The race to prepare for the Battle of Donbass continues, as Russia shifts its forces, materials, and targets to the eastern region of Ukraine, while the United States and its allies race to armaments to equip Ukrainian forces.
The Big Picture: In the first phase of the war, Russian forces attacked across three broad fronts in hopes of quickly capturing the cities, but became overworked and incurred heavy losses. Russia is pulling tens of thousands of those troops back and preparing them for a narrower and possibly decisive battle over Donbas.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin has said peace talks have reached a dead end, and that Moscow’s focus will now be on “liberating” all of the Donbass islands, about a third of which were under the control of Russian-backed separatists before February 24. Invade.
- Putin justified the invasion in part by false claims of “genocide” against Russian speakers in Donbass – a claim undermined by fierce resistance from civilians in largely Russian-speaking cities such as Mariupol.
- That city, which is the third largest city in Donbass after Russia-controlled Donetsk and Luhansk, It could be in a matter of days of the fall in Russia after seven weeks of brutal bombing. That would give Putin a much-needed symbolic victory, and would also free up more Russian forces for the next offensive.
Battle of Donbass It would remove some of the obstacles that Russian forces had encountered elsewhere in the campaign.
- It is largely flat and wide open, unlike the urban terrain near Kyiv. This is ideal for Russian artillery and tanks, although the rains made much of the ground muddy.
- Russia should have fewer supply line problems fighting close to its soil, and fewer organizational and communications challenges in a more focused battle.
Yes, but: Workforce and morale are both obstacles. It will take time to properly reorganize and redeploy many units given the heavy losses incurred by Russia, says Michael Kaufman, chief expert on the Russian Army at the Central News Agency. Large numbers of reserves are not expected any time soon.
- He also said that Ukrainian forces had pushed into most of the region during the eight years of war, likely fortifying towns and laying mines to slow the Russian advance.
- Kaufman believed that Russian commanders would be wise to delay their offensive until they had time to fully build up their strength, rather than “repeating mistakes from earlier in the war.”
- But this will also leave time for Ukraine’s western partners to supply them with additional heavy weapons.
what do you want to watch: Fears in Washington and some European capitals that Moscow might view certain offensive arms shipments as overly “provocative” have largely dissipated. Zachary Basu reports from Axios.
- The $800 million package President Biden announced Wednesday that helicopters, artillery systems and armored vehicles.
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pressed for more in his latest video address, saying, “It is better to arm freedom than tyranny.”
Last: Russia also suffered a major blow Thursday on the fiftieth day of the war: the cruiser Moskva, The flagship of its fleet in the Black Seasank. It is the largest military ship to sink in decades.