Ukraine war: ‘Next key contest’ in Donbas as Putin faces ‘extremely determined resistance’

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Following the capture of the city of Lysychansk, Russia controls all of the Luhansk region – one of Putin’s stated war goals. Next in Putin’s sights is the Donetsk region, which together with Luhansk makes up the Donbas. However, Ukrainian forces have dug into defensive positions in the area and Russian troops will face an “extremely determined Ukrainian resistance”, according to the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

As Moscow’s forces move to consolidate their forces in Luhansk, it is very likely the next key battle will take place in the Ukrainian held city of Sloviansk in Donetsk.

The MoD said in a tweet: “Russia likely continues to consolidate its control over Lysychansk and Luhansk Oblast. To the north, it has committed most of the remaining available units from the Eastern and Western Groups of Forces to the Izium axis.

“Over the last week, Russian forces have likely advanced up to another 5 km down the E40 main road from Izium, in the face of extremely determined Ukrainian resistance.

“Russian forces from the Eastern and Western Groups of Forces are likely now around 16 km north from the town of Sloviansk.

“With the town also under threat from the Central and Southern Groups of Forces, there is a realistic possibility that the battle for Sloviansk will be the next key contest in the struggle for the Donbas.”

Ukrainian forces have fought retreating actions from key cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk which have been captured by Russian forces. However, Russian forces have suffered heavy losses in the battles and some experts had claimed that Russia would need to regroup and consolidate before pressing any attack.

However, reports of massive Russian shelling in the of Sloviansk town seem to indicate their will be no halt in the Russian offensive.

Two people were reportedly killed and seven injured in the shelling yesterday, which the Governor of Donetsk, Pavlo Kyrylenko, claimed hit a market. He denounced the attack on the messaging app Telegram.

He said: “Once again the Russians are intentionally targeting places where civilians assemble. This is terrorism pure and simple.”

He then urged residents to evacuate the town as the frontline approached. Sloviansk had a pre-war population of around 110,000 which has dwindled to just 24,000 since the invasion began in February.

Shelling on Monday reportedly damaged around 40 homes in the city.

AFP reported: “Ukrainian officials call on civilians to urgently evacuate the city of Sloviansk as Russian troops press towards it.

“Sloviansk has been subjected to massive Russian bombardment in recent days.”

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Vladimir Putin’s stated goal is to take the Donbas region of Luhansk and Donetsk, however this has been cast into doubt following comments from the secretary of the Security Council of Russia Nikolai Patrushev.

His comments echoed Putin’s original war goals, including significant territorial expansion for Russia and regime change in Kyiv, according to the Institute for the Study of War.

In a Twitter update, it said: “Russian Security Council Secretary Patrushev restated Putin’s initial objectives for Ukraine, suggesting that the Kremlin retains maximalist objectives including regime change and territorial expansion far beyond the Donbas.

“Patrushev’s statement significantly increases the burden on those who suggest that some compromise ceasefire or even peace based on limited additional Russian territorial gains is possible, even if it were acceptable to Ukraine or desirable for the West (which is not the case).”

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