Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Breaking: Russian Troops Inch Closer in Ukraine, 3rd Year of Conflict Brings New Tensions

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As the war in Ukraine barrels into its third year, Russian troops continue to slowly gain ground in the eastern Donbas region while Ukraine’s defenses struggle to hold the line.

The key phrase of the conflict continues to be a bloody battle of attrition, with both sides taking heavy losses in a conflict that seems unlikely to end anytime soon.

Russian Gains in Donbas Met With Fierce Ukrainian Resistance

After capturing the strategic city of Avdiivka last week, Russian forces have pressed their advance westward toward the cities of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk. However, fierce Ukrainian resistance has slowed the Russian onslaught to a crawl.

There were no defenses built there, and the fighters had to withdraw from the battles in Avdiivka and gain a foothold in the very process of hostilities,” a Ukrainian military reporter known as DeepStateUA wrote on Telegram.

Despite withdrawing from several villages west of Avdiivka in recent days, including Lastochkyne, Stepove and Sieverne, Ukrainian forces claim to have stabilized the front along the line of Tonenke-Orlivka-Berdychi.

“The line of defense has stabilized along the Tonenke-Orlivka-Berdychi axis,” said Oleksandr Tarnavskyi, commander of the Tavria Group of Ukrainian forces fighting in the area.

However, even that assumption seems tenuous, as geolocated footage on February 28th showed Russian troops approaching the outskirts of Orlivka from the southeast.

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According to Dmytro Lykhoviy, spokesman for the Tavria Group, the size of attacking Russian units has increased from squads to full platoons and companies, presenting a significant challenge to Ukrainian defenders spread thin along the sprawling front.

Russia Secures Local Air Superiority in the East

One reason for Russia’s recent gains appears to be superior air power in the vicinity of Avdiivka and other parts of eastern Ukraine. Capitalizing on local control of the skies, Russia has used bombers and attack aircraft to drop large glide bombs on Ukrainian positions.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia has dropped over 3,200 such precision-guided munitions since the start of 2023. Lacking adequate air defenses in the region, Ukrainian forces have struggled to stop the aerial onslaught.

However, Ukraine has started targeting Russian bombers and command and control aircraft with increasing success in recent weeks. On February 27th, Ukraine shot down two Russian Su-34 fighter-bombers, which are used to drop glide bombs.

More significantly, on February 23rd, Ukraine downed a Russian A-50 airborne early warning and control plane over the Sea of Azov. The radar aircraft are critical for monitoring Ukrainian air defenses and feeding targeting data to Russian strike aircraft.

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According to Ukrainian intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov, the operation left Russia with just six A-50s in the theater. He vowed Ukraine would continue efforts to down more.

Bringing Down Russian Radar Planes Among Ukraine’s Top Priorities

Speaking to allies in Paris last week, Zelenskyy said a strategic goal for 2023 is to deprive Russia of air superiority. Shooting down radar command planes like the A-50 is key to that effort.

The aircraft are irreplaceable assets that took Russia years to build and train crews to operate. Some reports suggest they will be vital to Russian efforts to counter Ukrainian F-16s, which Western allies have promised to provide.

This comes after Ukrainian fighters damaged an A-50 on the ground in Belarus last March. On January 15th, Ukraine downed another A-50 over the Sea of Azov along with an Ilyushin-22 command plane.

Russia Continues Targeting Ukrainian Infrastructure

While struggling to suppress Ukrainian air defenses, Russia has continued using missiles and Iranian-designed drones to hammer Ukraine’s energy infrastructure and other civilian targets.

From February 21-28, Ukraine intercepted 79 Shahed drones out of the 98 that Russia launched. However, Russia simultaneously fired salvos of cruise missiles that overwhelmed Ukrainian air defenses.

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Ukraine has also carried out deep strikes against Russian military and economic targets using drones. On February 24th, Ukraine reportedly damaged the Novolipetsk Metallurgical Plant in Lipetsk, which supplies steel for Russian artillery and other weapons.

Allies Ramp Up Military Aid as Grinding War Continues

With the war set to enter its second year, Ukraine’s Western backers have pledged increased military aid, including heavy weapons. Germany announced new aid including 14,000 rounds of artillery ammunition and drones.

At a meeting in Paris last week, French President Emmanuel Macron said allies aim to supply Ukraine with medium and long-range missiles for deep strikes. France and the UK have already provided shorter range missiles.

There was no consensus on sending Western ground troops to Ukraine, which Russia has threatened could trigger nuclear war. However, Macron said nothing should be ruled out to ensure Russia does not win this war of attrition.

For now, the grinding conflict remains a bloody stalemate. Ukraine’s defenders continue to make Russia pay dearly for every inch of ground, just as they have for the past two years. With both sides gearing up for the long haul, the human cost of Putin’s futile war continues to mount.

Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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