The Russian noose is narrowing. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed, on Monday, what he had expected weeks ago, that his Russian counterpart would attack eastern Ukraine with the throat. Vladimir Putin, deploying almost all his men and artillery, spreads to the area closest to his borders and at the same time declares his victory. After trying to attack the south and north, Kyiv or even strategic cities like Mariupol, how does the Kremlin want to conquer Donbass? Is the Ukrainian army capable of resistance? Answers with General Dominique Trincoand, former head of the French military mission to the United Nations.
What would the “Battle of Donbass” look like?
We are entering a much more classic battle. Three weeks ago, the Russians announced that they would focus their efforts on Donbass. This meant, in military terms, the abandonment of the attacks that were taking place in Kyiv and in the north. Now, in the Donbass, it will be a question of confronting the Ukrainian army, which has been preparing for this confrontation since 2014. For this, the Russians will use artillery to crush the defenses of their Ukrainian enemies, but they will also make breakthroughs to dismantle them. Finally, the armed forces of Moscow, with a movement starting from the north towards the south, will try to get around Volodymyr Zelensky’s army in order to cut off the reinforcements coming from the west.
Why do we fear this battle so much?
Because all Russian means are concentrated there. This means a lot of heavy artillery and therefore a lot of losses. But this “Battle of Donbass” is also the last stage for the Russians. After this process, either President Vladimir Putin declares victory or President Volodymyr Zelensky does so. But one of them will emerge victorious.
Will the “Battle of Donbass” last for several days, as Kyiv claimed?
It can last longer. Everyone has in mind that Vladimir Putin wants victory before the symbolic date of May 9 [fête patriotique russe], within two and a half weeks. then succeed? I don’t know. And is this May 9th really real? me too I do not know.
Is Ukraine able to resist the fighting in the East militarily?
Ukraine has a real advantage because it is prepared, especially in this field, since 2014. The Ukrainians have shooting plans, they are trained, and they are protected by trenches or even concrete shelters. On the other hand, their lines of communication are very long because reinforcements come from the West, that is, the opposite. On the other hand, the Russians have shorter lines of communication since, arriving in the Donbass, they approached their borders.
After this “Battle of the Donbass”, President Vladimir Putin declares victory or President Volodymyr Zelensky does it. »
Is this attack different from the attack carried out in Kyiv? why ?
Yes, completely different. Initially, in Kyiv, the Russian government thought about quickly overthrowing the Ukrainian government and not using force. After that, the Russian troops could not approach within 20 km from the center of the capital. So the city was threatened but not attacked directly. In the Donbass there will be systematic bombing. Moreover, the Ukrainians have been asking civilians for several weeks to leave this area because they will also be the target of these bombings.
Is the Russian army stalling in Mariupol?
He does not trample, simply the stage of capturing the last stronghold of Mariupol and the steelworks of Azovstal on the port is very difficult. There are also Ukrainian forces preparing for four weeks. There will be six basements in this stronghold, which makes capturing the Russians very complicated. Moreover, there are very determined fighters in Mariupol. They know that by continuing to fight they prevent the immediately mobilized Russian troops from going anywhere else, and therefore into the Donbass. They also know that all eyes are on them. For the morale of the Ukrainian forces, it is important that they resist.
Can we say that Moscow changed its military strategy since the beginning of the war?
Yeah. The initial strategy was to seize power without using force. Moscow failed. So the Kremlin took another turn four weeks later, and the goal now is to focus on the only axis that had advanced so far, the south/southeast axis. The idea is to get one and only one victory: the capture of Donbass.
Except for Donbass, would Russia have abandoned the rest of Ukraine?
Yeah. Russia has abandoned the rest of Ukraine for the time being. It knows that it cannot invade or occupy the rest of the country. Given the difficulties in the region and the western mobilization, at this point, it seems to me that it started off badly. However, this does not mean that Moscow will not try to acquire the rest of Ukraine later.