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The Battle for Donbas

The Russo-Ukrainian War has entered a new phase recently thanks to the failure of the Russian forces to meet military objectives, including the failed capture of Kyiv, the capital city of Ukraine. With the deadline to capture the capital and overwhelm the surprisingly resistant Ukrainians overdue, the Russian forces have withdrawn from Kyiv. Now the Russian forces are clawing their way towards a different type of victory in a smaller form.

The Eastern region of Donbas is a pro-Russia region of Ukraine that declared independence from Ukraine eight years ago. Previously controlled by pro-Russian rebel forces who wanted to separate from Ukraine and join Russia, it was then occupied by Russian troops following the invasion of Ukraine in February. Ever since then, the Russian army has been focused on occupying the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, allegedly to impose a pro-Russian puppet state. But since they failed their initial goals, Russian president Vladimir Putin is eager for any sort of success he can spin into a victory, especially before May.

What is important about May? Victory Day. The Soviet army defeated the Nazi empire back in May of 1945, and ever since then, it has celebrated the victory with grand military parades through the Red Square of Moscow. With the propaganda campaign to justify Ukraine’s invasion being labeled as a ‘denazification of Ukraine,’ a failure to have a seizable victory – that could be labeled as ‘denazification’ – by Victory Day would be humiliating. 

As it didn’t seem like Russia would gain Kyiv by May, it looks like the Russians are instead going for a smaller victory by capturing Eastern Ukraine territories, and spinning it as a victory for the Red Square in their crusade against their ‘little sister-nation.’ With the relocation of forces from Kyiv to the Eastern front, the Russians have been feverishly quick on this front, shelling cities more harshly, which has led to more accusations of war crimes from the international community.

The hellish landscape of Eastern Ukraine has been marked with reports of mass shellings, indiscriminate bombings, and alleged massacres of innocent civilians. Even if the evidence is still being gathered, the accusations are severe and numerous. 

Despite the new tactic, the rushed invasion has seemed to backfire in several ways. High-ranking Russian officials have been assassinated close to the frontlines by snipers and other infantry. As of last week, Russia’s flagship, the Moskva, sank from what was reported as Ukrainian anti-ship missiles, though the Russian Ministry of Defence has labeled the sinking as due to a fire on deck that blew the ammunition hold.

Although the invasion is getting more brutal, Western support remains strong and the Ukrainian resistance is ever-vigilant. As Russian forces change their approach to the invasion, resistance fighters, civilians, and Ukrainian army personnel prepare and brace for perhaps the biggest battle since the beginning of the incursion. The Battle for Donbas begins.

 

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