Military analyst Cedric Leighton has set out the next phase in Russia’s strategy to storm Ukraine’s defences in the eastern Donbas region. He believes the Russian military is trying to take out the Ukrainian railway infrastructure around the city of Dnipro which is a key logistical hub in order to isolate the Ukrainian Armed Forces units battling on the frontline.
Mr Leighton told CNN: “What they’re trying to do is they’re trying to cut off the rail supply and we have to remember that in Ukraine, the rails are critically important.
“They’re more important in Ukraine than they are in the United States, and when you look, this is where Dnipro is, it’s right in the basically the centre part of the eastern part of the country.
“So this is a big road and railway junction and plus the river runs through this area as well, so if you get to Dnipro, and you get these areas right in here, you get the rail lines that come from Kharkiv, the ones that come down from Kyiv the ones that go east.
“Once you cut all this off, what you end up having is a situation where the Ukrainian forces could potentially be cut off from their supply lines and from reinforcements.
So that’s what the Russians are trying to do.
“They’re trying to cut off the Ukrainians and basically surround them in this area right here in the eastern part of the country.
“So if they do that, then it’s you know, hate to say it, but it’s basically game over for the Ukrainian forces in this particular area.
“If the Russians are allowed to proceed that way.”
Russian forces were conducting an all-out assault on Tuesday to encircle Ukrainian troops in twin cities straddling a river in eastern Ukraine, a battle which could determine the success or failure of Moscow’s main campaign in the east.
Exactly three months after President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian forces into Ukraine, authorities in its second-largest city Kharkiv re-opened the underground metro, where thousands of civilians had sheltered for months under relentless bombardment.
The move was evidence of Ukraine’s biggest military success in recent weeks: pushing Russian forces largely out of artillery range of Kharkiv, as they did from the capital Kyiv in March.
But the decisive battles of the war’s latest phase are still raging further south, where Moscow is attempting to seize the Donbas region of two eastern provinces, Donetsk and Luhansk, and trap Ukrainian forces in a pocket on the main eastern front.
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“Now we are observing the most active phase of the full-scale aggression which Russia launched against our country,” Ukrainian Defence Ministry spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk told a televised briefing.
“The situation on the [eastern] front is extremely difficult because the fate of this country is perhaps being decided [there] right now.”
The easternmost part of the Ukrainian-held Donbas pocket, the city of Sievierodonetsk on the east bank of the Siverskiy Donets river and its twin Lysychansk on the west bank, have become the pivotal battlefield there, with Russian forces advancing from three directions to encircle them.
“The enemy has focused its efforts on carrying out an offensive in order to encircle Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk,” said Serhiy Gaidai, governor of Luhansk province, where the two cities are among the last territory still held by Ukraine.