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Russian offensive in Donbas expected to peak in coming weeks and Putin's options 'don't look terribly good'

According to Sky’s defense analyst Michael Clarke, the Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region is “building” and will reach its peak within the next two to three week.

He said that what happens between now, and the end this month will determine the amount of room for maneuver President Vladimir Putin and his military options in an invasion. “They don’t look very good so far.”

Professor Clarke stated that Putin is realizing that his options are becoming “very limited” as Monday’s Victory Day speech at Moscow “he didn’t say anything about the other outcomes of war.”

According to the analyst, the Russian leader was “quite conservative” in defending the gains made by his forces in Crimea and the Donbas, as well as the land bridge between them.

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Russia has begun to focus on the “liberation” of Donbas in its “special military operations” following the withdrawal from Ukraine’s north earlier in the war, and a stiff Ukrainian resistance.



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Russian-backed separatists hold a portion of the Luhansk-Donetsk region, which together make up the Donbas. Mr Putin wants it all in pro-Russian hands.

Prof Clarke stated that the Ukrainians are launching counter-attacks locally and are beginning to hold the Russians at certain points and push them back, especially further north in Kharkiv. This is the country’s second largest city.

He stated that the Ukrainians would now need to decide whether they want to dig or not and if they are going toe-to–toe with Mr Putin’s forces, and defend their positions as fiercely and as much as possible.

They could also “trade space for the time to let the attack go on a bit and draw back a bit, wait and then hit back hard when they have used up fuel and ammunition – and some momentum has worn off”.

Image Situation on Day 76 of the Ukraine War

He said, “There is no right answer to this question.” This depends on the time, chance and the circumstances as well as what local commanders decide.

“But whatever the Ukrainians decide in the next two to three weeks, and however Russia plays the way that their larger attack will develop, will tell what will happen next in Donbas.”

Other important developments:

* Russian forces continue attacking Azovstal Steelworks – last refuge of Ukrainian resistance in ruined Mariupol

* Hundreds of civilians were evacuated. However, aides to the mayor claim that at least 100 are still inside.

* Russian troops invade Odesa port in an apparent attempt to block supply lines and Western weapon shipments

According to a top US intelligence officer, eight to ten Russian generals were killed in the war.

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Putin defends Ukraine’s military action

This comes just as Ukraine announced that its forces had captured villages from Russian troops north-east of Kharkiv. It is building on a counteroffensive, which could signal a shift and jeopardize Russia’s main advance.

Tetiana Apatchenko from the 92nd Separate Mechanised Brigade confirmed that Ukrainian troops had retaken in recent days the settlements in Cherkaski Tyshky and Ruski Tyshki as well as Borshchova, Slobozhanske, and Borshchova.

Image: A Russian military convoy at Donbas. Pic: AP

Yuriy Saks was an adviser to Oleksiy Reznikov’s defence minister. He said that his troops were pushing the Russian forces out range of Kharkiv. The city has been under constant bombardment ever since the war started.

After weeks of Russia mounting a massive attack without making any breakthrough, the counter-attacks could be a sign that the war is entering a new phase.

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The Ukrainians have pushed back Russian forces that had been occupying the outskirts Kharkiv since the beginning of the invasion. They are now within striking distance of the rear supply line supporting the main Russian attack force further south.

Neil Melvin, RUSI’s think-tank, stated that they are trying to cut in and around the Russians in order to cut off their supply lines. “That’s really one (the Russians) major weaknesses.”

“Ukrainians are moving closer to the Russian border.” All the Russian gains in the northeast of Ukraine in the early days are slowly slipping away.”

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