Donbass: why Russia is trying to control this region?

 Donbass: why Russia is trying to control this region?

What is the Ukrainian Donbass region?

When President Putin talks about the Donbass, he is referring to the former region of Ukraine, which produces coal and steel. What this really means is the set of the two large eastern regions, Lugansk and Donetsk, which stretch from Mariupol in the south to the northern border.

"The key is that the Kremlin has identified the Russian-speaking part of Ukraine more with Russia than with Ukraine," said Sam Craney - Evans of the Royal United Services Institute.

These regions may be largely Russian-speaking but are no longer pro-Russian. "Mariupol was one of the most pro-Russian cities in Ukraine, so its destruction is beyond my understanding," said Konrad Music, a defense specialist and head of the Roshan consulting firm.

A month after the war, Russia declared that it controlled 93% of the Lugansk region and 54% of Donetsk.

The Russian president still has a long way to go to control the entire region, but even if he can announce victory, there is still a very large territory to control.

Why Putin wants to control the Donbass?

The Russian leader has repeatedly put forward unfounded accusations that Ukraine has committed genocide in the east.

When the war began, almost two-thirds of the eastern regions were in the hands of the Ukrainians. The rest was headed by Russian trustees, who created states supported by Moscow during the war that began 8 years ago.

Shortly before the start of the war, Russian President Putin recognized the independence of the two eastern regions of Ukraine.

If Russia occupies the two major regions, Vladimir Putin will succeed in this war and the next step will be the accession of Donbass to Russia, just as he did with Crimea after the discredited referendum of 2014.

And if this happens before May 9 next year, he will be able to celebrate Victory Day, while the Russian army is still celebrating the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945.

The puppet leader of Russia in Lugansk has already spoken about holding a referendum in the "near future", although the idea of a mock vote in the war zone seems absurd.

What is Putin's strategy?

The Ukrainian military believes that Putin wants to take full control not only over the Donbass, but also over the south of the Kherson region, located in the north and west of the Crimean Peninsula. This would give him a land bridge along the southern coast to the Russian border and control over the water supply to Crimea.

A large part of the Donetsk territory and the main Lugansk regions are still in Ukrainian hands, so Russian troops are trying to encircle the Ukrainian army in the east, advancing from the North, east, and South.

Tracy Herman, professor of conflict and security at King's College London, said: "This is a vast territory that needs to be controlled and I think the geographical complexity of the region should not be underestimated.

The Russians have not yet managed to seize Kharkiv, the second-largest city in Ukraine south of the Russian border, but they have taken control of Raisins, a strategic town located on the main road leading to the separatist-held east.

"If you look at what they do around the raisins, they follow the main lines of the highways, which makes sense because they transport most of their equipment by road and by rail," explains the professor.

The cities that are now on the Russian horizon have already experienced years of war since the Russian-backed separatists captured much of the Donbass.

The next major target on the M03 road is Sloviansk, a city of 125,000 people that was overrun by Russian-backed forces in 2014 before being pushed back by Ukrainian troops. The capture of Kramatorsk, located south of Slavyansk, is also an important goal.

The American Institute for the Study of War (ISW) claims that if Ukraine retains Slavyansk, the Russian campaign to seize the two regions "risks failing".

Russian troops attacked a number of cities held by Ukrainian troops in Lugansk, advancing from the north and east, where they entered Kremenu, northwest of Severodonetsk, and shelled cities such as Roubaix, Popasnaya, and Lisichansk.

The Institute for the study of War (ISW) claims that these cities are important because their control will allow Russia to advance to the west and contact the Russian troops rushing southeast of the Raisins so that the Ukrainian army concentrates its counterattacks in the region outside the Raisins.

The Russians must control the supply lines by land and block the access of Ukrainians to the western railways. The railway is the most efficient means of transporting Ukrainian troops and heavy weapons and the fastest exit for fleeing civilians.

The control of certain parts of the railway network will also allow Russian troops to move their troops and supplies.

Sergei Gaidai, head of the regional military department, believes that the goal of the Russians is to destroy everything that prevents them from achieving Vladimir Putin's goal - to reach the western territorial borders of the Lugansk region.

Marina Agafonova, 27, ran away from her family's house in Lisichansk, leaving her parents as the Russian shells continued to fall.

The civilian population is moving in front of the Russian offensive. "Staying and burning in a dream of a Russian projectile is much scarier than the transportation process," Hayday warned.

The railway lines to Grapes in the North and to Mariupol and Melitopol in the South were cut. The connection with SolvjanskĆ½ has been interrupted and no trains have left the nearby center of Kramatorsk since 57 people were waiting to board a train following a rocket attack.

Will the Ukrainian troops be able to hold out?

At the beginning of the war, the ten brigades that made up the Ukrainian United Forces Corps (Oos) in the east were considered the most equipped and trained soldiers in Ukraine.

Sam Craney-Evans, from the Royal United Services Institute, said that he believes that the Ukrainian troops will be reinforced by volunteers in recent weeks, noting that "we don't really know how strong the Ukrainian troops are now".

"The main goal of the Ukrainians is to inflict as many losses as possible on the Russian side, and the Ukrainians are using tactics aimed at avoiding big battles," Conrad Music said.

U.S. officials say Russia now has 76 battalions in the east after adding 11 in the region in recent days and that more troops have also been deployed north of the border. Each battalion has between 700 and 900 men.

Despite their reinforcements, it is largely doubtful that the Russian troops will quickly make a breakthrough. The institute for the study of War (ISW) believes that they may be able to weaken the Ukrainian positions, but probably at a high price, while Ukrainian military experts believe that many Russian battalions are in poor condition.

The Russian troops have already suffered significant losses after 7 weeks of conflict and morale is considered low, their units are composed of men recruited from local separatist regions, many of whom were recruited under pressure, as well as from the Russian army.

Life is "terrible" in separatist Lugansk
Life under the control of the Russian-backed separatists has become calmer, although the separatist authorities have accused Ukrainian troops of shooting at residential buildings and killing civilians.

According to Donetsk officials, 72 people have died since the middle of February. The number of fatalities from Russian assaults in Ukrainian-controlled areas was substantially greater.

A woman from Lugansk told the BBC on condition of anonymity that she had seen a lot of Russian military armored vehicles in the city and that the atmosphere was now full of fear and caution.

She said, "I am worried; there is panic in the region.

Since all men of military age in Russia are required to serve in the local militia, which participates in proxy warfare, anybody hoping to evade conscription will need to seek sanctuary. Because there are no men in the city's stores or on the streets, all male-dominated enterprises are shut down. closed, "She spoke out.

Everyone here has a Russian passport, so even if it's not officially recognized, she continued.

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