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Russia takes over Mariupol, but winning Donbass will be much harder

Russia takes over Mariupol, but winning Donbass will be much more difficult - Photo 1.

Russian troops in Mariupol, Ukraine on May 16, 2022. Photo: Reuters

Analysts said that Russian President Vladimir Putin may have to mobilize more troops and equipment to supplement forces, in the context of the West’s continuous aid to Ukraine.

Konrad Muzyka, director of the Polish-based consulting firm Rochan, said: “I think with the current situation of forces Russia is unlikely to continue the operation, they need to mobilize more reinforcements.”

He and many other analysts say this needs to be done as quickly as possible.

“Time is certainly against the Russians. They are running out of equipment, especially missiles. Meanwhile the Ukrainians are getting stronger every day,” said Neil Melvin, director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. declare.

In response, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on May 17: “Everything is going according to plan… We will certainly achieve all our goals,” the RIA news agency reported.

Azovstal fell

Russia began its special military operation in Ukraine on February 24. Moscow initially attempted to capture the capital Kiev but was unsuccessful. After that, the Russian troops withdrew and focused on the “second phase” announced on April 19, turning to occupy the south and the entire Donbass.

Russia still retains a land corridor in southern Ukraine, but is somewhat hindered by the Kiev army.

Putin’s forces closed in on Ukrainian defensive positions to the east, while attempting to sever the connection by advancing south from the Ukrainian town of Izium.

About a third of Donbass was held by Russian-backed separatists before the operation. Moscow currently controls about 90% of the Luhansk region, but it cannot advance into the important cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk in Donetsk to extend control over the entire region.

Michael Kofman, an expert on the Russian military at CNA, a non-profit US research and analysis organization, said: “I strongly doubt Russia’s ability to conquer the entire Donbass. Their forces are depleted. severely weakened, morale has dropped significantly. The Russian political leadership also seems to be shaking.”

According to Muzyka, Russia seems to be shifting its focus in Donbass and sending battalion-level battle groups east after failing to break through Ukraine’s defenses in Donetsk.

“Russia couldn’t get past Izium so they moved to Sievierodonetsk and Lyman, possibly to encircle Ukrainian forces around Sievierodonetsk and Lyman,” he said.

According to Jack Keane, president of the Institute for the Study of War in Washington, General Valery Gerasimov, chief of the general staff of the Russian military, visited the war zone this month in an attempt to resolve the issues, but apparently to no avail.

“The Russian offensive really stalled,” Keane said.

To the north of the Donbass, Kiev launched a counterattack near the city of Kharkov, successfully repelling Russian forces. However, the Russian army is still densely concentrated in Dongbass.

“It’s going to be a tough and long fight. The Russian army didn’t complete the offensive well, but they weren’t easily defeated or surrendered either,” Kofman said.

Armed war

Western heavy guns, including American heavy artillery and some Canadian M777 howitzers with longer ranges than their Russian counterparts, could give Ukraine an advantage in the war.

Mr. Muzyka said: “Ukrainians are starting to have hope of victory. But don’t get me wrong, Russia still has the upper hand in the number of artillery.”

Muzyka and Kofman said that even if President Putin sent more troops, it would take a few months to reorganize the formation.

“No matter what measures Moscow takes, its military is still in a difficult position. This seems to be the last attack of the Russians,” concluded Mr. Kofman.

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