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Strategy, scenarios, objective… What does the Russian offensive in the Donbass consist of?

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► Why are the Russians going on the offensive in eastern Ukraine?

A month and a half after the start of the war, Russian forces launched a new offensive in the east of the country on the evening of Monday, April 18. After the failure of operations in the North around kyiv, Moscow is now focusing on taking control of Donbass, a region shared since 2014 between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian separatists.

→ READ. Ukraine: the double identity of Donbass, a region shaped by its history

Russia learned from the fiasco, due in part to lack of support, by repositioning tens of thousands of troops and deploying heavy artillery in and around Donbass. In one week, according to the Pentagon, its military presence in eastern and southeastern Ukraine has increased by about eleven Battalion Tactical Groups (BTGs), bringing their numbers to about 76 in eastern and southern Ukraine. southeast Ukraine, about 50,000 to 60,000 troops.

Significantly, the Russians did not wait for the total capture of Mariupol to launch their offensive. In this city, the fighting is concentrated around the Azovstal metallurgical complex, where Ukrainian fighters are entrenched, but also “at least 1,000 civilians”, according to the Mariupol City Council. Taking this port on the Sea of ​​Azov would allow the Russians to connect Donbass to Crimea, annexed in 2014, and give them a logistical axis to supply the front while freeing up troops for other operations.

► What are the possible scenarios?

The Russian maneuver consists of taking the Ukrainian army corps defending the Donbass in a pincer movement. A double offensive was deployed from the north of the town of Izyum (taken by Russian forces on 1er April) to the cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, and, in the south, from the city of Donetsk, capital of the self-proclaimed people’s republic of the same name. To avoid the trap of urban fighting, in the face of well-organized Ukrainian resistance, Russian forces could bypass Sloviansk and Kramatorsk from the west or proceed by successive encirclements from Izyoum, to the north, and Popasna, further south.

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→ READ. Between ambushes and heavy artillery: how the Ukrainian army stands up to Moscow

” It’s hell “, said Monday evening on Facebook the Ukrainian governor of the Luhansk region, Sergei Gaïdaï. According to him, Kreminna, a town of about 18,000 inhabitants before the war, located about fifty kilometers northeast of Kramatorsk, fell into Russian hands. In the neighboring region of Donetsk, the Russians bombard “in the direction of Mariinka, Ocheretyn and Avdiivka”reported, Tuesday, April 19, its governor, Pavlo Kyrylenko, on Telegram. “The situation on the front is difficult but controlled. »

Due to the geography of this part of Ukraine, offering open terrain, armor and artillery capabilities play a big role. And international support for Ukrainian forces, in terms of arms and intelligence, will be crucial for their ability to hold out over time.

► Why are the Russians returning to the offensive so quickly?

Several analysts, including military historian Michel Goya, consider that Vladimir Putin wants to obtain gains before the military parade on May 9 in Moscow. It is the anniversary of the surrender of Nazi Germany, signed on May 8, 1945, at 11:01 p.m. in Berlin, after the entry of the Red Army, i.e. on May 9 at 1:01 a.m. Moscow time . On this occasion, Vladimir Putin could present the capture of Mariupol and that of most of Donbass as a great victory.

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→ LANDMARKS. War in Ukraine: 50 days later, the ten key dates of the conflict

In the absence of a total takeover of Donbass by the Russian army, the date would mark a level of operations, perhaps in the form of a ceasefire. Other experts are more skeptical. “If Russia hasn’t achieved enough goals by then but Russian officials think they are making more gains on the battlefield, they won’t stop just because it’s VE Day. underlines Rob Lee, researcher at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, on his Twitter account.

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Chronology of the conflict in Ukraine

February 24. Russia launches attack on Ukraine.

February 28. kyiv is applying for membership of the European Union.

March 16. The bombing of the Mariupol Theater kills nearly 300 people.

March 29. Meeting in Istanbul between the Russian and Ukrainian parties for peace negotiations.

April 3. Dozens of civilian bodies were found in Boutcha, a town near the capital kyiv, after the departure of Russian forces.

April 8. At least 50 people are killed after a Russian bombardment on Kramatorsk station in the Donbass.

April 13. Joe Biden calls “genocide” the Russian invasion of Ukraine and Vladimir Putin’s “dictator”.

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