President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has warned that “a significant part of the entire Russian army” is launching a new attack on Ukraine’s eastern front as a second phase of the war begins.
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Moscow “claims to have hit more than 1,200 targets in Ukraine with rockets, artillery and airstrikes overnight as it launched a long-awaited new offensive in Donbass”, The times reported. Russian tanks and heavy artillery yesterday opened fire from the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, where they have been massed since withdrawing from Kyiv and northern Ukraine last month.
“Russian troops have started the battle for Donbass, for which they have been preparing for a long time,” Zelenskyy said in a video address to the Ukrainian people. “A significant part of the entire Russian army is now focused on this offensive. No matter how many Russian troops are driven there, we will fight. We will do it every day.”
“Solid Military Victories”
Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s Security and Defense Council, said Russian forces “attempted to breach our defenses” along “almost the entire front line in the Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv regions.” But “our military is holding out,” he added.
However, Vladimir Putin’s troops captured the small town of Kreminna in Luhansk.
South of the Donbass, Ukrainian troops “continued to hold out in the city of Mariupol” after “rejecting an ultimatum to surrender on Sunday in exchange for security guarantees,” according to The Times.
The newspaper reported that “an estimated 1,000 civilians are hiding with the troops who have taken up defensive positions in the huge Azovstal Steel Works on the Black Sea coast”.
According to the i news Moscow has refocused the invasion on the separatist-controlled Donetsk and Luhansk regions to “regain momentum.” stalled attempts to storm the capital and the southern port cities of Ukraine”.
The “Kremlin’s military planners have abandoned their goal of simultaneously conquering the north, south and east” and are instead making “concentrated efforts” to consolidate control over the Donbass region, the site said.
The shift in focus is also believed to be related to Putin’s desire to announce some tangible military victories “in time for Russia’s Victory Day” on May 9, the “most significant date on the nation’s politico-military calendar.” Commemorating “the triumph of the Soviet Union over Germany in World War II,” the holiday is celebrated with performances such as “a grand military parade in Moscow’s Red Square.”
The second phase of the Ukraine war could be “potentially decisive”, it said Sky News’ Security and Defense Editor Deborah Haynes. It represents the “biggest test yet for Ukrainian defenders” and “could dictate the future direction of the war”.
“Ukraine has already dealt a serious blow to Russia by forcing its troops to abandon attempts to capture the capital, Kyiv,” Haynes wrote. “If Ukrainian forces can prevent Russian soldiers from reaching their targets in the east, it would significantly strengthen Ukraine’s position in the peace talks.”
Military experts “are cautious when it comes to predicting who will win the battle for Donbass,” they said Reuters. But everyone agrees that it will be “a crucial conflict that is likely to be brutal and will ultimately determine the course of the war.”
“The outcome of the battle could be that both sides will be battered to the point where neither will be able to mount an offensive or a counter-offensive,” said Konrad Muzyka, director of Poland-based consulting firm Rochan, of the news agency .
“Ukrainians will defend their country to the last man,” he added, while “Russians will suffer significant casualties.”
According to Benjamin Jensen, a senior fellow in Washington DC Center for Strategic and International Studies“denying the encirclement” by Moscow’s massed forces is Ukraine’s best hope of repelling Russia’s attack.
As part of this strategy, he explained, Ukrainian forces would launch “a series of plundering attacks that prevent Russia from building up forces” before making a major “transition from defensive warfare, subject to negative targets and denying an opponent a target, to… carry out offensive action”.
“In order for Ukraine to break the siege on its cities and a war of attrition that is already destroying its economy and displacing millions of people, Kyiv must figure out how to break the Russian army,” Jensen said. In other words, offense is perhaps Ukraine’s best defense.
For Russia, taking control of the Donbass is “vital to regaining momentum in a war riddled with setbacks, casualties and failures for Russian troops,” Sky News’ Haynes said.
“A Russian success in the East would also be likely Encouraging Putin to send his troops back north to complete a complete conquest of the country,” she warned. “It means the stakes couldn’t be higher.”
https://www.theweek.co.uk/news/world-news/europe/956461/can-ukraine-beat-russia-in-donbas Can Ukraine beat Russia in battle for Donbass?