Ukraine prepares for new Russian push in Donbas
Ukraine was preparing Monday for a new Russian push in the eastern Donbas region, as Kyiv said its army’s counterattack around Kharkiv had gained momentum.
Since failing to take the capital at the beginning of the invasion in late February, control of Donbas has become one of Moscow’s primary objectives – but Western intelligence has predicted its campaign will stall amid heavy losses and fierce resistance.
“We are preparing for new attempts by Russia to attack in Donbas, to somehow intensify its movement in the south of Ukraine,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly address.
“The occupiers still do not want to admit that they are in a dead-end and their so-called ‘special operation’ has already gone bankrupt,” he added.
Presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovich told local television that Russian troops were being transferred in the direction of Donbas after withdrawing from Kharkiv following the Ukrainian counteroffensive.
Kyiv’s troops have made so much progress in the northern region that they have almost reached the border with Russia, according to interior ministry adviser Vadim Denisenko, although air raid sirens still sounded in Kharkiv city early Monday.
Arestovich said the retreating Russian forces were being sent towards Lugansk.
“Their task is to take Severodonetsk,” he said. “Well, something is not working for them.”
Severodonetsk is the easternmost city still held by Ukraine, and its fall would grant the Kremlin de facto control of Lugansk, one of two regions – along with Donetsk – that comprise Donbas.
But Russia’s attempt to cross a river to encircle it had been repelled with heavy losses of equipment, according to Lugansk governor Sergiy Gaiday.
To further deter the attack, Russian-occupied railway bridges leading to Severodonetsk were blown up, the Ukrainian army said on its Facebook page late Sunday, posting a video of a huge explosion taken from above.
For its part, Russia’s defence ministry claimed it had struck four artillery munitions depots in neighbouring Donetsk.
Air strikes had also destroyed two missile-launching systems and radar, while 15 Ukrainian drones were downed around Donetsk and Lugansk, it added.