Kyiv, May 13 (EFE).- The Ukrainian army said Friday that it had pushed back Russian troops trying to cross the strategically important Donets river as part of their attempts to control the southern Donbas, where the pro-Russian separatist regions of Donetsk and Lugansk are located.
Ukrainian defense sources said the Russian army became trapped in artillery fire while crossing the river and was forced to disperse.
According to those sources, the Russian forces, equipped with tanks and armored vehicles, who were trying to cross the Donets River with mobile pontoon equipment, saw their forces become separated on the two banks of the strategically significant waterway, which runs west of Severodonetsk, in Donbas, incurring heavy losses.
In their retreat, they had to abandon some of their equipment and vehicles and some of the soldiers were forced to swim back across to safety.
The Russians have been trying to cross the river for four days, Ukraine says, losing more than 70 vehicles and two infantry battalions in their attempts.
The Russian army is trying to secure complete control of towns such as Rubizhne, in the pro-Russian region of Lugansk, which led it to destroy the bridge that connects it with Severodonetsk to hinder the movements of Ukrainian troops, according to Ukrainian news agencies.
It is a tactic that appears to have failed, according to the Ukrainian Defense Ministry.
The United Kingdom defense ministry backed up Ukraine’s claims, saying Russia’s attempts to cross the bridge in such insecure conditions demonstrates Moscow’s increasingly desperate tactics in a war that is not going to plan.
“Conducting river crossings in a contested environment is a highly risky maneuver and speaks to the pressure the Russian commanders are under to make progress in their operations in eastern Ukraine,” the Ministry of Defense said Friday morning.
The Russian army is also withdrawing troops from the outskirts of Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine, where it had intensified its shelling in the last few days, according to the New York Times.
Citing official Ukrainian and Western allied sources, the paper said that the Russians have lost ground in the region to the north of the Donbas.
The latest report from the Institute for the Study of War, published on Thursday, said “the Ukrainian counteroffensive near Kharkiv is starting to look very similar to the counteroffensive that ultimately drove Russian troops away from Kyiv and out of western Ukraine entirely, although it is too soon to tell if the Russians will make a similar decision” to withdraw.
SWEDEN MOVES TOWARDS NATO
Sweden on Friday took a major step towards Nato membership, following Finland’s example from a day earlier.
A report by the Swedish Social Democratic government and the majority of parliamentary forces approved on Friday says that membership in the alliance would have a deterrent effect against war in northern Europe.
The report, which analyzes the new security situation caused by the war in Ukraine, believes that Sweden would strengthen its security and that of its neighboring countries by joining the alliance, although it does not include any specific recommendations on membership.
The report believes that there is not much scope for strengthening cooperation with the alliance nor is it realistic to think about deepening bilateral alliances outside it because of the absence of political will to create a European Union collective defensive force. EFE