Russia-Ukraine war: Why do Russia and President Putin desire victory in Donbass?
According to CNN, the impending big battle for control of Donbass is expected to determine the success or failure of President Putin’s special military operation in Ukraine, after Russian forces suffered significant losses. in the capital Kiev, as well as throughout central and northern Ukraine during the opening phase of the operation.
Satellite images show that Russian military convoys and supply units are moving towards the Donbass to carry out a large-scale attack. Ukraine’s foreign minister has warned the world that the impending big battle in the Donbass will “remind you of the Second World War”.
A Russian victory in the region could not only terrify the West, but it could also save Russia’s war goals. Conversely, a failure in the Donbass could turn Putin’s Ukraine campaign into a historic failure.
Whatever the outcome, the coming battle in the Donbass will almost certainly wreak more havoc in this historically and culturally significant region.
The history of Donbass and the reason this area is “friendly” to Russia
Donbass is considered an important industrial center of Ukraine. The name Donbass itself is also derived from the phrase “Donets Coal Tank”. The Donbass throughout most of the 20th century served as the major industrial center of the Soviet Union, thanks to its substantial coal production.
Markian Dobczansky, an expert at Harvard University’s Institute for Ukraine Studies (USA) said: “The Soviet Union has strongly developed Donbass as an industrial center. That is where the rapid pace of Soviet industrialization was born.”
The increase in steel and metal production, the creation of railways and the development of the shipping industry in the port city of Mariupol further helped Donbass thrive and become a dynamic, diverse industrial center, It is no longer just a coal mining site.
But in the three decades since the fall of the Soviet Union, the region’s economic strength has waned. “In the 1990s, Donbass saw a floor of economic decline,” Rory Finnin, an associate professor of Ukrainian studies at the University of Cambridge, told CNN.
The Donbass is now often likened to America’s Rust Belt, where landmarks once flourished but then struggled to adapt. But fortunately the Donbass remains an important industrial center of Ukraine.
The region’s longstanding industrial strength has drawn people from across Eastern Europe to the region over the past century. Unlike much of central and western Ukraine, most of the past millennium. Donbass is under strong Russian control or influence.
Mr. Dobczansky said the cities of Donbass are located “far from urban centers, (and) away from major cities” in central and western Ukraine. As a result, pro-European politics with strong Western influence in western Ukraine is generally not accepted in this region.
Donbass has closer economic and social ties than any other part of Ukraine with neighboring Russia. Russian is also the most widely spoken language in the Donbass, unlike in western Ukraine.
But a sense of isolation from the capital Kiev and other urban centers of Ukraine has also given rise to a range of local movements, including secessionist movements. Pro-Russian separatists have been trying since 2014 to gain control of Donbass after Moscow annexed Crimea.
What does Donbass mean to Russia and Mr. Putin?
According to CNN, although the Donbass along with the rest of Ukraine separated from the Soviet Union in 1991, the region still holds a significant role in the minds of the Russian leadership.
A famous Soviet propaganda poster from 1921 dubbed Donbass “the heart of Russia”. Previously, the area was part of the concept of “Novorossiya,” or New Russia, a term that refers to the territories to the west that Russia wants to expand its influence, according to CNN.
Experts say that such historical meanings about Donbass can still exist in the worldview of President Putin. Observers often say that President Putin’s greatest desire is to rebuild the Soviet Union, or simply restore the lost “glory” to Russia.
To make such wishes come true, Donbass is indispensable, as it also resonates emotionally as the industrial backbone of a great Russia.
“Symbolically, the Donbass was very important, the Donbass provided raw materials for the entire Soviet Union,” said Dobczansky.
Because of that context, President Putin supported pro-Russian separatists eight years ago. And now, the Russian forces are said to be determined to win the decisive battle in the Donbass to come.
“Victory in Donbass will be an incentive ‘reward’ for Russia as well as for Mr. Putin because Kiev is now out of control of the Russian military. But this is a meaningful incentive,” said Samir Puri, a member. senior in urban and mixed warfare at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), and also worked as a cease-fire observer in Donbass from 2014 to 2015.
According to CNN, more than 14,000 people have died in the conflict in Donbass since 2014, including 3,000 civilians. Ukraine says that since 2014, nearly 1.5 million people in the Donbass have been forced to flee their homes to fight hostilities.
Fierce life and death battle
Whether the battle for the Donbas will be the final chapter in Russia’s war in Ukraine or simply a sequel to it remains to be seen. Because many people think that, if it wins in Donbass, Russia can expand its attack across Ukraine.
Earlier this month, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba warned that “the battle in Donbas will remind you of World War II with its operations, large-scale fighting, involving thousands of tanks. , armored vehicles, aircraft and artillery”.
“It will be very different from what people have seen in Kiev and Mariupol,” Mr. Puri said.
Going forward, Russia will likely try to encircle the Ukrainian army to the east and possibly attack from the northern cities where it is stationed, such as Izium, as well as from the south and east. A battle for control of Sloviansk was anticipated, as Sloviansk holds a strategically important place in Russia’s potential land corridor.
When Russian forces are moving towards the Donbass to prepare for the big battle, experts say, they will face stiff resistance from the Ukrainian army – which has a deep understanding and has devoted itself to defending Donbass in the past. almost a decade.
“Donbass has been a battlefield for eight years, so the military positions of both sides are extremely well fortified. Militarily, the Russians fighting in the Donbass would be more comfortable than in KIev, Sumy or Kharkiv. But this is also where the strongest and most experienced defensive units of the Ukrainian army are located … so the Russians will face the stiffest resistance,” commented Mr. Dobczansky.
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