“The next few days may be the last chance to leave.” The message from the governor of the Ukrainian region of Luhansk, Sergei Gaidai, is indicative of the concerns of Ukrainian officials. After reaching the Kiev region in central Ukraine, the front gradually moved east, and Ukrainian authorities fear a massive attack on the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
>> War in Ukraine: follow the evolution of the situation live
These fears are based in particular on statements by Moscow, which announced on March 25 that it would focus its offensive on the east of the country. After failing to capture the Ukrainian capital, Russia nevertheless claimed that: “the main objectives of the first phase of the operation have stuffed”, in the words of the Deputy Chief of the Russian General Staff. And to add that the Russian army went now “concentrating most of the effort on the main goal: the liberation of Donbass”.
This area includes the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, where conflict between government forces and pro-Russian separatists has been raging since 2014. Regions that Russia had not conquered before refocusing on the east of the country. According to Julien Théron, researcher at Sciences Po Paris, interviewed by franceinfo on March 26, “The territory of Luhansk is almost completely controlled by Russia, but that is not the case for Donetsk”.
This state of affairs could change as the Russian military redeploys to eastern Ukraine en masse. According to a senior Pentagon official quoted by AFP, two-thirds of the Russian troops that had occupied the Kiev region since the invasion began have withdrawn to Belarus, he said in anticipation of another attack elsewhere in Ukraine. “We see that equipment is coming from different directions, that they [les Russes] bring men, let them bring fuel”Luhansk Governor Sergei Gaidai said in a video message broadcast on April 4.
The Russian attacks have since intensified. †All free cities in the Luhansk region are under enemy fire†adds Sergei Gaidai. According to him, the Russian bombing on April 6 in the city of Roubizhne left one dead, one injured and seven missing. Five other people were injured in the shelling of a humanitarian center in Sievierodonetsk.
The Ukrainian army in the Donbass is also about to be taken by Russian forces in a pincer movement from the north and south, as the special envoys of France Télévisions explained on the spot. To curb their advance, Ukrainian anti-tank obstacles are multiplying on the strategic road of Krasnopillya, in the Donetsk region, but they have already advanced seven kilometers in a few days. The nearby Ukrainian city of Sloviansk is under permanent air raid sirens.
To prevent new mass killings of civilians, such as in Boutcha in the Kiev region, Ukrainian authorities have been calling on residents of these regions for days to move to the west of the country. On Thursday, Sergei Gaïdaï announced the creation of humanitarian corridors for residents of seven eastern cities, including Sievierodonetsk. Police roam the buildings looking for residents to escort beneath the crackling noise. The evacuation order appears to have been heard: the mayor of Dnipro, a town further west, announced on Thursday that a “very large number of people” had arrived from the Donbass in recent days. But many residents have also chosen to stay.
As the offensives intensify, these evacuations are becoming more and more dangerous. Sergei Gaïdaï said the 1,200 people evacuated on Wednesday were without a ceasefire. Further south, the humanitarian convoy organized by the Red Cross for Mariupol has already been postponed several times, mainly because of the lack of security guarantees. “We Can’t Help Anymore” population in the event of a Russian attack, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk warned on Wednesday.
The manager, who coordinates the organization of humanitarian corridors, recalled on Wednesday, April 6 that“we must evacuate as long as this option exists. It still exists for the time being”† With the advance of Russian troops in the Donbass, the situation could deteriorate rapidly.