The Russian offensive in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine is progressing slowly and with delay Regarding the planned schedule, a senior Pentagon official said on Friday.
“We think they have fallen behind what they hoped to achieve in Donbas”, the senior official from the United States Department of Defense told reporters. “They were at least several days late,” he said on condition of anonymity.
“They are far from having made the connection” between the troops that entered through the Kharkiv region (east), to the north of that region, and those that come from the south of the country,” he said. Moscow is believed to be trying to pincer the Ukrainian forces deployed on the front lines around the pro-Russian breakaway areas of Donetsk and Lugansk.
“They are not mobilizing very quickly,” the official said. “A few kilometers a day is the most they can do because they are repelled” by the Ukrainian army.
Although the fight is already ongoing in that vital area, “We believe that they continue to create the conditions for a sustained, greater and more prolonged offensive”added the senior official.
He explained that Russian forces “do not want to make the same mistakes as in kyiv”, where its tank columns had been pinned down by Ukrainian forces armed with handheld missile launchers and its logistical support was cut off.
This region of eastern Ukraine, which Russia claims to want to “liberate” from the allegedly “neo-Nazi” government in kyiv, has been at the heart of a bloody conflict since 2014, when Moscow-backed separatist rebels occupied part of this largely Russian-speaking mining basin.
Ukraine has managed to keep a western part of the region. And in the last two weeks it has tried to contain the advance of the Russian army that is crushing the area, ripping up land and taking numerous towns, although no large cities.
In the parts under their control, the Ukrainian services have purged hardline separatistsregularly announcing arrests of suspected “spoilers.”
But among the Ukrainian soldiers deployed in this part of the country, some do not hide the impression of moving into enemy territory, a sensitive issue in this region with a complex history, where Many Russians were sent to work after World War II.
“We can do everything to hide our positions, but the inhabitants inform the other side about us,” tell the agency AFP Iryna, a sergeant in an infantry brigade who has just withdrawn from Kreminna, a municipality in the Lugansk region lost in mid-April.
“It is very, very common and it comes from people who are supposed to be above suspicion, like priests,” adds the soldier, who has been deployed in this region since 2014.
In this contextUkrainian forces look the other way as cars of civilians arrive at their checkpoints to escape to Russia instead of other parts of Ukraine, relieved to see them go.
And among the inhabitants who have stayed since the beginning of the invasion on February 24, the pro-Russian trend, fed for eight years from Moscow with speculations of an alleged “genocide” of Russian-speakers, is increasingly markedthe Ukrainian authorities fear.
Here, the majority of the population is Russian-speaking. Even the most patriotic Ukrainian soldiers speak Russian, leaving the local language for official exchanges.
(With information from AFP)
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