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War in Ukraine: Russia focuses on Donbass

“We are preparing for new attempts by Russia to attack Donbass, to somehow intensify its movement towards southern Ukraine,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video published Sunday evening. And yet according to him, “the occupiers still do not want to admit that they are at an impasse”.

The Russians are transferring troops from the Kharkiv region (north) to that of Lugansk, in the Donbass, with the aim of taking Severodonetsk, assured for his part the Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovich on Sunday evening. The Ukrainian army also announced on Monday morning that it had blown up a railway bridge controlled by the Russians, linking Rubizhne and Severodonetsk, two objectives of Moscow.

“We are preparing for major offensives in Severodonetsk, and around the Lyssytchansk-Bakhmout axis”, already affirmed on Saturday Serguiï Gaïdaï, Ukrainian governor of the Lugansk region, which forms with that of Donetsk the Donbass mining basin. It also described an increasingly critical humanitarian situation.

Nearly three months of war have, for example, transformed Lyssytchansk, a mining town of some 100,000 mainly Russian-speaking inhabitants, into an abandoned area, devoid of water, electricity or telephone network, noted an AFP journalist.

AFP

“The Russians say they are winning and the Ukrainians too,” says Natalia Georgievna. “When we still had the internet, we could watch the news, but now…we have no idea who is behind these voices or where they are coming from,” she laments.

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But for British military intelligence, the Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine has “lost momentum”.

Moscow’s troops failed to make substantial territorial gains, putting their battle plan “significantly behind schedule”, according to these sources.

“Russia has now probably suffered losses of a third of the ground combat force it committed in February,” they added. “Under current conditions”, they consider it “unlikely” that Russia will “significantly accelerate its pace of progress” over the next month.

For their part, the Russians recount their successes by announcing that they have targeted with “high precision” missiles two Ukrainian command points and four artillery ammunition depots near Zaporijjia, Paraskovievka, Konstantinovka and Novomikhaïlovka in the Donetsk region (east ).

Russian aircraft destroyed two missile launchers and a radar system in the northeastern Sumy region, and Russian air defense systems destroyed 15 Ukrainian drones, according to Moscow.

Russian forces are also now facing a counter-offensive from Ukrainian forces in the region of Kharkiv, the country’s second largest city, where they are approaching the border with Russia.

In Vilkhivka, a village east of Kharkiv taken over by the Ukrainians, the scars of the violent fighting remain on the houses ripped open by the shells, streets strewn with debris, bullet casings and other remnants of ammunition or even the tanks out of order abandoned on the road.

AFP

Symbolically, the inscription “Azov was there”, with the symbol of the Ukrainian regiment resembling the Nazi swastika, was affixed to one of the tanks next to the “Z” which had been painted there by Russian troops, noted a AFP journalist.

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The body of a Russian soldier was still lying in a garden on Saturday while in a gymnasium, apparently used as a dormitory by the Russians, are piled up boxes of empty anti-tank ammunition, sleeping bags, instant pasta in a mess with also a basketball and school books.

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