Russia inching towards victory in Ukraine’s Donbas region

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Russia inching towards victory in Ukraine’s Donbas region

In the battle for the Donbas, the fight over Severodonetsk has entered a crucial stage. Ukrainian units are locked in a desperate struggle with Russian infantry and armour intent on taking the city, which is at the eastern end of a Ukrainian defensive pocket now in serious danger of being cut in two.

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While maintaining a grip on the city, Russian forces to the south of this salient are also slowly advancing north in an attempt to cut the roads leading to the town of Bakhmut.

To the north, Russian infantry and armour have been pushing south towards the strategically important towns of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, with their vital rail junctions, crucial for the movement of supplies and vehicles given the vast distances that the war in eastern Ukraine involves.

These two Russian thrusts are designed to pinch this ever-narrowing pocket, squeezing it until Severodonetsk and Lysychansk are cut off from the rest of Ukraine, effectively surrounding and besieging the Ukrainian units caught in the Russian pincer.

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Russia inching towards victory in Ukraine’s Donbas region: New tactics

Now in its fourth month, the war’s dynamic has changed. Russia has consolidated its forces, keeping its best troops for the operation in the Donbas while continuing to hold its positions elsewhere using reservists equipped with older tanks like the T-62.

As Ukrainian air defence units pull back from the Severodonetsk pocket to avoid encirclement, Russia’s air force can now operate more safely, being threatened by shoulder-launched weapons which are only effective against low-flying aircraft. This has allowed the Russian air force to support the accompanying ground advance, pummeling the two besieged cities, already devastated by artillery and missile attacks.

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Russian forces are still making clumsy moves. In early May, more than a battalion’s worth of soldiers and armoured vehicles attempted to cross the Siversky Donets river to try and cut off the Ukrainian defenders in the two cities. The likely crossing site had been previously surveyed by Ukrainian forces as a probable spot for a pontoon bridge river crossing. Ukrainian artillery units had zeroed in on the coordinates and bunched up columns of Russian armour were spotted by drones as Russian forces waited for the bridge to be assembled. The resulting barrage devastated them, annihilating the Russian units and destroying the makeshift bridge in the process.

Although still suffering tactical defeats, Russian forces are advancing. Improvements have been implemented after the initial debacle at the beginning of the war. Supply lines have been shortened, the gains now slower and more methodical as Russia’s high command slowly learns and adapts to the war in the east.

Both sides now use drones effectively, the sight and sound of one usually a prelude to an artillery attack that in the flat terrain can have devastating consequences for units with relatively few places to hide.

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Artillery is the prime weapon of choice as duels are fought between the two armies. Foreign weapons systems, howitzers, tanks and multiple rocket launchers supplied to Ukraine by the West, are making themselves felt but also bringing their own problems.

Is Russia inching towards victory in Ukraine’s Donbas region?  Al Jazeera English

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