The war in Ukraine enters its fourth month on Tuesday as Russian troops focus their offensive on the last pocket of resistance in the Lugansk region, in the Donbass (east).
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At the beginning of the fourth month of war in Ukraine, Russian troops intensified their offensive on the last pocket of resistance in the Lugansk region in the east on Tuesday.
After Russian forces withdrew from the country’s two largest cities, the capital Kyiv, in late March and early April, then Kharkiv (northeast) in May, Ukrainians have been “detecting difficulties” in the Donbass coal basin for several days, which is controlled by the Lugansk and Donetsk provinces is formed.
“The next few weeks of war will be difficult,” warned Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday evening.
“The Russian occupiers are trying to show that they will not leave the occupied territories of the Kharkiv region, that they will not return the Kherson region (south), the occupied regions of the Zaporizhia region (southeast) and the Donbass,” where they are trying to “to eliminate everything alive,” he said.
A new Mariupol?
Moscow is now concentrating its firepower on the Ukrainian redoubt in the Luhansk region and trying to encircle the cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk.
The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense also mentioned intense fighting nearby, near the villages of Popasna and Bakhmout.
The fall of Bakhmut in Donetsk province would give the Russians control of a crossroads currently serving as a makeshift command center for much of Ukraine’s war effort.
Despite the risks, the residents are reluctant to flee anyway: “People don’t want to leave,” complains Deputy Mayor Maxim Soutkovyï in front of a half-empty bus ready to take civilians to safer places.
In this sector, “the enemy has improved its tactical position on the territory of Vasilivka,” admitted Tuesday morning the staff of the Ukrainian army, which monitors “the major enemy activities” “near Lysytchansk and Severodonetsk.” that the Russians are trying to “encircle”.
“Severodonetsk is completely under the control of the Ukrainian authorities. But it’s really very difficult. We understand that the Russians have now deployed all their forces to either capture it or to besiege the entire Ukrainian-controlled part of the Lugansk region,” their governor Sergey Gaidai commented on Tuesday.
“Today we see that the number of shells in Severodonetsk has increased… They just destroy the whole city,” he added.
The fate of Severodonetsk is inevitably reminiscent of that of Mariupol, the major port city in the south-east that was practically razed to the ground after weeks of siege.
“We have very heavy fighting in Gorlovka, Avdiivka, Maryinka, Novomaryinka regions,” Eduard Basurin, a representative of the pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk, said on the same day.
Two pro-Russian separatist republics were proclaimed in Donbass in 2014, and to protect them from an alleged “genocide,” Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an invasion of Ukraine on February 24. This “special military operation,” according to the Kremlin, began days after Moscow recognized its independence.
“Speed up” arms shipments.
The southern front appears stable, although the Ukrainians claim territorial gains there.
During the night from Monday to Tuesday, the southern command reported that its divisions were “advancing” through the Mykolaiv region towards the Cherson region, controlled by the Russians, who introduced their currency there, the ruble. He accused the “occupiers” of killing civilians trying to flee by car.
Ukrainian forces are now bombarding Russian positions with newly introduced Western artillery systems, including US howitzers, a Ukrainian army spokesman told AFP.
In this regard, Kyiv calls on the West to supply more weapons.
“It is too early to conclude that Ukraine already has all the weapons it needs. The Russian offensive in Donbass is a ruthless battle, the largest on European soil since World War II. I urge our partners to speed up the delivery of arms and ammunition,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kouleba said on Tuesday.
During a virtual meeting of the “Contact Group for the Defense of Ukraine” the previous day, twenty of the 44 countries represented had pledged to provide them with additional weapons, while others will train their armies.
An EU embargo against Russian oil is also possible “within a few days”, said Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck on Monday evening, while the topic is currently not in the news, the necessary unanimity within the Twenty-Seven.
234 children killed
In three months of armed conflict, 234 children have been killed and 433 injured, Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office Iryna Venediktova said on Tuesday.
In all, thousands of people, civilians and soldiers, died with no quantified toll. However, for the city of Mariupol alone, the Ukrainian authorities speak of 20,000 dead.
At the military level, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry estimates Russian losses at more than 29,200 men, 204 aircraft and nearly 1,300 tanks since the invasion began on February 24.
The Kremlin, for its part, acknowledged “significant losses.”
Western sources speak of around 12,000 Russian soldiers killed.
Those three-month figures are close to nine-year figures recorded by the Soviet army in Afghanistan, the British Ministry of Defense points out.
For its part, Ukraine has not provided any information on its military losses.
The war has also shaken the distribution of the population: According to the UN, more than eight million Ukrainians have been displaced within their country. In addition, there are 6.5 million who have fled abroad, more than half of them – 3.4 million – to Poland.