Russia has stepped up its attacks in Ukraine while trying to take more cities in the eastern region known as Donbass, and Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky said for the second time in days that the situation there was “extremely difficult”. On the 88th day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, “the Russian enemy continues to carry out offensive operations in the Eastern Operational Zone”, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in its daily report. The Kremlin says it is ready to continue talks with Ukrainewhile Ukrainian authorities ask their allies to send more weapons.
An “extremely difficult” situation
“As on previous days, the Russian army is trying to attack Sloviansk and Severodonetsk”mentioned Zelensky in his usual video message, adding that the situation in the Donbass “remains extremely difficult”, although “the Ukrainian armed forces are repelling the offensive”.
“Every day our defenders push back and thwart these Russian offensive plans becomes a concrete contribution to the approach of the key day. The long-awaited day we are all waiting for and fighting for: Victory Daysaid the Ukrainian president. But these latest words from Zelensky seem to reflect more optimism than the reality on the ground.
Russia has set itself the goal of conquering the Donbass after having withdrew its troops from the northern capital region of kyiv at the end of March. The most experienced and well-equipped Ukrainian military units are in the Donbass, but they are outnumbered and surrounded by Russian troopswhich makes it difficult to reconstruct according to analysts.
The Russian army fully or partially controls five provinces in eastern and southern Ukraine.including the two in the Donbass (Lugansk and Donetsk), in addition to the Crimean peninsula, which was annexed in 2014. In Moscow, the Russian Ministry of Defense reported that Russia had attacked from planes and centers of artillery command, ammunition depots and troop concentrations in the Donbass and in the southern province of Mikolaiv.
The ministry’s spokesman, General Igor Konashenkovhe said that the missiles hit three command centers, 13 areas where Ukrainian soldiers and equipment were concentrated and four ammunition depots in the Donbass. In Mikolaiv, Russian rockets destroyed a mobile drone defense system near the town of Hannivka, about 100 kilometers northeast of Mikolaiv, Russian news agency Sputnik reported.
Attacks on Severodonetsk increase
For days, hostilities in the Donbass were focused on Severodonetskin Luhansk province, which is “virtually surrounded” by Russian forces, according to his authorities. Industrial Severodonetsk is one of the few major cities in Donbass still under Ukrainian control, along with its twin city of Lisichansk, separated from each other by the Siversky Donets River.
Governor of Lugansk, Sergei GaidaiHe said this Sunday that Russian troops have attempted to attack Severodonetsk from four directions over the past few hours. Gaidai said on the Telegram messaging app that attempts had failed but artillery attacks on residential areas were continuing, adding that a bridge connecting the town to nearby Lisichansk had been destroyed.
Russia took an important step in its aim to capture Donbass last month by conquer the southern port city of Mariupol, at the southern end of Donetsk, on the Sea of Azov. Two days ago, Russia declared the “total liberation” of Mariupol after the surrender of the last Ukrainian soldiers in the city, entrenched for weeks in the underground tunnels and bunkers of a large metallurgical plant. Since last week, a total of 2,439 fighters from the Azovstal steelworks have surrendered to Russian troops.of which are now prisoners of war.
Russia ready to resume negotiations
Russia has declared its readiness to continue talks with Ukraine, which were frozen by kyiv a month and a half ago after fighting intensified in Mariupol and images of Bucha emerged. The head of negotiations on the part of Moscow, Vladimir Medinskyis the one who communicated the Russian will to resume the dialogue, according to the Tass agency.
“For our part, we are ready to continue the dialogue. The freezing of the talks was entirely an initiative of Ukraine,” Medinsky said, believing that “the ball is in court” in kyiv. The latest round of face-to-face talks between delegates from the two countries took place in Istanbul, Turkey on March 29.
Ukraine demands more weapons
For its part Ukrainewho hopes that the arrival of more Western weapons will help him balance his forces with Russia and even allow him to go on the counter-offensive, reiterated this Sunday its refusal to make concessions to Moscow. “Negotiating with a country that has taken millions hostage? We have a better idea: the world must agree to supply Ukraine with self-propelled multiple rocket launchers and other heavy weapons to unblock the Black Sea“, he wrote on Twitter Mikhail PodoliakAdvisor to the Presidency of Ukraine.
Podolyak, who took part in talks with Russia in the early weeks of the conflict, commented on suggestions in the American press that kyiv is negotiating with Moscow to free Black Sea ports. Last week, the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Andrei Rudenko linked the release of Ukrainian ports with the lifting of sanctions on Russian exports.
President Zelensky, who accuses Russia of stealing Ukrainian wheat from areas occupied by its troops, said the Russian blockade had tied up 22 million tonnes of grain. “We have to unblock this path because there is a food crisis. It can be done in different ways and one of them is the army. That is why we are asking our partners for the necessary weapons,” said the Ukrainian president.
Faced with the continuity of the Russian attack launched on February 24, Sweden and Finland are still trying to move forward (after decades of military non-alignment) with their decision to join NATOwhose only current obstacle is the rejection of Turkey.