Kremlin-backed separatists in the east of Ukraine are warning that the Russian military will not stop at the Donbas region as the invasion of Ukraine continues. The region, along with Luhansk, was recognised by Moscow as an independent republic in February, a provocative move. In recent weeks, fighting has escalated in the east of Ukraine as Russian forces concentrate their resources in the region. Any progress the Russians make could be in vain, however, as an expert tells Express.co.uk that Moscow’s troops are “losing momentum” and could be pushed back by a Ukrainian counter-offensive.
Dr Neil Melvin, Director of International Security Studies at the Royal United Services Institute, gave his analysis in an interview with Express.co.uk.
He said: “While they (the Russians) are making progress on the ground, it is within a very small set of objectives. They are gradually losing momentum I would say.
“Even within these small goals, Russia is eventually running out of steam in terms of resources and man power.”
Dr Melvin believes the Russians are “exhausted” because the Kremlin is unable to mobilise more troops.
He continued: “The Russians have now been in the field since February 24, so their units are gradually becoming exhausted.
“They haven’t launched a general mobilisation so they haven’t got the troops to bring in.
“So they are really just working with the resources they had at the beginning of the war.
“At some point those are going to be exhausted.”
Another advantage for Ukraine, Dr Melvin says, is that the Donbas region is where some of Ukraine’s most battle-hardened troops are, having fought there since 2014.
He added: “The second factor is that they have switched their attention to the Donbas, but this region is where the best Ukrainian forces are.
“They are heavily dug in, they are prepared for a Russian attack.
“So what the Ukrainians are doing is they are giving territory slowly, pulling back, swapping territory for time.
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“The balance will then shift from the Russians to the Ukrainians. The Ukrainians will then bring their 900,000 troops to the front and their new weapons to launch their own counter-offensive.”
As the Ukrainian forces wait for resources, it appears the Russians have been able to make progress.
The Russians captured the town of Lyman and encircled most of the nearby strategic Severodonetsk city in eastern Ukraine.
Ukrainian officials insisted its forces were still fighting to keep control of the northwestern and southeastern parts of Lyman town, and holding firm at new defensive lines in the eastern Donbas region.
Ukraine’s foreign minister pleaded for “weapons, weapons and weapons again,” warning that without a new injection of foreign arms, Ukrainian forces would not be able to stop Russia’s advance on the east.
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Volodymyr Zelensky Ukraine’s president, has accused Russia of genocide in the Donbas.
In his daily televised address Mr Zelensky spoke out against Moscow’s ferocious assault and said the onslaught could leave the entire region “uninhabited”. Russia has redirected its forces to the Donbas after failing to take Kyiv.
He said: “All this, including the deportation of our people and the mass killings of civilians, is an obvious policy of genocide pursued by Russia.
“The current offensive of the occupiers in Donbas can make the region uninhabited. They want to burn Popasna, Bakhmut, Lyman, Lysychansk and Severodonetsk to ashes. Like Volnovakha, like Mariupol.”