The battle of Donbas could prove decisive in Ukraine war
Day after day, Russia beats the Donbas region in Ukraine with implacable artillery and air raids, making slow but regular progress in grasping the industrial heart of its neighbor.
With the conflict now in its fourth month, it is a highly challenging campaign that could dictate the course of the whole war.
If Russia prevails in the Battle of Donbas, this means that Ukraine loses not only land but perhaps most of its most competent military forces, paving the way for Moscow to seize more territory and dictate its Terms in Kyiv. A Russian failure could place the field of a Ukrainian counter-offensive and perhaps lead to political upheavals for the Kremlin.
After the first sloppy attempts in the invasion to capture Kyiv and the second-largest city in Kharkiv without appropriate planning and coordination, Russia has turned its attention to the Donbas, a region of mines and factories where the separatists supported by Moscow have been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014.
By learning from its previous missteps, Russia walks more closely there, based on longer-term bombings to soften the Ukrainian defenses.
This seems to work: the best-equipped Russian forces have achieved gains in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions that make up the donbas, controlling more than 95% of the first and about half of the second.
Ukraine loses between 100 and 200 soldiers per day, said presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak at the BBC, because Russia “threw almost everything that is not nuclear at the front”. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has the daily record up to 100.
The Ukrainian Minister of Defense, Oleksii Reznikov, described the fighting situation as “extremely difficult”, using a reference to a former sacrifice deity by saying: “Russian moloch has many means of devouring human lives to satisfy its Imperial ego. “
When the war was bad for Russia, many thought that President Vladimir Putin could win after a few gains in the Donbas, then leave a conflict that seriously bruised the economy and stretched his resources. But the Kremlin clearly indicated that it expects Ukraine to recognize all the gains of Russia since the beginning of the invasion – something that Kyiv has excluded.
The Russian forces control the whole sea of the Côte d’Azov, including the strategic port of Mariupol, the whole region of Kherson – a key gateway to Crimea – and a large part of the Zaporizhzhia region which could help push more Deeply in Ukraine, and few expect Putin to stop.
Thursday, he made parallels between the Ukrainian conflict and the 18th century wars with Sweden led by Peter the Great. Now, as in these Tsarist times, “our fate is to take up and consolidate” historical historical lands, said Putin. Moscow has long considered Ukraine as part of its sphere of influence.
Unlike previous failures in the battlefield, Russia seems to use more conservative tactics. Many expected that he tried to surround the Ukrainian forces with a massive northern and southern pinching movement, but he used a series of smaller movements to force a retirement and not over-prolonger his supply lines.
Keir Giles, an expert in Russia in the Chatham House reflection group in London, said that Russia “concentrated all its artillery on a single section of the front line in order to make its way by flattening everything on its way. “
Western authorities always praise the ability of Ukrainian forces to defend their country, fiercely and in the same way as artillery and retirement in certain sections while launching frequent counterattacks.
“Ukraine has pursued a flexible defense policy, giving land where it is logical to do so instead of clinging to the territory every centimeter,” said Giles.
A senior west official who spoke under the cover of anonymity because he was not allowed to discuss the sensitive issue in public said that the Russian campaign “continues to be deeply troubled at all levels” , noting that the forces of Moscow take “weeks still modest tactical objectives such as taking individual villages.”
Last month, the Russians lost near an entire battalion in a sloppy attempt to cross the Siverskyi Donets river and create a bridgehead. Hundreds were killed and dozens of armored vehicles have been destroyed.
“There is a feeling of strategic improvisation or crossing,” said the official, predicting that during the summer, the Russian army could reach a “point where they can no longer effectively generate combat power offensive”.
Russia has a clear advantage in artillery in the battle for donbas, thanks to a greater number of heavy howles and rocket launchers and abundant ammunition. The Ukrainians had to be economical in the use of their artillery, the Russians constantly targeting their supply lines.
Ukraine has started to receive more heavy western weapons from western allies, which have provided dozens of tracks and now plan to start delivering several rocket launchers.
Putin has warned that if the West gives Kyiv for longer range rockets that could strike Russian territory, Moscow could reach targets in Ukraine that it has spared so far. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also said Russia could react by seizing more land as a buffer area of these weapons.
The previous territorial gains of Moscow in the South, including the Kherson region and a large part of the neighboring region of Zaporizhzhia, prompted Russian officials and their local names to reflect “popular republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Ukrainian officials and Western analysts have expressed their concern that Moscow could try to press its offensive in the Dnipro region strongly populated and industrialized further north, an advance that could potentially cut Ukraine in two and increase a new threat to Kyiv.
“The Russian objectives in the context of this war change compared to the situation on the ground,” said Eleonora Tafuro Ambrosetti, analyst of the Italian Institute based in Milan for international political studies.
“Their objectives are in a way flexible enough to be adaptive to the context on the ground,” she said, noting that Russia could try to harm Ukraine’s economy by entering the whole coast for refuse access to shipping.
A Top Russian GENERAL ALREADY HAS SPOKEN OF PLANS TO CUT OFF UKRAINE FROM THE BLACK SEA BY SEIZING THE MYKOLAIV AND ODESA REGIONS ALL THE WAY TO THE BORDER With ROMANIA, A MOVE THAT WOULD ALSO ALSO ALLOW MOSCOW TO LAND CORRIDOR TO MOLDOVA’S SEPARATIST REGION Transnistria that hosts a Russian military base.
Such ambitions all depend on the success of Moscow in the East. A defeat in the Donbas would put Kyiv in a precarious position, new recruits devoid of the skills of hardened soldiers in combat which are now fighting east and insufficient Western weapons supplies to repel a potentially deeper Russian push.
Ukrainian officials have pushed such fears, expressing the confidence that his soldiers can hold to stem the Russian advances and even launch a counterattack.
“Ukraine’s plan is clear: Kyiv carries the Russian army, trying to save time for more Western weapons deliveries, including air defense systems, hoping to launch an effective counter-offensive “Said analyst Mykola Sunhurovsky from Razumkov Center, a center, a kyiv -based think tank center.
Philip Breedlove, a retirement general of the US Air Force who was the best commander of NATO from 2013 to 2016, warned against any ceasefire that would co-produce the battlefield gains in Russia .
“It’s like raising a 2-year-old child,” he said. “If you allow bad behavior, or worse if you reward bad behavior, you will get more bad behavior.”
When Russia invaded Georgia in 2008, Washington’s response was inadequate and when Moscow entered the Crimea in 2014, “West and the United States’s response was inadequate to the task,” added BREEDLOVE.
Now that Russia has returned to find out more, the West has another chance of responding. “The way we finish this war will decide, in my opinion, if we will see more in the future,” he added.