Crucial advance for the Russian army in the eastern region of Donbass. It seemed on Monday on the verge of taking Severodonetsk, whose fall has been announced as imminent for two weeks but where, for the first time on Monday, the Ukrainian army admitted having been “driven out of the city center after violent fighting”, in particular due intense Russian artillery fire .
kyiv admits that it no longer controls more than a third of this city of 110,000 inhabitants before the war and de facto administrative capital since 2014 of the Luhansk region, one of the two components of Donbass, the other being Donetsk, of which a small half is still under control. Ukrainian. The capture of Severodonetsk would open the road to the twin cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, capital of Donetsk.
The Sloviansk issue in the crosshairs
Separatists fighting with the Russians in this region claimed that the last Ukrainian divisions in Severodonetsk were now “blocked”, after the destruction of the last bridge leading to the neighboring city of Lysychansk. What kyiv denied.
Western military assessment services say they expect the Russian military to conquer all of Donbass by August. Even if according to the British Ministry of Defence, “river crossing operations will be one of the determining factors of the war”, in particular the Donets, the river which marks the front line in the Donbass. Previous attempts have ended in bloody fiascos for the Russian army.
If the Kremlin now displays as a priority, even unique objective, the conquest of the whole of Donbass, its real goals remain confused. After having successively declared that he wanted to obtain a retreat from NATO on its 1998 positions, then the neutrality of Ukraine, then the “denazification of the regime”, Vladimir Putin considered on Thursday that it was legitimate for Russia to “resume what had belonged to him”.
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Putin’s fluctuating goals
Mikhail Kassianov, Vladimir Putin’s first head of government (2000-2004), now in exile and opponent of the Kremlin, even warned that the head of the Kremlin had countries other than Ukraine in his sights. “If Ukraine falls, then the Baltic countries will be next,” he told AFP.
He also said he “categorically” disagreed with the idea that it was necessary to avoid “humiliating” Vladimir Putin. Yet this was what French President Emmanuel Macron had recently suggested, whose position, to the chagrin of all his NATO partners except Germany. On Friday, the Elysée took to heart to affirm that it wished the military victory of Ukraine and evoked for the first time financial reparations. Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said Monday morning that he would travel to kyiv on Thursday with French President and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. All three are so far considered more conciliatory than the other heads of state or government of the European Union, and are among the few not to have visited kyiv since the start of the war. The Elysée has neither confirmed nor denied this visit.