May 24, 2022

UKRAINE: Russia intensifies Donbas offensive as war enters fourth month.

The Ukrainian armed forces said in a Facebook update on Tuesday that Russian forces were conducting non-stop “offensive operations” in the region, adding “the enemy is exerting intense fire along the entire line of contact”.

The governor of Lugansk said Russia had sent thousands of troops to capture his entire region and that Severodonetsk was under massive attack, warning residents that it was too late to evacuate.

“At this point I will not say: get out, evacuate. Now I will say: stay in a shelter,” Sergiy Gaidai said on Telegram. “Because such a density of shelling will not allow us to calmly gather people and come for them.”

Residents of Bakhmut, a crucial junction that serves as a command centre for much of the Ukrainian war effort, told AFP of the aerial onslaught they had suffered.

As I wrote last week:

Though much less effective than advertised, the Russian armed forces can still cause a lot of death and destruction. Manpower and logistical limitations, however, prevent them from advancing very far or in more than one direction at a time. The retreats from Kyiv and Kharkiv are the result of these very real limits.

The Ukraine armed forces have fought beyond most expectations, particularly in their ability to inflict damage on those parts of the Russian military that can afford it the least. Retired Australian Army General Mick Ryan describes how Ukraine has focused on Russia’s “communications networks, logistic supply routes, rear areas, artillery and senior commanders in their command posts” to devastating effect.

But Ukraine has yet to demonstrate that it can force the Russian troops out of areas where Moscow chooses to remain strong.

Or keep the Russians out, provided Russia limits its offensive to a single axis, moving at a (brutally expensive) snail’s pace.

This would be a great time for cooler heads to push for a negotiated settlement but there don’t seem to be any of those around.

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