Russia begins battle for Donbas
WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – After being thwarted in its attempt to capture Kiev, the Ukrainian capital in the north, Russia began its promised offensive in eastern Ukraine on Tuesday.
It is widely believed that Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to achieve something that he can present as a major win by May 9—Victory Day, a national holiday in Russia that marks the 1945 defeat of Nazi Germany, as World War II drew to a close a few months before Japan’s Sept. 2 surrender, which ended the conflict.
On Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke, in English, with India Today’s television channel. Its assault on Ukraine is not a war for Moscow, and Lavrov’s language reflected that.
“Another stage of this operation is beginning,” Lavrov told India Today, as he stated that Russian forces aim at the “complete liberation” of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, known together as the Donbas.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky echoed that statement on Tuesday when he said in a taped address, “Russian forces have begun the battle for the Donbas,” adding a “significant part of the entire army is now concentrated on this offensive.”
Russia’s assault on Ukraine has already been very brutal, with US officials, from President Joe Biden on down, accusing Moscow of war crimes. It is feared that Russia’s actions will grow even more brutal, including the use of chemical weapons, as its forces prepare to produce a victory ahead of the presumed May 9 deadline.
Thus, as Zelensky also noted, “In this war, the Russian army will forever inscribe itself in world history as, perhaps, the most barbaric and inhuman army in the world.”
US Arms for Ukraine, Amid Russian Losses of 25%
Last Wednesday, the US announced that it was preparing a new military support package for Ukraine worth $800 million. Delivery of those items began just two days later.
The military aid package includes helicopters, armored personnel carriers, and long-range howitzers and ammunition. Last week Russia warned of “unpredictable consequences” if the US continued to provide advanced weaponry to Ukraine.
However, the Russian threat has had no apparent effect on US weapons deliveries. Rather, the heroic courage and successful resistance of the Ukrainian forces appear to have spurred the delivery of more US military equipment in quantity and quality.
The increased US aid comes as Russian losses mount. A senior US Defense Department official told reporters on Tuesday that Russia had lost significant forces and equipment since its invasion of Ukraine began nearly two months ago.
“We believe that [Putin is] roughly at 75% of his combat power that he had originally, when he started,” the official said. “This is across all functions: its infantry; its artillery; its aviation—both fixed and rotary—its ballistic missile, cruise missile,” etc.
Middle Eastern Fighters Aid Russians
Some of those losses are being compensated for through the recruitment of fighters from Syria, as the Associated Press, reporting from Beirut, said on Monday.
Britain’s Guardian newspaper, citing an unnamed European official, reported on Tuesday that the foreign fighters also included men from Libya.
“Russia has deployed up to 20,000 mercenaries from Syria, Libya and elsewhere in its new offensive” in the Donbas region, The Guardian said. The Arab fighters, as it explained, are being recruited by the Wagner Group, which claims to be a private military company, but which is also very close to the Russian government.
Former Syrian soldiers are offered salaries of between $600 and $3,000 a month, depending on rank and experience, to fight in Ukraine. A month ago, as The Guardian recalled, Ukrainian military intelligence reported that Russia had reached a deal with Khalifa Haftar when he visited Moscow. Russia backs Haftar in Libya, and he is said to have reciprocated that support with a commitment to send Libyan fighters to aid Russia in Ukraine.