Ukraine: Russia launches huge offensive to take Donbass
Moscow/Kyiv, Apr 10 (EFE).- Ukraine said Sunday that Russia has launched its “final” offensive against the Donbass region, in eastern Ukraine.
According to Ukrainian sources, Russian troops are trying to break through Ukrainian lines so as to envelop the defending forces, moving from Kharhiv in the north, the devastated port city of Mariupol in the south and the Lugansk region in eastern Donbass.
“They have begun to press us with great force from the south and also from the north. They are pursuing their plan to surround our forces from all directions,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovich said on Sunday.
Two weeks ago, the Russian army announced that it was withdrawing from the Kyiv region, in northern Ukraine, and also from the nuclear exclusion zone around Chernobyl. It has been transferring its troops and equipment to the Donbass region but Kyiv maintains that Moscow lacks sufficient forces to conquer the Donbass.
Russia’s drive to “liberate” the Donbass from Ukrainian control will require the use of aviation, artillery and missiles, with Moscow’s forces last Friday firing a ballistic missile that hit the train station in Kramatorsk, a Ukrainian military bastion in the region, where civilians were trying to evacuate and about 50 reportedly were killed in the strike.
Arestovich admitted the Russian troops had advanced in the direction of Kramatorsk and toward the communications node in Sloviansk, where the pro-Russian uprising started eight years ago that resulted in local militias – with Russian backing – carving out enclaves in the far eastern section of the Donbass, territories that recently declared their “independence” from Ukraine.
He also acknowledged that the invaders have many times more troops in the area than the Ukrainian army, although Kyiv has been preparing for this moment since the signing of the Minsk agreements in February 2015.
“We’ll see how this turns out. Everything will be decided on the field of battle,” he said.
Participating in Russia’s offensive are troops who were withdrawn from Kyiv, Chernihiv and Sumi, and also a second convoy of tanks and other military vehicles comprising 10 battalions of reinforcements sent in from Russia’s Far East, although the latter have not yet arrived, according to the adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Meanwhile, the head of the Lugansk Military Administration Sergey Gayday, predicted that when Russian forces have improved their tactical position, they will begin indiscriminate nighttime bombardment with all their strength.
“That will last for several hours in the territories of Donetsk and Lugansk, and then they will begin advancing with a large number of tanks and infantry,” he said, adding that they will only commence these military operations when they are “100 percent” certain that they will not repeat the error in February when they underestimated Ukrainian resistance and were stymied in their attempt to seize Kyiv and other big cities, losing thousands of troops and hundreds of military vehicles in the process.
Meanwhile, the Russian army is attempting to break through Ukrainian lines around Izium, a strategic point from which they could attack unprotected Ukrainian positions in Donetsk.
The Ukrainian General Staff on Sunday said that Russian forces have not achieved enough success in Kharhiv to be able to surprise the Ukrainian troops.
According to Maxar satellite imagery, a Russian convoy some 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) long has just crossed the Russian border into Ukraine and is heading toward Kharhiv, the main city in the eastern part of the country.
In addition, Russian artillery continues to blast the city of Severodonetsk, in Lugansk, the key spot for the Russian advance toward Kramatorsk and where “vital infrastructure” has been almost completely destroyed.
To prevent a Ukrainian counterattack, Russian air power on Sunday once again bombarded the Dnipo airport, completely destroying it, along with adjacent infrastructure, authorities said.
The Kremlin has put a new general in charge of the “special military operation” in Ukraine, Alexandr Dvornikov, the current head of the southern military district, which includes the annexed Crimean Peninsula. He also commanded the Russian forces in Syria in 2015 during which time he specialized in particularly brutal military operations against civilian targets.
According to Western sources, the 60-year-old Dvornikov earned his fame in the Second Chechen War in 2000, the conflict which Russian President Vladimir Putin used to vault to power.
Dvornikov was decorated by Putin for his services in Syria and has been given – according to experts – until May 9, the Victory Day of the Russian forces over Nazi Germany in World War II, to take the entire Donbass.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitro Kuleba once again on Sunday insisted that the West must help Kyiv with “modern armament” in the face of this “final” battle.