Understand all about Mariupol’s “last battle” and the expected attack in the East

The noose will be tightened even more this Tuesday for the last Ukrainian troops defending Mariupol, under siege by the Russian army for more than seven weeks. In this largely destroyed port city the humanitarian situation is dramatic while still further east, civilians continue to flee the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, from which six evacuation trains will depart today.

The Russian armed forces do not intend to let go of Mariupol and “the final battle” is near according to the Ukrainian fighters, while that “for the Donetsk and Lugansk regions will be a pivotal moment in the war Ukrainian President Andrii Yermak’s chief of staff said on Telegram. 20 minutes takes stock of these two battle zones and what promises to be a new twist in the war Ukraine has been waging against Russia for more than 40 days.

Where are the Russian troops in Mariupol?

Kremlin forces maintain their pressure on Mariupol on Tuesday. On TwitterUkrainian Presidential Advisor Mykhailo Podoliak said that “Ukrainian soldiers are surrounded and blocked” and that “tens of thousands” of people have died and that “90% of houses” have been destroyed. For his part, the leader of the pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk, Denis Pushilin, confirmed live on the Russian channel Pervy Kanal that his troops had completely conquered the port area of ​​Mariupol: “As for the port of Mariupol, it is already under our control . †

The Russian army says it has foiled a breakthrough attempt by 100 Ukrainian soldiers with armored vehicles who tried to flee a factory in northern Mariupol. Their departure was repulsed with “air strikes and artillery fire,” according to Moscow, which it said destroyed three tanks, killed about 50 “enemies”, and 42 surrendered.

Finally, Edouard Basurine, spokesman for the self-proclaimed pro-Russian Republic of Donetsk (DNR), explained that he did not rule out using chemical weapons to attack Ukrainian positions at the Azovstal plant, a new combat challenge. Indeed, the seizure of the Mariupol encounters in particular that of the industrial complex that groups several factories, including the mythical Azovstal, which overlooks the harbor.

Can Ukrainian troops still resist?

Kiev’s armed forces “continue to defend Mariupol”, assured the Ukrainian army on Telegram, making sure it was always in contact with the units that “held heroically the city”. “The Russians have temporarily occupied part of Mariupol. Ukrainian soldiers continue to defend the center and the south, as well as the industrial zones,” Deputy Mayor Serguiy Orlov said on Tuesday.

Secure facebookthe National Navy’s 36th Brigade said it was preparing for a “final battle” against Russian troops: “Our ammunition is running out. For some of us it will be death and for others captivity. We are slowly fading […] We don’t know what will happen, but we really ask you to remember [de nous] kind word,” she wrote in a Reuters message and Radio Canada† “Over more than forty days of intense fighting, the enemy gradually pushed us back” […]has surrounded us and is now trying to destroy us,” the soldiers further specify, assuring that about half of their troops have already been wounded in the fighting.

Russian control in and around Mariupol on March 9, 16, 23 and 30.
Russian control in and around Mariupol on March 9, 16, 23 and 30. – LAURENCE SAUBADU, KENAN AUGEARD / AFP

Finally, on YouTube Oleksiy Arestovitchan adviser to Volodymyr Zelensky, said: “I am the first to find the strength to say” that the Ukrainian troops cannot liberate Mariupol, “it is now militarily impossible”.

Why does Moscow absolutely want to overthrow Mariupol?

Very early, long before the start of the Russian offensive, Mariupol has established itself as a real one strategic issue of the separatists prorus. The reason ? Located about 55 kilometers from the Russian border and 85 kilometers from the separatist stronghold of Donetsk, it is the largest still-owned city of Kiev in the basin of the Donbasswhich includes the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

Map showing the city of Mariupol, which was surrounded by Russian troops on March 5.
Map showing the city of Mariupol, which was surrounded by Russian troops on March 5. – SIMON MALFATTO, JEAN-MICHEL CORNU

Its conquest would therefore allow the Russians to consolidate their territorial gains on the coastal strip along the Sea of ​​Azov by establishing a land corridor between the regions of Donbass, whose sovereignty it recognizes, and the Crimean peninsula, which in 2014 was annexed by Moscow.

And where is the attack in the East?

Moscow has made the total conquest of the Donbass its priority objective and Kiev has announced, through the voice of Ukraine’s Defense Ministry spokesman, Oleksandre Motouzianik, that it expects an attack “very soon”. In Washington, a senior Pentagon official confirmed that Russian forces were strengthening especially near the city of Izium. A helicopter maintenance battalion and infantry logistic units would be added to a tank column.

Map of eastern Ukraine with administrative regions (
Map of Eastern Ukraine with the administrative regions (- Simon MALFATTO, Sabrina BLANCHARD, Kenan AUGEARD, Valentin RAKOVSKY

The general staff of the Ukrainian army has said it expects the Russians to launch offensives in the near future on cities like Popasna and Kurakhove to “take control of the entire Donetsk region”. “The battle for the Donetsk and Lugansk regions is a pivotal moment in the war,” Volodymyr Zelensky’s chief of staff Andriy Yermak told Telegram. “It will take several days, and during these days our cities could be completely destroyed,” added Sergei Gaïdaï, Ukraine’s governor of the Lugansk region.

During a visit to Vostochny on Tuesday (the Kremlin chief’s first trip outside Moscow since February 24), Vladimir Putin praised the “courageous, professional, effective” struggle of the Russian officers “participating in the special military operation in Donbass” . This offensive, he said, is necessary and inevitable to “ensure the security of Russia” against a Ukraine that “has turned into an anti-Russian stronghold, to cultivate nationalism, neo-Nazis”.

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