-The city of Sloviansk in the Donetsk region will be the next objective for Russian forces operating in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. Russian forces are closing on the city with units from the Western and Eastern Groups of Forces now just 10 miles from there. Ukrainian forces in and around Sloviansk are digging in and preparing for the enemy assault, which is expected to begin within two days. The city’s mayor has ordered an evacuation of all remaining residents. The effort to clear out Sloviansk began rather later than expected, partly owing to the widening gap between events on the ground and how they are being reported by the Ukrainian and Western medias. The articles and reports coming from a number of media groups and journalists are borderline pro-Ukrainian propaganda, based on reports from Ukrainian government officials and the military instead of facts.
-Revised forecasts by economists indicate Russia is heading towards a less severe recession than forecasters had originally expected. Rising oil production in Russia has done much to offset the economic sanctions put in place by the United States and Europe as well as by other nations around the world. It also speaks volumes for the degree of preparedness Russia had gone to in order to make its economy as sanction-hardened as possible. In the months leading up to war there was a considerable amount of speculation that Russia’s economic security had been fortified to an extent. A fair number of US and European economists and analysts rejected the notion and continued forward with their belief that the weight of global sanctions would do severe damage to the Russian economy and deter Moscow from embarking upon a course of belligerence for very long.
Twenty-four hours after the fact, the Ukrainian military confirmed on Sunday that the city of Lysychansk is now entirely under Russian control. The news was released as reports from third-party and independent sources made it clear Ukrainian forces were withdrawing from the city as Russian troops entered in large numbers. “After heavy fighting for Lysychansk, the defense forces of Ukraine were forced to withdraw from their occupied positions and lines,” read a statement released by the Ukrainian general staff. “In order to preserve the lives of Ukrainian defenders, a decision was made to withdraw.” The general staff’s statement also spoke of Russian advantages in aircraft, artillery, troop numbers and other forces.
The capture of Lysychansk comes one week after Russian forces captured its sister city of Severodonetsk. Ukraine no longer has a foothold in the Luhansk province. It is now effectively under the control of Russia. With the situation in the east looking bleak for Ukraine, the United States and European nations will be under pressure to provide more powerful weapons to Ukraine in even greater numbers. At this point in the conflict, however, Western unity is starting to sag under the weight of the economic fallout. Behind the scenes, a new push for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to reach a negotiated settlement with Russia will be getting underway soon.
Unfortunately, Zelenskiy is not likely to cave into any potential Western demands on negotiations anytime soon. For whatever reasons, the Ukrainian leader still seems to think he is holding a handful of trump cards and has the upper hand despite the battlefield setbacks. He is also appearing more and more out of tune with real world events when he makes public appearances. For example, earlier today Zelenskiy denied that Lysychansk was completely in Russian hands. While giving a news conference with Australia’s prime minister, who was visiting Kiev, the Ukrainian leader said fighting was taking place on the outskirts of the city. His remarks came as the Ukrainian military was releasing the statement discussed above.
The badly timed comments make Zelenskiy seem either out of touch or reluctant to publicly admit bad news to the people of his country. It is important to keep public morale up, but not by repeating outright lies and propaganda. On this topic, Ukraine’s president has much to learn yet.
The Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine commenced late Monday following missile strikes against military targets in western Ukraine and preparatory artillery fire strikes against Ukrainian forces in the east. Russia has spent the past two weeks reinforcing and resupplying its forces in the Donbas region in preparation for this moment. Ukraine had also resupplied and reinforced its ground forces in the east to the best of Kiev’s ability. These efforts have attracted Russian attention, as was made apparent by the missile attacks on military targets deep in the Ukrainian rear areas like Lviv. Disrupting the flow of war supplies from outside Ukraine has become a high priority for Russia, a lesson learned the hard way earlier in the conflict. The supply routes coming from Poland and other NATO nations into Ukraine are going to be targeted more as the offensive in Donbas is now getting underway.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has confirmed that a new phase of the war has begun. During an interview with India Today, the diplomat said, “This operation in the east of Ukraine is aimed as it was announced from the very beginning to fully liberate the Donetsk and Luhansk republics.” When he was questioned about the growing rhetoric over nuclear weapons, Lavrov blamed the Ukrainian government, and specifically Volodymyr Zelenskiy for fueling false allegations.
The IMF (International Monetary Fund) is modifying its forecast for global economic growth over the next 24 months as the ripple effects of the conflict in Ukraine continue to expand. When the war started in February, 2022, economies around the world hadn’t yet fully recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic. Now these recoveries will be hampered by the war, jeopardizing growth in nations mainly across Europe and Asia. Naturally, Russia and Ukraine are feeling the most direct and immediate effects of the war.
In Mariupol, organized Ukrainian resistance in much of the city had ended. Practically speaking, Russian forces now control most of the port city, but with the notable exception of the Azovstal Steelworks, one of Europe’s largest. Ukrainian troops and civilians are now holing up there. The vast complex is now the center of Ukrainian resistance inside of Mariupol. How long it will hold out remains to be seen. However, it could be a prolonged period of time before resistance comes to an end. The Ukrainian troops there are now fighting to protect the lives of civilians who have gathered at the plant. Their presence gives the Ukrainian soldiers there added incentive to continue fighting fiercely for as long as possible.
Lviv was again targeted by Russian missile strikes on Monday. Five ballistic missiles landed within the city limits. City officials claim seven civilians were killed in the attacks. Russia has increased the pressure on Lviv and other military targets in western Ukraine as its forces continue to prepare for a major offensive in the Donbas region.
In the east, Russia seems to be applying the lessons learned in its failed offensive in northern Ukraine as it undertakes preparations for an attack in the east. Russia is moving in heavy artillery, command and control headquarters, and attack helicopters to support the coming operation. Also in the last five days, 11 full-strength battalion tactical groups have arrived in Luhansk and Donetsk.
The United Nations does not foresee a ceasefire on the horizon in Ukraine. Though Martin Griffiths, UN undersecretary general for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief has indicated he believes one could be possible in the coming weeks. The UN has been working to play a greater role in negotiations between Ukraine and Russia and to bring about humanitarian ceasefires honored by both sides.
Another effort is underway to deliver humanitarian aid and buses to Mariupol. Yesterday’s attempt to evacuate civilians was unsuccessful after aid groups were not given the security guarantees needed despite Russian promises to establish a humanitarian corridor and call for a temporary ceasefire.
The withdrawal of Russian ground forces north of Kiev is underway and progressing. However, in other parts of Ukraine, Russian attacks are continuing and pressure remains. As the Russian focus shifts to fighting in eastern Ukraine, some of the forces that had been engaged in the failed push on Kiev could find themselves in Donbas quite soon.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar has said Turkey stands ready to organize a seaborne evacuation of civilians from Mariupol.
According to reports from the Ukrainian general staff, Moscow is mobilizing its troops in Moldova’s occupied Transnistria to demonstrate its readiness to attack Ukraine from the southwest and for potential provocations in the Moldova-Ukraine border region.