In the first phase of the war to seize eastern Donbass in Ukraine, Moscow’s strategy was to drive the defenders into urban centers, bombard them with artillery, and present them with the gruesome choice of either retreat or fight on, cut off from reinforcements and means of destruction. the escape.
This strategy enabled Russian forces to capture Luhansk, the northeasternmost of the two Donbas regions. In a new stage of the war aimed at consolidating power and conquering more territory in another region, the Donetsk region, President Vladimir Putin’s forces have already begun to repeat this pattern. This time, however, getting it to work might be more difficult.
Russian forces shelled Donetsk periodically for several weeks. Over the past 24 hours, seven civilians have been killed in Donetsk as a result of shelling, the military governor of the region Pavel Kirilenko said on Thursday.
Russian-backed separatists created breakaway republics in Luhansk and Donetsk in 2014 and have been fighting Ukrainian forces ever since. The battle for Lugansk began in earnest in April and culminated this week with the fall of Lysichansk.
Military experts said that Ukrainian forces aggressively defended the territory in Luhansk, made smart tactical decisions and even made a complex maneuver to withdraw from Lysychansk under fire in order to save strength and avoid encirclement. In the end, however, they were unable to withstand the superior firepower of Russia.
“Artillery is one of the most important components of Russian operations,” said report this week from the Royal Combined Arms Institute, a research institute based in London, “and in terms of lethal capabilities, it has become a critical factor in enhancing Russia’s combat capability.”
Similarly, the Ukrainian authorities presented the fighting. “Yes, they have an order of magnitude more forces and resources,” Lugansk military governor Sergei Gaidai said on Wednesday, referring to Russia’s artillery advantage. But he argued that the situation is changing.
Western countries have increased the flow of weapons to Ukraine, including long-range missiles capable of hitting Russian positions and infrastructure. The most advanced of these is High mobility artillery missile systemor HIMARS supplied by the United States, the first of which have just begun deployment.
“There will be more long-range weapons,” he said. Gaidai said, adding that “the Ukrainian army is better prepared and motivated” than its opponent.
In the early stages of the war, G. Putin’s troops, baffled by Ukraine’s tenacity to defend its sovereign territory, failed to capture the capital, Kyiv. Moscow’s supply lines became overstretched and its troops could not effectively concentrate their artillery power. Military experts said Russia has learned from these mistakes and applied the lessons in Lugansk, where proximity to its own border has helped shorten supply routes.
Now in Donetsk Oblast, a predominantly flat area of heavy industry and agriculture, Russia has several lines of potential attack. Russian forces are slowly advancing towards the cities of Slavyansk, Bakhmut and Seversk from cities under their control, including the city of Donetsk in the south of Donbass, Izyum in the north and from the Luhansk region itself. Russia could also deploy forces from the southern port city of Mariupol, which fell to Moscow in May.
British intelligence report On Wednesday, he said that over the past week, Russian forces had likely advanced another five kilometers, or about three miles, along the main Izyum road “in the face of extremely determined Ukrainian resistance.” It said Russian forces were now about 16 kilometers or 10 miles north of Slovyansk.
Russia’s ultimate goal in the Donbas is to capture Kramatorsk, home to Ukraine’s regional administration since 2014, when separatists seized territory in the region and created two Moscow-backed self-proclaimed republics. During the eight years of conflict that followed, Ukrainian forces built elaborate defensive positions designed to make Russian forces pay dearly for any further attempts to seize territory.