Kyiv/Moscow, May 9 (EFE).- Russian forces on Monday mounted strong attacks in eastern and southern Ukraine on Russia’s Victory Day, commemorating the Soviet regime’s World War II victory over the Nazis.
Although Russia said that there is no doubt that it will attain its military objectives in Ukraine, 75 days after invading the neighboring country, it has still not managed to take or secure the eastern Donbas region and has been encountering stiff and, so far, effective Ukrainian resistance.
Ukraine, however, fears an intensification of the Russian offensive starting on May 9, as well as attempts by Russia to celebrate Victory Day in some of the Ukrainian territory it occupies.
“The celebration of the so-called ‘Victory Day’ was simulated for the Russian media in some of the occupied towns,” especially in southern and eastern Ukraine, said the Ukrainian General Military Command.
The head of the self-proclaimed Russia-backed People’s Republic of Donetsk, Denis Pushilin, led a march in the devastated port city of Mariupol in which marchers carried a black and orange ribbon of St. George 300 meters (just under 1,000 feet) long, a military symbol widely recognized in Russia.
Russia – which on April 21 claimed that it had taken control of the city, 90 percent of the infrastructure of which has been destroyed in the Russian offensive to take the area – “is here forever,” he said.
“Now it’s territory of the People’s Republic of Donetsk,” said Pushilin, although Russia still has not taken control of the Azovstal steelworks, the last redoubt of the Ukrainian resistance in the city on the shore of the Sea of Azov and a key Russian military objective because it sits astride the corridor leading from Russia proper to the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014.
Petro Andryushchenko, an adviser to the city’s mayor, said Monday that “while some occupiers are going through the streets of Mariupol with a sheet (the banner), others continue to attack Azovstal.”
He said that after the evacuation of all surviving civilians from the metalworking facility, Russian forces destroyed a bridge that had been used for the evacuations with an eye toward preventing Ukrainian soldiers from abandoning the plant.
In the regions of Kherson and Zaporiyia, in Melitopol, members of the Russian National Guard participated in events commemorating Victory Day and there were marches in memory of Soviet soldiers killed in World War II, Russia’s official TASS news agency said.
At the same time that Russia was celebrating Victory Day, it was attacking several regions in eastern and southern Ukraine.
The artillery and missile attacks in the eastern Kharkiv region killed at least three people, the local governor, Oleg Synegubov, said.
In the southwestern coastal city of Odessa, three supersonic Onix missiles launched from the Bastion battery in the Crimean Peninsula, destroyed a hotel complex and a restaurant and damaged other municipal infrastructure, Ukrainian authorities said.
These events were unfolding as European Council President Charles Michel was meeting with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal in Odessa, which is located on the Black Sea coast, after the EC leader made an unannounced trip there.
The bombardment forced the officials to take refuge, according to European sources.
According Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, Russia has deployed seven Kalibr cruise missile launchers with up to 50 missiles in the Black Sea.
The British Defense Ministry said Monday that Russian reserves of precision-guided munitions have probably been substantially depleted.
But Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Borisov told the Interfax news agency that Russia has enough missiles and modern precision-guided weapons to fulfill all the missions the Russian military has been ordered to carry out.
According to the US-based Institute for the Study of War, a think tank, despite the Kremlin’s attacks to try and secure the full territories of both Donetsk and Lugansk under Russian control, Russian troops have not made any substantial territorial gains in the region.
Russia continues to try to stage a pincher movement between Izyum – in the Kharhiv region – and Donetsk and Lugansh, but the recent Ukrainian counterattack against the Russian command post in Izyum forced Russian forces to regroup and to probe Ukrainian positions before advancing to the southwest and southeast.