Russia renews attacks in eastern Ukraine, fighting reaches ‘maximum intensity’

Russia renews attacks in eastern Ukraine, fighting reaches ‘maximum intensity’

Fighting in eastern Ukraine has reached “maximum intensity” and the country is heading towards an “extremely long and difficult” phase of the war, said Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar.

It refers to Russia’s renewed effort to attack and seize some of the region’s main cities in order to establish, at the same time, control of territory in which Moscow already supported anti-Kyiv separatist groups and a victory for Vladimir Putin.

Two of the main targets are the cities of Severodonetsk and Lisitchansk. If taken by Russia, almost all of Lugansk province would be under Putin’s control — one of the Kremlin’s key goals for the war they call a “special military operation”.

According to the governor of Lugansk, Sergii Haidai, around 15,000 civilians still remain in Severodonetsk – which, before the war, had around 100,000 inhabitants. Most refuse to leave the city, and Haidai himself said earlier in the week that it was too late to flee Russian attacks.

In Lisitchansk, the volume of deaths resulting from the war led the police to take over the funeral rites. On Thursday, according to the governor, more than 150 bodies were buried in mass graves. Family members who wished to have formal burial ceremonies will have to wait for the end of the war.

In Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, military analysts say there has been a reversal in the flow of fighting. A few weeks ago, it was Ukrainian troops who were forcing the Russians to retreat towards the country’s northeast border. Now, Moscow’s forces have managed to maintain control over a swath of territory and prevent adversaries from cutting their supply lines.

In urban areas, residents have adapted to the sounds of explosions. “It’s noisy here, but at least I’m home,” Marina Karabierova, 38, said as she heard yet another boom during an interview with the Reuters news agency. “It can happen anytime. That’s how life is here.” She had fled to Poland and then Germany at the start of the war, but has recently returned to Kharkiv.

According to Chancellor Dmitro Kuleba, some cities and towns, especially in eastern Ukraine, no longer exist. “They were reduced to ruins by Russian artillery, by multiple rocket launch systems,” he said, adding that these are precisely the kind of weapons his country needs. According to Kuleba, Ukraine’s military situation in the east is even worse than it is said to be.

The aim is to try to reduce the huge disparity between the Russian and Ukrainian arsenals. “Russia has the upper hand, but we are doing everything we can,” said General Oleksii Gromov, deputy head of the main operations department of the Ukrainian General Staff.

Part of this disparity was evidenced by a balance sheet released on Thursday by the Russian Defense Ministry. According to the folder, Moscow forces have destroyed more than 10,000 Ukrainian armored vehicles and war equipment since the invasion began.

“Overall, the following targets have been eliminated since the start of the special military operation: 179 aircraft, 127 helicopters, 1,019 unmanned aerial vehicles, 323 surface-to-air missile systems, 3,266 tanks and other armored combat vehicles, 433 multiple rocket launchers, 1,682 field artillery and mortar cannons and 3,190 special military motor vehicles,” the ministry says.

Russian Defense also released video of the launch of an Iskander-K missile against what would have been a Ukrainian military target. The Iskander is a short-range ballistic missile system that Russian forces have deployed against Ukrainian cities, ammunition depots, and other targets.

Earlier, President Volodymyr Zelensky also admitted the military superiority of the Russians and reiterated calls for support from Western countries. “The enemy is clearly superior in terms of equipment and numbers of soldiers. We need the help of our partners and especially weapons.”

Chancellor Dmitro Kuleba was more direct and snarled at Germany, whose position since the beginning of the conflict has been one of caution in delivering heavy weapons to Kiev. “We appreciate all the efforts of the German government, but I don’t understand why it’s so complicated.”

The German Prime Minister, Olaf Scholz, tried to take a firmer stance against Russia. In a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, he said Putin had not achieved his strategic goals.

“Putin must not win his war, and I am convinced he will not,” Scholz said. “The capture of all Ukraine seems further away now than it did at the beginning of the war.”

Although he did not directly mention a possible victory for Ukraine, the prime minister rejected the idea that the country should cede part of the territory to end the conflict, one of the conditions imposed by Russia to end the invasion. “There will be no dictated peace [por Moscou]. Ukraine will not accept this, and neither will we.”

Scholz’s speech, to a certain extent, was interpreted as a contrast to what he himself had said to journalists. According to an editor at Britain’s Guardian, the German said in a conversation with reporters that he did not believe in an eventual Ukrainian victory.

The premier also left off the radar a more incisive intervention in favor of Ukraine. “We will not do anything that could lead NATO to war. That would mean a direct confrontation between nuclear powers,” he said, referring, in effect, to what would be a Third World War.

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