Russians and Ukrainians fight hand-to-hand at Mariupol’s Azovstal steelworks


Since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine, military analysts have wondered why the Russian army does not use its full offensive potential. Yesterday, however, if he didn’t, he was very close.

The very day that the EU announced a total embargo on Russian oil was one of the darkest for Ukrainian defense. His army was vulnerable from the air, exhausted from containing the Donbass offensive and lost in the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, where last night hand-to-hand fighting was taking place and the fate of the soldiers and civilians trapped, among them some thirty children, seemed lost forever.

The defeat of Azovstal, the probable death or capture of the two thousand combatants who have defended it and, perhaps, even of the hundreds of civilians who are refugees there, will be the most bitter for Ukraine since the beginning of the invasion.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin, however, will have the trophy he was looking for to be able to celebrate “victory day” in style. On Monday he will preside over Moscow’s Red Square at the parade commemorating the triumph of the Soviet army over Nazi Germany. It will be, then, the moment to proclaim the release Mariupol and much of Ukraine.

The strategy of the Russian General Staff is to intensify the fight on all fronts so that on the 9th Putin can offer the Russian people the victory that has eluded him since he entered the war with Ukraine.

Precision missiles launched from planes and ships in the Caspian and Black Seas hit their targets. Three electrical substations of the railway in Lviv were destroyed. Several districts of the city were left without power or water.

Rail and energy infrastructures are now priority targets for Russian medium- and long-range artillery and rockets. Crippling Ukraine, preventing its allies’ weapons from reaching the battlefronts in the south and east, means attacking railway stations and tracks, bridges and refineries, as well as factories and fuel depots.

At least 21 people were killed and more than 27 injured by a rocket that landed near a coke factory on the outskirts of Donetsk. The victims were workers waiting for the bus to go home after the shift change. This attack marked the bloodiest day since April 3, when more than 50 people, mainly women and children, died at the Kramatorsk station while waiting to be evacuated.

Russian attacks on Ukraine’s transport and energy infrastructure increase

So far, Russia has not used many precision missiles, nor has it attacked the rail lines that bring weapons and dignitaries to Kyiv to support President Zelensky.

It is possible that the arsenal of this type of missile is scarce or that the Kremlin, until now, has not wanted to deploy the full devastating force of its army. He probably did not want to destroy a country that he would then have to rebuild, but it is also possible that the military potential that is supposed to be greater than the real one.

The offensive on Kyiv, in any case, was a failure and the advance in Donbass is slow. The front line barely moves because the Ukrainian army, although at the limit of its strength, is well entrenched, but also because the Russian has not wanted to expose his men and has limited himself to artillery salutes.

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Between now and Monday, however, a major offensive is expected from Izium, a city in Donbass that he recently captured and from which he plans to launch himself on Kramatorsk, the key place that will decide the battle. British intelligence says that 22 tactical battalions are deployed there. Kramatorsk is also only a few kilometers away, so the quartermaster problems it suffered in the northern campaign here should be solved.

So far, however, the Russian military has not shown any ability to plan campaigns. Ground units, for example, have not had the necessary combat support. Surely, because the synchronization of air and ground operations has not worked either.

Touring the Donbass front is to see how the Russian artillery does its job with hardly any other weapons entering the fray.

The troops may be poorly trained, poorly fed and poorly led, with low morale and rudimentary equipment, Western military analysts suspect. But even so, the Russian firepower is far superior and keeps the Ukrainians in their trenches.

This balance may be broken in the coming days if, as it seems, Russia mobilizes the Izium battalions and supports them with Iskander tactical missiles, as well as Armata main battle tanks. They are the most advanced he has, but he hasn’t used them yet. Its prominent presence in the arms market but its absence in the Ukraine war is another paradox of the Kremlin’s strategic planning.

At least 21 civilians die in Donetsk, the most tragic daily balance since the attack on Kramatorsk

What is very clear today, however, is that the Russian war machine is coming down with all its weight on the Ukrainian cities and defenses in the Donbass. In an even more cruel and immoral way, it also does so to the soldiers and civilians of the Azovstal steelworks, condemned to a death that Ukraine will describe as heroic and our consciences as absurd.

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