After Mariupol, what goal for Russia in Ukraine?

War in Ukraine – After nearly two months of siege, Russia announced Thursday, April 21 that it had almost complete control of Mariupol, a strategic Ukrainian port. The capture of this city deprives Ukraine of its access to the Sea of ​​Azov. Above all, it allows Russian forces to connect Donbass with Crimea, which the Kremlin annexed in 2014, opening many possibilities for Moscow.

Having suffered a series of setbacks since February 24, when the Russian invasion of Ukraine was launched, Russia announced at the end of March that it would now focus on the east of the country. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday hailed the first victory since the redeployment of Russian forces with the capture of Mariupol, which he said had been “successfully liberated”. But this will not be the end of this war.

Intensification of attacks on Kharkiv

In Kharkiv and its region, which has been under attack by Russian forces since the beginning of two months, tension has intensified in recent days. Evidence that this city in northeastern Ukraine remains one of Moscow’s main targets, while the Battle of Mariupol appears to have folded despite the resistance of the last fighters holed up in the Azovstal mineral site.

“The situation is stressful, because the night was marked by intense bombing,” described the mayor of Ukraine’s second largest city, Igor Terekov, according to CNN on Thursday. According to the city councilor, two markets were “destroyed” in Kharkiv, and firefighters there were busy “putting out the fires”. “It targeted another residential building directly,” he added.

On Wednesday, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry reported “attempts to attack” by Russian forces on the Solizhivka and Debrevny localities in the Kharkiv region.

Russian attempt to seize all of Donbass

Russia could also redeploy Russian forces, aided by pro-Russian separatists and Chechen soldiers, who had hitherto been focused on Mariupol towards Donbass in order to gain complete control of the region. According to the American Institute for the Study of War (ISW), in eastern Ukraine, “Russian forces continued their offensive with heavy air and artillery assets while continuing to enhance their logistics and command capabilities for a major offensive.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday announced the start of the “battle” over the Donbass, where the self-proclaimed pro-Russian republics of Luhansk and Donetsk are located. “A very large part of the entire Russian army is now dedicated to this attack,” the Ukrainian leader said in a telegram broadcast. And the Ukrainian Defense Minister announced, on Wednesday, “attempts to launch an attack […] On Rubizhne and Severodonetsk, in the Lugansk region.

Among the follow-ups that followed the Russian operations, former colonel of the Navy and war historian Michel Goya evokes “the Severodonetsk region (half of the Mariupol region) and its surroundings.” [qui] She has been resisting since March 2. “She is now under great pressure,” he wrote on Twitter on Thursday.

“The goal is to cut off this stronghold from the Sloviansk-Kramatorsk-Druzkhivka-Konstantinovka stronghold,” he explains, “the main goal.” Michdel Goya adds, “The 2nd Army Corps is still attacking in the Popasna district in the south of the region. Progress at this first Russian clamp is slow but real.”

The British Ministry of Defense said, on Thursday, that “Russian forces are now advancing from the staging areas in the Donbass towards the town of Kramatorsk, which is still the target of continuous missile attacks.”

In early April, the Kramatorsk station, where the civilians were, was hit by a missile strike that killed at least 57 people. It is still under Ukrainian control, and many observers consider it a major issue for the Kremlin. “The Russians come through Izyum, 70 kilometers away, and they want to isolate us from central Ukraine,” the city’s mayor, Oleksandr Goncharenko, told RFI.

Its governor, Sergoic Gaidai again called on civilians to evacuate the Lugansk region, noting that “the situation is getting more and more complicated from hour to hour.” Earlier this week, it was announced that the city of Kremena was “unfortunately under the control of orcs,” a derogatory title given to the Russian military.

Despite the proliferation of attacks on the Donbass, for General Jean-Paul Perrochet, former Director of the General Staff of the European Union who met him MedidispatchAnd and lu [les Russes] I managed to conquer all or part of the Donbass, and the Ukrainians will not give in to the rear in what will become a war of attrition, a guerrilla war. ”

Strikes and doubts in southern Ukraine

Southern Ukraine is also under attack from Russian forces. Shelling was seen in Mala Tokmachka and Orekhev, 70 km southeast of Zaporizhia. These two villages are located between the Mariupol region and the city of Kherson, the first large city captured by the Russian army at the beginning of March.

On Thursday morning, Ukrainian authorities said that Russian forces “continue their artillery fire along the entire front line” in the rest of the south of the country. And new strikes took place on Mykolaiv, on the road to Odessa, killing one person and injuring two, according to its governor, Vitaly Kim.

For its part, the Russian Defense Ministry claimed that it carried out a series of air strikes, mainly in the Mykolaiv region, and artillery shells targeted approximately 60 Ukrainian “command centers” in the east and south. But the city of Odessa, located more than 200 km from Kherson, was bombed at the beginning of April, and it appears that it has escaped Russia for the time being.

See also on The Huffpost: These aerial photos of Mariupol are chilling

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