After weeks of reorganization, regrouping, and resupplying under the guise of “good will,” the Russians have now launched a new push into the Donbas region in a reenergized offensive on the eastern flank. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has dubbed the advance the start of the battle of Donbas.
“It can now be stated that Russian troops have begun the battle for Donbas, for which they have been preparing for a long time. A very large part of the entire Russian army is now focused on this offensive,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a statement.
“No matter how many Russian soldiers are driven there, we will fight. We will defend ourselves. We will do it daily. We will not give up anything Ukrainian, and we do not need what’s not ours,” he added.
— Anadolu Images (@anadoluimages) February 23, 2022
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, via translator, says the Russian army has begun an offensive in Donbas:
“We will fight. We will defend ourselves … We will not give up anything Ukrainian.” pic.twitter.com/aKdZYXNaS4
— The Recount (@therecount) April 18, 2022
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry also stated through a tweet that Russia’s army, which it described as “genocidal,” was concentrating its forces in eastern Ukraine. In the same tweet, they claimed that Mariupol had been attacked with multiton air bombs. Despite the attacks, they claimed that their troops were “beating” the enemy and would continue to beat the enemy.
This development came after the Russians attacked Lviv, the westernmost Ukrainian city dangerously close to Poland. At least seven people were reported to be killed in the attacks, where Russian missiles hit three military infrastructure facilities in an attempt to thwart the supply to Ukrainian forces with NATO-donated munitions. It is important to note that Lviv has been the main refuge point for the majority of Ukrainians who want to evacuate and has been a major gateway for NATO-supplied weapons.
Following the attacks in Lviv, the Russians also attacked Vasylkiv, a town south of Kyiv. It is unknown what was being targeted and if they were successful. However, the town is known to be home to an airbase which could have been the target.
These attacks also come after Russia’s repeated warnings that it will be targeting weapons deliveries to Ukraine as it had been suffering huge losses from these weapons. Some Russian politicians and media personalities in Russia have called these deliveries direct western involvement in the war. This is dangerous rhetoric for the Kremlin as the West is fully prepared to respond if they “accidentally” hit a NATO member-state. Virtually anything sent to Ukraine by a foreign country, whether food, medicines or other relief could be called “direct” involvement in the conflict and the West has been remiss in calling out countries like China, Libya, Belarus, and Syria for sending weapons, food and even troops to fight in Ukraine for Russia as similar “direct” involvement in the conflict as well.
— OSINTtechnical (@Osinttechnical) April 18, 2022
According to Ukraine’s national security council secretary Oleksiy Danilov, the Russian forces had been advancing in Donetsk, Luhansk, and the Kharkiv regions in an attempt to break through Ukrainian defenses. “Fortunately, our military is holding out. They passed through only two cities. This is Kreminna and another small town,” he said. “We are not giving up any of our territories.”
Kreminna was reported to be captured during the night, with Luhansk’s Regional Governor Sergiy Gaiday confirming the Russian advance. “The Russian army has already entered there, with a huge amount of military hardware … Our defenders have retreated to new positions,” he said. Four civilians had died because of the incident. There were also advances reported in the town of Izyum in Kharkiv. However, Ukrainian forces are holding their positions as of writing.
Open source military data collectors and analysts have also tweeted several photographs and videos showing the Russian MLRS fire in Donetsk in the night. Before these reports, various Russian tanks and armored columns were spotted moving toward the contact lines in Ukraine.
— MilitaryLand.net (@Militarylandnet) April 18, 2022
Russian Grad fire, reportedly targeting Ukrainian position in Donbas tonight. pic.twitter.com/Lq6sI7Hqra
— OSINTtechnical (@Osinttechnical) April 18, 2022
Military analysts have said that the Russian forces were conducting this coordinated attack to weaken Ukraine’s ability to respond to the incoming onslaught in Donbas. Other military targets the Russians tried to destroy were weapons factories, railroads, command headquarters, munitions warehouses, and other military installations. According to reports, some 20 military targets in eastern and central Ukraine were hit by the Russians, with 315 more unidentified targets being hit. There were also reports of 108 strikes against Ukrainian troops and military equipment. However, we could not verify these numbers as of writing.
In Dnipro, the local government and volunteers have started to prepare for the advance in Donbas. According to Ukrainian journalists, the city is expected to serve as a major support and supply center for Ukrainian forces that will be fighting in the east. Previously, it served this purpose during the 2014 conflict with Russia.
American intel from an unnamed senior defense official also claimed that there were 76 Russian combat units in eastern and southern Ukraine, which is a drastic increase from 65 units last week. According to the official, this could possibly mean that 50,000 to 60,000 troops were operating (or deployed) to the Donbas region. However, as all numbers are in a war, it would be extremely difficult to be accurate about these estimates.
With these developments, it could be hypothesized that the war may be prolonged for some time due to Russia concentrating its forces and seeking limited objectives. However, it is worth noting that the Russians have been suffering from the economic effects of the Western sanctions. With these in effect, the availability of foreign-made parts for their munitions, armored vehicles, tanks, aircraft, and vessels may be limited and hamper their ability to sustain a war. Furthermore, Russian troop losses and the loss of several high-ranking military officials are also affecting morale and their fighting ability in the field.