Russia’s Spring Offensive in Ukraine

For a full year, the war in Ukraine has been raging and extreme in the breakaway republics of Donetsk and Luhansk. The two republics have been fighting Ukraine since 2014, following the Euromaidan protests. These “republics” have been the main focus of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The main goal of the invasion is to liberate these two breakaway states from Ukraine; about half of the area in Donetsk has been taken by Russian and separatist forces. The key city of Bakhmut has been the subject of relentless fighting, having been destroyed and seeing its pre-war population of nearly 71,000 reduced to only 2,000-5,000 inhabitants. While the harsh Ukrainian winter and Rasputitsa (the time between winter and spring) have limited the ability of both sides to launch an offensive, as the weather warms and the ground dries, Russia is mainly using their Wagner PMC mercenaries to capture surrounding villages, seemingly to encircle and starve the city in order to avoid urban warfare that caused heavy Russian losses in cities like Mariupol, Bucha, and Kharkiv. While these advances have been minor, Wagner PMC mercenaries have captured highway M-03 and the Soledar salt mines. The capture of highway M-03 is major because prime assets like tanks, artillery, and MLRs are hard to evacuate without major roads, and if Russian forces are to capture highway H-32, they would have effectively encircled the city.
As winter set in, Russia was stretched thin with very few trained troops. But the winter allowed Russia to train and mobilize 300,000 soldiers. This meant that for the first time, Ukraine might be contested in manpower and fighting capability. As of now, Russia has continuously thrown its own men into a metaphorical meat grinder through endless waves of unsuccessful attacks, essentially wasting the equipment and training they had spent months on. On the other hand, the Wagner PMCs seem to be getting the most attention, making up the bulk of each Russian success. In the Donetsk region, Wagner PMCs have been leading the bulk of the offensive, and with each settlement taken, the people living there risk brutality as Wagner PMCs are notoriously brutal.
With Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu retaking command of offensive actions in the war, his earlier strategies will work with a rearmed Russian army. Washington has been a determinant though, stating that if Ukraine falls, the rest of Europe will. The U.S. has taken many steps to stop this by recently sending Ukraine M1A2 Abrams to be used on the Donetsk front along with Germany sending Leopard 2s. If this offensive ends up capturing Bakhmut and western aid, there may be new concerns raised about aid to Ukraine.

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