March 24, 2023

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The battle for Ukraine's Donbass region rages

The battle for Ukraine’s Donbass region rages

  • Ukraine says it is on the offensive
  • Russian forces make some progress in Donbass – Ukrainian army
  • The Russian Donbass Campaign Lost Its Momentum – British Army
  • Finland’s president confirms candidacy for NATO membership

RUSSIA LOZova, Ukraine (Reuters) – Russia bombed positions in eastern Ukraine on Sunday as it sought to encircle Ukrainian forces in the Battle of Donbass and repel a counterattack around the strategic Russian-controlled region, the Russian Defense Ministry said. The city of Iseum.

At a meeting in Germany, the Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) said Ukraine could win the war, calling for more military support and quick approval of bids expected from Finland and Sweden to join the alliance.

Ukraine has had a string of successes since invading Russia on February 24, forcing Russian leaders to abandon their advance on the capital Kyiv before making quick gains to drive them out of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city.

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The invasion of Moscow, which she called a “special operation” to disarm and protect Ukraine from the fascists, destabilized European security. Kyiv and its Western allies say the assertion of fascism is an unfounded excuse to launch an unjustified war of aggression.

The president of Finland, which shares a 1,300 km border with Russia, confirmed on Sunday that his country would apply to join NATO, a major policy shift prompted by the Russian invasion. Sweden’s ruling party followed suit. Read more

Since mid-April, Russian forces have focused much of their firepower on trying to capture two eastern provinces known as Donbass after failing to capture Kyiv.

A British military intelligence assessment said Russia lost about a third of its deployed ground combat force in February. The assessment said its offensive in Donbass was well behind schedule and unlikely to make rapid progress over the next 30 days.

“The Russian war in Ukraine will not go as planned by Moscow,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

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Ukraine received a morale boost by winning the Eurovision Song Contest on Saturday night, a victory seen as a sign of the strength of popular support for Ukraine across Europe. Read more

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky welcomed the victory, but said the situation in Donbass remains very difficult and Russian forces are still trying to salvage some kind of victory in a region wracked by conflict since 2014.

“They are not stopping their efforts,” he said. Read more

No place to bury anyone

Russia said on Sunday it had bombed Ukrainian positions in the east, targeting command centers and arsenals, as its forces sought to encircle Ukrainian units between Izyum and Donetsk. Read more

Ukraine’s joint task force said its forces repelled 17 attacks on Sunday and destroyed 11 pieces of Russian equipment, while its air defenses shot down two Russian helicopters and five drones.

It added that Russia continued to target civilian areas along the entire front line in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, firing at 23 villages and towns.

Reuters could not independently confirm the reports.

Izyum runs on the Donets River, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) from Kharkiv on the main southeast highway.

If Ukraine can maintain pressure on Russia’s supply lines and Izium, it will make it difficult for Moscow to encircle powerful Ukrainian forces in the battle on the eastern front in the Donbass.

“The hottest point remains the direction of Izyum,” Ukrainian regional governor Oleh Senegubov said in comments broadcast on social media. “Our armed forces switched to a counterattack there. The enemy is retreating on some fronts.”

Ukrainian armed forces personnel said Russian units were now operating in some areas with a strength of less than 20 percent.

Vadim Denisenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s Interior Ministry, told Ukrainian television that troops may move on the border in the next few days to put pressure on Russian forces in northeastern Kharkiv.

In the village of Ruska Lozova, nestled in vast fields between Kharkiv and Ukraine’s border with Russia, Ukrainian leaders said they believed Moscow was redeploying its forces to defend Izyum while keeping their opponents surrounded by artillery fire.

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“The Russian attack on Kharkiv has been destroyed and they understand that,” said Ihor Obolensky, commander of the National Guard and volunteer force that captured Ruska Lozova eight days ago. “They need to try to achieve a new victory and they want to take control of Iseum.”

Mykola Lukashuk, head of the Dnipro regional council, said that Russian forces “are unable to make any progress and therefore resort to bombing.”

But the Ukrainian military also acknowledged setbacks in a Sunday morning update: “Despite the losses, Russian forces continue to advance in the Lyman, Severodonetsk, Avdiivka and Kurakhiv regions in the wider Donbass region.”

Ukrainian officials said that missiles in western Ukraine near Poland destroyed military infrastructure on Saturday night and were fired at the Lviv region of the Black Sea. Read more

Evacuations are still underway as battles continue around Severodonetsk, said Serhiy Gaidai, governor of the eastern Luhansk region, adding that “any breakthrough here would enable the Russians to encircle the area.”

Gaidai said in a telegram messaging application, that nine civilians were wounded in the Russian bombing of Severodonetsk Hospital yesterday evening. The attack, which lasted more than an hour, reduced capacity to 100 patients from 300, he added.

The regional council said that ten other civilians were injured in the southern Mykolaiv region in the past 24 hours, without elaborating. These reports could not be independently verified.

The Ukrainian military said Russia’s bombardment of steelworks in the southern port of Mariupol did not subside on Sunday, as a few hundred Ukrainian fighters emerged weeks after the city fell to Russia.

Brightly lit munitions were shown rolling over steelwork in a video posted by a pro-Russian separatist leader. Read more

A large convoy carrying refugees from the ruins of Mariupol arrived in the Ukraine-controlled city of Zaporizhia after dark on Saturday, after waiting days for Russian forces to allow them to leave. Read more

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Irina Petrenko, 63, in the convoy, said she initially stayed to take care of her 92-year-old mother, who then died.

“We buried her near her house, because there was nowhere to bury anyone,” she said.

More weapons

Both Finland and Sweden have said they view NATO membership as a way to bolster their security, although Russia has warned that it would be a mistake for Helsinki to abandon its neutrality. Read more

Sweden’s Social Democrats backed the country’s entry into NATO on Sunday, paving the way for an application and abandoning decades of military non-alignment with its prime minister to gain Parliament’s support on Monday. Read more

NATO’s Stoltenberg and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken expressed confidence that Turkey’s concerns about bids from the Baltic states could be overcome, with Stoltenberg citing the possibility of accelerating the accession process and temporary security arrangements. Read more

Besides losing large numbers of men and a lot of military equipment, Russia came under economic sanctions, while Western countries provided military aid to Ukraine.

The US embassy in Kyiv said Ukraine had deployed several new US M-777 howitzers to the front lines, and Washington had delivered all but one of the 90 artillery pieces that were to be sent. Read more

US lawmakers are preparing to move forward with more aid this week. Read more

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Additional reporting by Jonathan Landay, Natalia Zenets, Gleb Garanich, Leonardo Pinassato, Tara Oakes, Tom Balmforth, Idris Ali, David Younggreen, Lydia Kelly, Nick Starkoff and other Reuters offices; Writing by Aidan Lewis, Simon Cameron Moore and Susan Heffy; Editing by William Mallard, David Clarke and Jonathan Otis

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.