This enables them to make incremental measured gains, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has said. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s forces are instead focusing on smaller areas in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.
The ISW said in its latest campaign analysis: “Russian forces are likely attempting to achieve several simultaneous encirclements of small pockets of Ukrainian forces in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts: the broader Severodonetsk area (including Rubizhne and Lysychansk), Bakhmut-Lysychansk, around Zolote (just northeast of Popasna), and around Ukrainian fortifications in Avdiivka.”
Although they begin advancing efforts in these different encirclements daily, Russian forces “haven’t achieved any major ‘breakthroughs’ or made major progress towards their stated objectives of securing the Donetsk Oblast borders or seizing all of Donbas,” the institute added.
Russian forces may have secured more terrain in the past week than earlier in May, but they have done so by reducing the scope of their objectives, the ISW said.
Meanwhile, Russian forces met fierce resistance from residents when they arrived in the southern Ukrainian city of Melitopol in February.
Locals tried to block armoured vehicles as the convoy of soldiers rolled in to occupy the city, and people flooded the streets waving Ukrainian flags.
When the Russians started cracking down on the protesters, the resistance movement was forced to evolve and new groups emerged.
Melitopol, according to the US-based Institute for the Study of War, is an area where partisan warfare has been active since at least the middle of March.
Ukraine’s Military Intelligence Directorate has reported that from March 20 to April 12 “partisans eliminated 70 Russian soldiers during their night patrol”.
READ MORE: Ukraine wipes out Russian military base with NATO-supplied howitzer
People regularly took to the streets with Ukrainian flags, chanting: “Melitopol is Ukraine.”
A few weeks after the invasion, police from Rosgvardia – Russia’s national guard – arrived to crack down on the protests.
They started dispersing crowds and detaining activists.
But Russian troops appear to understand that defeating the resistance here requires more than just stopping the rallies.