine to recognize all the progress Russian forces have made.

Day after day, Russia punishes Ukraine’s Donbas region with constant artillery fire and airstrikes, in a slow but steady advance to seize the industrial heartland of its neighboring country.

The conflict is now in its fourth month, and the fight for Donbas could decide the course of the war.

If Russia prevails, Ukraine will lose not only territory, but perhaps the bulk of its most capable armed forces, opening the way for Moscow to capture more territory and impose its terms on kyiv. A Russian failure could set the stage for a Ukrainian counteroffensive, and perhaps cause political turmoil for the Kremlin.

Following failed attempts to capture kyiv and the country’s second largest city, Kharkiv, at the start of the invasion, without proper coordination and planning, Russia turned its attention to Donbas, a region of mines and factories where Russian-backed separatists are fighting. with Ukrainian forces since 2014.

Russia has learned from its previous mistakes and is operating more cautiously there, relying on strikes from greater range to erode Ukrainian defenses.

The system seems to be working. The better-equipped Russian forces have advanced in the two regions that make up Donbas, Luhansk and Donetsk, and control around 95% of the former and half of the latter.

Ukraine loses between 100 and 200 soldiers a day, presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak told the BBC, as Russia has “basically thrown everything non-nuclear on the front lines.” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had earlier given a daily death toll of up to 100 people.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov described the combat situation as “extremely difficult” and referred to an ancient deity associated with sacrifices by saying that “the Russian Moloch has many means of devouring human lives to satisfy his imperial ego.” .

When the war was going badly for Russia, many thought President Vladimir Putin would claim victory after some gains in Donbas and then end a conflict that has dealt a heavy blow to its economy and drained its resources. But the Kremlin has made it clear that it expects Ukraine to recognize all the progress Russian forces have made since the beginning of the invasion, something kyiv has rejected.

Russian forces control the entire coast of the Sea of ‚Äč‚ÄčAzov, including the strategic port of Mariupol, the entire Kherson region – a crucial access point to Crimea – and much of the Zaporizhia region, from where it could reach further into Ukraine, and Few now expect Putin to stop.

The Russian president on Thursday compared the conflict in Ukraine and the 16th-century wars that Peter the Great waged against Sweden. As in tsarist times, Putin said, “ours is to recover and consolidate” Russian historical lands. Moscow has long considered Ukraine as part of its sphere of influence.

Unlike its initial setbacks in battle, Russia now appears to employ more conservative tactics. Many expected him to try to encircle the Ukrainian forces in a huge pincer movement from the north and south, but instead he has made smaller-scale moves to force a retreat and not overly strain his supply lines.

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