Kremlin troops are gradually gaining a foothold in the Donbass. Worn soldiers, still scarred by the loss of so many comrades in the Battle of Kiev, arrive on the front lines and march at the behest of Vladimir Putin. He dreams of victory on the Victory Day, the 9th day of his greatest, he estimates. Western secret services. It is one of the most important Russian holidays, and it marks the victory of the Nazis in World War II and coincides beautifully with the Kremlin’s speech describing its attack as a “special operation” to “denatrify” Ukraine.
So far, after two months of war, Putin has not had much to celebrate. Last week, its forces there forced Ukrainian troops to withdraw under heavy airstrikes, artillery fire and missiles. But they have paid dearly for every country conquered (see infographics). Kreminna conquered, on his way to the back of the Ukrainian front line in Lugansk. Russian troops were described as patrolling the center of the nearby town of Rubizhne and taking up positions in the suburb of Severodonetsk, which had about 100,000 inhabitants. Meanwhile, the Russians are advancing by force from north to south against Slovyansk on the outskirts of Kramatorsk to besiege Ukrainian units in the Donbass, trying to turn the region into a kind of giant Mariupol.
Kramatorsk had already made headlines around the world when its crowded railway station was hit by missiles two weeks ago in a massacre that killed more than fifty, two of whom were children, and nearly a hundred were wounded. “For our children,” read one of the missiles, according to France Press, a repeated slogan of Russian separatists. It was written for Tochka-U, which was full of infamous “cluster bombs.” That is, a missile that fires other smaller explosives used destructively against civilians.
However, Kramatorsk was not just one of the main border crossing points for refugees fleeing the East. It is also one of the main entry points for Ukrainian units that have defended the front line against Russian separatists since the Civil War. The troops stationed here, estimated at 40-60 thousand, make up the majority of Ukraine’s professional forces, the best-trained and best-equipped fighters – the bold defense of cities like Kiev, Kharkov, Chernivtsi or Mykolaiv was finally carried out. mainly by newly recruited volunteer battalions.
Donbass forces have managed to maintain the network of fortresses, bunkers and trenches they have built since 2014, even though they have been constantly bombed since the start of the Russian invasion. Analysts point out that the Kremlin, which is well aware that a frontal attack with mechanical forces and infantry against these stations would be costly, is consuming Ukrainian troops in the Donbass while trying to cut off their supplies.
Despite progress in recent weeks and attacks along the entire front line, Kremlin forces “have not yet created the conditions for a large-scale offensive operation,” reads a recent report by the U.S. Institute for the War Study. -based incubator. I note Putin’s zeal to make a significant victory by May 9 and that “the urgency and partial preparation of Russia’s attack is likely to undermine its effectiveness and jeopardize its success.”
In practice, “the Russians did not have enough time to re-form the troops that withdrew from the battle of Kiev and prepare them enough for a new attack in the East,” the report continues. This despair has forced Moscow to seek troops where it can recruit them. Whether among the nearly 135,000 young Russians called up for military service this spring, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu himself said he would not be “sent to any hotspot”, despite separatist recruits with rifles. XIX, advanced Reuters – or across borders.
In fact, last week saw for the first time troops Russia had recruited into Syria with the support of its ally Bashar Al-Assad, whose regime survived the civil war thanks to Russian military intervention. The Syrians fought in Popasna, a besieged city that used to have about 20,000 inhabitants and appear to be integrated into the units of Wagner, a mercenary company famous for the dirty work of the Kremlin, the Institute for the Study of War has stated.
Even in Ethiopia, there have been queues of people willing to fight in Ukraine after rumors that Russia paid two thousand dollars a month. “Living in Ethiopia is difficult,” a street vendor, one of many Ethiopians at the door of Russia’s embassy in Addis Ababa, explained to Reuters, carrying evidence of his military service in a country in the midst of a brutal civilian. a war in which federal forces are accused of ethnic cleansing and rape.
Mariupol opposes so far
In Putin’s eyes, it would be great to present Mariupol’s conquest as a victory on May 9th. It is not only a strategic city, the key to governing the Azov Sea and creating a corridor between Donbass and Crimea, but it was also the headquarters of the Azov Battalion, a Ukrainian nationalist group accused of atrocities against Russophones and neo-Nazis. inspiration that fits well with the holiday theme. However, the defenders of Mariupol, rooted in their last fortress, Azovstal, demanded that Moscow’s plans be ruined.
This headache did not stop the Kremlin from celebrating its control of the city, while Putin at his Security Council meeting reversed the attack he had promised in Azovstal and ordered a blockade to allow the “no fly” to cross Russian lines.
After all, we are talking about the largest metallurgy in Europe, a huge labyrinth of tunnels, cellars and furnaces, where there is no shortage of places to hide Ukrainian troops. The Kremlin – which has boasted of the surrender of more than 1,000 Ukrainian Marines in Azovstal in recent weeks – is well aware that after more than 40 days of siege, the defenders ’biggest enemy is thirst, hunger and a shortage of ammunition. And he is aware that Russian troops with an ungrateful mission to attack metallurgy would suffer heavy losses.
Although Ukrainian forces have no hope of victory in Mariupol, their resistance has not been in vain. The 12 tactical battalion groups used by the Russians in the battle of Mariupol – the artillery of the army group’s operational unit, air defense and its own mechanized forces to make them flexible and independent, 800-900 boosters. – suffered heavy losses, Penagon said. By abandoning the promised Azovstal attack, Putin will release some of his troops to launch an attack in the Donbass, but some of these 12 battalions of tactical groups must be left behind to maintain the blockade.