Putin declares ‘victory’ after Ukrainian troops retreat from Luhansk province

Moscow declared victory on Monday after its troops captured the city of Lyschansk, a sign that it will soon invade deeper into Ukraine after capturing Kyiv’s last major stronghold in Luhansk province.

After the disastrous start of the invasion that began on February 24, Russia abandoned its plans to occupy major cities with greater success, gradually expanding its involvement in eastern Ukraine already controlled by pro-Russian separatist groups before the war. control. But military analysts say Ukraine’s retreat will give its battle-hardened forces a stronger line of defense, while Russia may find it difficult to appease the Ukrainian population in the press area it controls.

Russian President Vladimir Putin met his Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in a televised conference on Monday, just as the last Ukrainian troops retreated strategically from Lisichansk to regroup in neighboring Donetsk province. a few hours later. Together, Luhansk and Donetsk make up the disputed Donbass region, which has become the epicenter of fighting. Russia recognizes the two provinces as separate republics, but Kyiv and much of the world rejects these claims.

Putin said on Monday that he intends to occupy all of Donetsk, scaling back his initial war goals after Russia’s failed attempt to capture Kyiv and other major cities in late February and early March. Putin also hinted that his forces needed time to regroup before launching the Donetsk campaign. He said troops that had “participated in active hostilities and were successful” in the Luhansk attack “should rest and improve their combat effectiveness.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the withdrawal from Luhansk temporary and said his forces had made a strategic choice to build defenses elsewhere.

“If the command of our army withdraws personnel from certain points on the front line where the enemy has the greatest firepower advantage, especially this applies to Lysychansk, it means only one thing: due to our tactics, due to the increased supply of modern weapons ,” he said in his nightly video address.

“We will rebuild the walls. We will win back the land,” he added.

While officials in Kyiv continue to complain that aid is coming too slowly, the Ukrainian military is continually beefing up with advanced U.S. and allied weapons to aid even the odds on the battlefield.

Russia has suffered heavy casualties since launching the invasion in February, and some military experts say the Kremlin is struggling to bring new troops to the front, meaning its vast military manpower advantage no longer plays as important a role on the battlefield as it once did. . Russia still has a major advantage in the number of artillery pieces and other weapons it can push to the front.

But the further westward, the more difficult the Russian military might encounter. Its supply lines will become longer and may be more vulnerable to Ukrainian artillery or drones. Ukrainian forces will also learn lessons from Russian attacks on Luhansk province, the port city of Mariupol and other targets over the past four months. Ukraine is sure to strengthen its position in Donetsk in preparation for a prolonged Russian shelling.

Indeed, foreign intelligence analysts say the Donbass are ready for a long and bloody war of attrition.

“Russia’s focus will now almost certainly turn to occupying Donetsk, a large part of which remains under the control of Ukrainian forces,” the British Ministry of Defence said in its daily assessment of the war.

“The fight for Donbass has been intense and it is highly unlikely that this will change in the coming weeks,” the ministry wrote in its Twitter thread.

cost rise

The upcoming battle in Donetsk could test the will of Russian leaders and Russian soldiers. Analysts say Russia won Luhansk at a huge cost, and future battles could lead to higher casualty rates.

Outside the battlefield, Putin faces other issues related to his decision to invade, including international sanctions that have shrunk the economy, demands by European leaders to spend more on defense, reduce spending on Russian oil and gas, and the Russian economy recovery. A unified NATO is poised to add longtime neutral Finland and Sweden as members.

“It’s going to take 60 days to make very slow progress,” Neil Melvin, director of international security research at the Royal United Services Institute in London, told Reuters on Monday. “I think the Russians may declare some kind of victory, but the crucial war is yet to come. It didn’t come.”

Russia’s near-term short-term goal appears to be protecting Donetsk, but there are signs that it may overtake the two provinces.

Andrei Marochko, spokesman for the Russian-backed Luhansk People’s Republic militia, said Ukrainian troops would need to be pushed farther to exclude the province from artillery fire.

“In order to protect the territory from such attacks, the Ukrainian armed forces must be repulsed [186 miles] from its borders,” Russia’s Vedomosti newspaper reported on Monday, citing Luhansk militia leaders.

Ukrainian troops are preparing for an imminent Russian offensive. Analysts said it was unclear whether the Ukrainian military would choose to defend every city on Russia’s path to war or take a more strategic approach, ceding some areas to invaders while strengthening defenses elsewhere.

“Russian forces are likely to advance towards Seversk next, although they may launch a larger attack on Seversk [the cities of] Bakhmut or Slovyansk opposite or at the same time,” researchers at the Institute for War Research wrote Sunday evening. “Ukrainian troops may continue to move towards the E40 highway from Slovyansk through Bakhmut to Debartsev. Road retreat. It is unclear if they will choose to defend around Siversk. “

Although fighting has increased significantly since the invasion began, the provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk have been the scene of conflict for eight consecutive years. Pro-Russian separatist forces have been fighting Ukrainian forces in these areas since Russia forcibly annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014, with strong support from the Kremlin.

This article is based in part on the Wired Services report.

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