Russia – Preparing the final battle for Donbass / by Latin American Summary

Last Tuesday, after a meeting in which the Russian delegation stated that progress had been made -although it later had to rectify itself to make it clear that Russia does not intend to negotiate on Crimea and reaffirm that the Donbass issue is also closed- Vladimir Medinsky announced a drastic reduction in Russian military activity in the Kyiv and Chernigov regions. Days earlier, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu had confirmed that the Russian Federation will now focus on the operation to recover the territories of the former Donetsk and Lugansk regions still under Ukrainian control.

With the operation to regain control of Mariupol on track and it being a matter of time before the city comes under the control of the DPR (it will be more difficult to end the resistance of the soldiers of the Ukrainian Army and the Azov battalion entrenched in the huge territory of the factory Azovstal with ammunition to make the place a second Donetsk airport), Russia, the DPR and the LPR now plan to advance on the most populated and fortified areas of Donbass. There are some of the best units of the Ukrainian Army, which also have the experience of eight years of war.

With Donbass as the absolute priority, especially considering that the security of its population was one of the main arguments to justify the intervention in Ukraine, the Russian Federation seeks to regroup its troops to focus on that area, even if that requires withdrawing from others, like the Kyiv region, where progress was impossible and the outcome uncertain. Without a sufficient number of troops for an assault on the city -at this time there has been no real attempt to take the city-, the stay of the Russian troops in that area only made sense to prevent the movement of the Ukrainian troops in that region towards Donbass and other fronts such as the southern front in Kherson. Without this need – Ukraine no longer has any reserves to send to Donbass from Kiev -, their presence there could only cause casualties with no prospect of any military success. The current regrouping of troops portends that the decisive battle of the Russian intervention in Ukraine, the battle for Donbass, is imminent.

The transfer of troops

There have been clashes with the Ukrainian Army in Borodyanka. It seems that the withdrawal of troops from Kyiv is taking place in the direction of the border with Belarus, from where the troops are being transferred to Kharkov and Izium for the next operation against the main grouping of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in Donbass.

What can be said about the withdrawal of troops from Kyiv?

If the upcoming operation on the left bank of the Dnieper ends with the defeat of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, then there will be talk of a well-thought-out plan by the General Staff. After all, according to official statements, the threat on Kyiv was necessary only to retain Ukrainian forces in this first phase and an assault on Kyiv was not planned. Now it is announced that, according to Shoigu, the goal of the second phase is the defeat of the main forces of the Ukrainian Army in Donbass.

If they are defeated now (that is, if those red arrows to the Donetsk-Pavlograd highway it showed in the first half of March fill with color), then it will all really come across as a well-executed plan. But if the task of defeating the Ukrainian Army on the left bank does not get solved, it is unlikely that things can be said to be going according to plan.

So it only remains to wait for the start of the operation and observe the implementation of the objectives that the General Staff has outlined. Hopefully our questions will get answers this month.

The battle for Donbass

Russian troops, such as those of the DPR and the LPR, are advancing to gather from the north, east and west in order to soon close a huge pocket in which the group of some 50,000 Ukrainian Armed Forces soldiers now in Donbass is trapped. . These are the best-trained units in the Ukrainian Army, which have been fighting the war since 2014, well-trained and well-reinforced. But the only way to solve other military and political tasks in Ukraine is to defeat the Armed Forces of Ukraine in Donbass. How will the offense play out?

All the objectives of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation in the direction of Kyiv and Chernigov have been completed, and now the goal of regrouping the troops is, first of all, to complete the operation for the complete liberation of Donbass. This is what Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said on Wednesday. With the first phase of the special operation, it has been possible to force the enemy to concentrate forces around Kyiv and Chernigov. As a result, the Donbass group has been left without the possibility of receiving reserves from central and western Ukraine, according to the minister.

On the same day, DPR leader Denis Pushilin told Rossiya 1 that there are reasons to believe that now the operation to liberate Donbass will go much faster. The leader of the Republic mentioned several directions in which the PRD troops will continue to carry out the offensive, according to the official website of the Republic. The Donbass defenders are advancing towards Avdeevka, actually a northern suburb of Donetsk, and towards Marinka, west of the capital. Pushilin also mentioned two other targets, located 30-40 kilometers from Donetsk. They are Novobajmutovka, to the north, near the road to Kramatorsk, and Novomikhailovka, located southeast of the DPR capital.

Pushilin also appreciated the situation in Mariupol, which is being captured by DPR forces, the Russian Army and units of the Russian National Guard. According to the leader of the Republic, isolated groups of the nationalist battalions continue to resist, but are being defeated. It must be remembered that the Azov groups have already been expelled from the residential areas and about 7000 may be surrounded in the industrial zone of the Azovstal factory.

According to a source told Vzglyad , at a meeting in Mariupol, Ramzan Kadyrov and the commander of the 8th Army, Lieutenant General Andrey Mordvichev (who had long been declared dead by Ukrainian propaganda), are said to have discussed the timing of sweeping Azovstal. It was raised about a week. But having isolated the territory of the plant to the east of the Kalmius River has made it possible to free up forces to transfer them to other directions.

The RPD squeezes from the front line

From Pushilin’s words it can be concluded that after the completion of the Mariupol operation, the DPR troops will concentrate on moving the front line (the former contact line) away from Donetsk, Gorlovka, Yasinovataya and other cities of the agglomeration. central Donetsk, which continues to suffer bombardment by the Ukrainian Army. Specifically, on Wednesday the Ukrainian artillery attacked Donetsk twice with Grads, a total of 25 shells.

In all areas of the offensive, the enemy has “important fortifications, but we are still advancing,” Pushilin said. “It is not yet possible to speak of a date: everything depends on many factors. But it is a fact that the operation is accelerating”, he insisted. According to the leader of the DPR, about 55-60% of the territory of the Republic according to its administrative borders has been liberated. It must be remembered that, until February 24, the DPR controlled about a quarter of the territory.

Greater successes have been (although the lower concentration of troops must be taken into account) in the Lugansk area. At the moment, the RPL controls at least 90% of the territory of Lugansk and has practically reached the administrative borders of the territory that declared itself independent in 2014. The only exception is the urban agglomeration of Severodonetsk-Lisichansk-Rubezhnoe to the west of Lugansk. , next to the border with the DPR. The active battle continues in that zone.

At the same time, since the beginning of the week, clashes between Russian and Ukrainian troops have continued south and southeast of Izium (Kharkov region, 44 km as the crow flies from Slavyansk and 55 km from Kramatorsk). Battles have also occurred south of Gulyai-Pole and Novomikhailovka.

It is to these areas that reinforcements are being directed and those Russian, DPR and RPL troops that are being liberated in Mariupol as the city is captured. Troops from Kherson and Nikolaev are also being transferred there. The deployment has been possible after the defeat of the units of the 28th Brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, which tried to attack in the direction of Kherson, which was completed on Monday.

According to analysts, it is estimated that the dispatch of an attack force is being prepared for the coming days that must converge from the south and north to finally surround the largest group of Ukrainian Army troops in Donbass to proceed with their subsequent destruction. . “We are talking about defeating a group of 40-50,000 people,” military analyst Boris Rozhin, Colonel Cassad , explained to Vzglyad . “In fact, for the Russian army, it is the largest such operation since the Great Patriotic War. And it has its own difficulties. Although the enemy suffers casualties, it defends itself. So everyone is waiting for the second phase to start, which is aimed at an offensive operation to surround this group.”

“The main group is divided into two. A smaller part is surrounded in Mariupol and has already been partially liquidated,” Rozhin added. “There is a larger group defending itself in the Donetsk area, Gorlovka, and another group defending itself in Severodonetsk and Lisichansk. The task is to surround it and destroy it.”

Offensive from the north: why Slavyansk will not be attacked frontally

“A group of Russian troops will be deployed in the Izium area [where it all started in 2014, from there the “ anti- terrorist operation ” was launched – Ed] to ensure the offensive in the direction of Kamenka and other localities to surround the grouping of Ukrainian troops in Slavyansk-Kramatorsk and Lisichansk-Severodonetsk”, explained military expert Andrey Prokarev. It can already be said that after the defeat of the Ukrainian grouping at Izium, the Russian troops began a slow but gradual advance south towards Slavyansk and southwest to Barvenkovo. This creates the conditions to move from north to south to close the pocket. The resistance in this zone is serious, but the front is gradually changing. Now Russian troops are fortified south of the Seversky Donets and continue to build up forces there.

The Svyatogorsk monastery, conveniently situated on the riverbank and converted into a defensive position by the Ukrainian Army and Nationalist battalions, is also in a semicircle. In a straight line, it is 10 km to Slavyansk, but according to experts, there will most likely be no frontal assault on the fortified Slavyansk-Kramatorsk agglomeration. “There are fortified areas on the contact line that are marked as important points: Avdeevka, Slavyansk, Severodonetsk, Lisichansk and Krasnoarmeisk,” said Alexey Leonov, editor-in-chief of Arsenal of the Fatherland magazine .

According to Prokaev, the Russian troops will have to protect the flanks to avoid being hit there during the offensive. “We are facing experienced units of the Ukrainian Army in Donbass, they have been fighting since 2014, they have headquarters, depots, fortifications. In addition, the remaining bridges will be blown up and that factor must also be taken into account during the Russian offensive, ”he pointed out.

Offensive from the south: the key role of Gulyai-Pole

The Russian troops “are waiting for the end of the Mariupol operation to transfer additional forces in the direction of Zaporozhie”, believes Rozhin. For its part, the Ukrainian General Staff has decided to reinforce the southern flank of the Donbass group at the expense of the assault units of the 95th Yitomir Brigade and the 25th Dnipro Brigade.

The General Staff intended to recapture Volnovakha, recently liberated by DPR forces, and “unblock” Mariupol. But Kyiv’s calculations failed. The two aforementioned amphibious brigades left the Gulyai-Pole area towards Ugledar and gradually retreat north towards Novomikhailovka and Kurajovo, dooming themselves to end up in another pocket.

An advance on Novomikhailovka and Gulyai-Pole would destroy the entire Ukrainian Armed Forces front and thus free up the units and reinforcements being deployed there. Experts believe that if the Russian troops occupy Novomikhailovka, there will be an advance of the front with access to Kurakhvo, 50 kilometers from Donetsk. DPR troops are also slowly advancing through Marinka. The battle is now taking place in the main open areas that dominate the steppe as far as Kurajovo. All this threatens the Ukrainian grouping west of Donetsk with being encircled.

“The goal is to reach the rear of this group, to advance in converging directions from the north and south,” Rozhin explained. “In the end, it is necessary to cut the Donetsk-Pavlograd highway, along which the main supply road of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in Donbass runs.” Pavlograd is a city in the east of the Dnipropetrovsk region, 150 kilometers northwest of Donetsk.

As previously reported, Russian aircraft and sea-launched Kalibr missiles destroyed a key infrastructure for the Ukrainian Armed Forces: the Pavlograd railway junction, which Ukrainian troops are vigorously trying to recapture. Russian troops “can advance through Slavyansk, Barvenkovo ​​or through Lugovoy in the direction of Pavlograd,” Rozhin said. “Of course, no one is going to say exactly what plan the command will choose,” he added.

“The troops that now have to wipe out the group of 50,000 soldiers of the Armed Forces of Ukraine will act on the principle of divide and sell. The large enemy groups will be cut into different pockets of resistance and then destroyed”, the expert thinks. To do this, all kinds of weapons will be used: artillery, mortar, precision weapons and aviation.

Resumen Latinoamericano, April 2, 2022,