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Battle of Donbas (2022)

Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Battle of Donbas (2022)
Part of the
Map of the war in Donbass.svg
Military situation as of 16 May 2022: Pink highlights areas held by the DNR, LNR, and Russia, yellow highlights areas held by the Ukrainian government.
For a more up-to-date map, see the Russo-Ukrainian War map
Date18 April 2022 – present
(1 month and 1 week)
Location
Status

Ongoing

Belligerents
 Russia
 Donetsk PR
 Luhansk PR
 Ukraine
Commanders and leaders
Aleksandr Dvornikov
(Commander of Russian forces in Ukraine)[9][10]
Valery Gerasimov
(CGS, Commander of Russian forces on the Izium front)[11]
Donetsk People's Republic Denis Pushilin
(Head of the DPR)[12]
Donetsk People's Republic Alexander Khodakovsky
(Commander, Vostok Battalion)[13]
Sergey Agranovich 
(Commander, Sparta Battalion)[14]
Leonid Pasechnik
(Head of the LPR)
Mikhail Kishchik [15][16]
Valerii Zaluzhnyi
(Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief)[17]
Pavlo Kyrylenko
(Military Governor of Donetsk Oblast)
Serhiy Haidai
(Military Governor of Luhansk Oblast)
Units involved
See order of battle See order of battle
Strength
Total: ~87,700–109,900
 Russia: 50,000–62,000 soldiers[18][19]
 Donetsk PR: ~14,000
 Luhansk PR: ~13,400
10,000–20,000 mercenaries[20][21][19]
(per European officials)
300–500 Libyan and Syrian fighters (per ISW)[22]
40,000–50,000 soldiers[23]
Casualties and losses
 Luhansk PR: Unknown number of killed and wounded[15]
 Donetsk PR: 395+ killed, 1,800+ wounded[24][25][26][27]
Ukrainian claim:
4,643–5,658+ killed[28]
20–25 mercenaries killed[22]
Total: 4,683-5,683+ killed
Russian claim:
6,590+ killed[29]
Donetsk PR claim:
1,061+ killed[30]
Luhansk PR claim:
652+ killed[31]
Total: 8,308+ killed
814+ civilians killed, 1,530+ wounded

The battle of Donbas, or Donbas offensive,[32][33] is an ongoing military engagement which began on 18 April 2022 between the armed forces of Russia and Ukraine for control of the Donetsk, Luhansk, and Kharkiv oblasts during the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces.[34][35][36] It is considered the second strategic phase of the Russian invasion of Ukraine[37][38] and is located geographically in a similar operational theater to that of the Eastern Ukraine offensive.

The offensive is currently taking place along the RubizhneIziumHuliaipoleMariupol line[39] with the aim of encircling Ukrainian troops in the Donbas and annexing the entire Donetsk and Luhansk regions to the Russian-backed quasi-states of Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People's Republic (LPR).[40][41] The initial development and strategic importance of the battle of the Donbas have been compared to the Battle of Kursk (1943).[33][42][43]

As of 20 May, Russia had captured the cities of Kreminna, Popasna, Rubizhne, Mariupol, and numerous villages.

Background

On 29 March 2022, the Russian government declared a scaling back of military operations in the region around the capital city of Kyiv, effectively ending operations in Northern Ukraine and in Northeastern Ukraine.[44] On 25 March 2022, Russia declared the first phase of its "special military operation" in Ukraine complete and announced a shift in focus to the Donbas region. Russian military officials declared the neutralization of the Ukrainian Navy and Air Force and stated that the DPR and LPR controlled 54% and 93% of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts, respectively.[45] The Russian Armed Forces began a tactical withdrawal from the north, fully withdrawing by 6 April 2022.[46][47] As the Ukrainian forces regained previously occupied territory, Russian war crimes were discovered by the Ukrainians, including the Bucha massacre.

The Donbas region in particular had been the site of protracted fighting between Russian-backed separatists from the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics and the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Between 2014 and late 2021, the War in Donbas had taken the lives of more than 10,000 separatist, Russian, and Ukrainian combatants as well as 3,095 civilians.[48]

Previous operations

On 24 February 2022, Russia, along with the quasi-states DPR and LPR launched an invasion across numerous fronts, including in the Donbas. On February 24 and the present, Russian and allied forces began fighting the Battle of Kharkiv, as well as numerous other small clashes aimed at capturing key Ukrainian cities. The Siege of Mariupol began on 24 February, destroying 95% of the city and potentially killing over 21,000 civilians.[49][50] Between 24 February and 18 April, Russian forces had not conducted much activity along the "Line of Contact," the front line which had more or less remained static since 2014, only launching small-scale reconnaissance efforts as well as small-scale artillery campaigns against Ukrainian military installations.

On 11 March 2022, Russian tanks allegedly shelled a care home for the elderly in Kreminna, killing 56 civilians and wounding an unknown number of residents.[51] According to Ukrainian authorities, an additional 15 civilians were abducted by Russian soldiers and taken to separatist-occupied territory in Luhansk Oblast.

On 8 April 2022, Russian forces allegedly launched an attack on the Kramatorsk railway station. The attack killed 59 civilians, including 5 children, and wounded 114 more.[52][53] Ukrainian and Western officials decried the attack as "purposeful," a "monstrous war crime," and a "deliberate slaughter," while the Russian Defense Ministry denied the accusations and instead claimed the attack to be a false-flag operation by Ukrainian forces, arguing that the Tochka-U missile used was not a part of the Russian arsenal but rather the Ukrainian one.[54][55][56]

Prelude

In mid-April 2022, U.S. intelligence reported that Russia was "repositioning" its military units to the Donbas. Russian units from Northern Ukraine battlefronts in Kyiv, Sumy, Chernihiv, and elsewhere were noted by Maxar satellite imagery to be relocating to the Donbas region, while reinforcements from regions in Belarus and Russia supplemented these units.[57]

Opposing forces

Russia and allies

For the battle, the Russians used three armies along with a tank division and a rocket artillery brigade. By mid-April, Russia had concentrated upwards of 65 battalion tactical groups (BTGs) on the line of contact. Over the course of several days before 18 April, 11 Russian battalion tactical groups (BTGs) were added to the existing Russian strength in the Donbas, bringing the total number of BTGs in the Donbas to 76, amounting to a total of about 60,000 troops.[58][59] Additionally, 22 BTGs (constituting about 15–20,000 soldiers) were said to be being resupplied and reinforced to the north of Ukraine. In total, various estimates of Russian forces for the offensive numbered about 50,000–62,000.[citation needed]

The Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics contributed a total of about 27,000 soldiers for the offensive.[citation needed]

The Union of Donbas Volunteers, a pro-Russian group of volunteers formed in 2014, was said to have an active strength of about 14,500 fighters.[60]

Western media citing officials of the European Union have reported that 10,000–20,000 Libyan, Syrian, Ethiopian, and Wagner Group mercenaries were mobilized by Russian forces in the Donbas.[20][21][19]

Ukraine

For the battle, the Ukrainians had concentrated six regular brigades and the Georgian Legion. According to Forbes on 1 February, Ukraine's army consisted of 20 active brigades, meaning that 30% of the Ukrainian active forces, or around 51,000 soldiers, were organized in the Donbas.[61][62] Additionally, units of the Territorial Defense force were active in the Donbas, along with an unknown number of civilian reserves, foreign volunteers, and partisans.

President Zelenskyy said on April 15 that Ukrainian forces numbered 44,000 in the Donbas region.[63] On 19 April, the BBC reported that Ukrainian troops in the Donbas numbered 40,000–50,000 men.[64]

Commencement of operations

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov acknowledged the beginning of a new offensive in Donbas, claiming it to be a "very important moment in this entire special operation."[65] To address the new stage of the Russian offensive in Ukraine, French President Emmanuel Macron and US president Joe Biden held a meeting with representatives from France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, Italy, Poland, and Romania. They were joined by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen and European Council President Charles Michel.[66]

On 22 April, the commander of Russia's Central Military District Rustam Minnekayev declared that the aim of the "second phase" of the country's invasion of Ukraine was to fully seize Donbas and Southern Ukraine and to establish a land corridor with Transnistria, a Russian-occupied breakaway unrecognized republic internationally recognized as part of Moldova. He added that there was "evidence that the Russian-speaking population is being oppressed" in Transnistria without providing further detail into his accusations.[67][68]

The Ministry of Defence of Ukraine replied to this announcement by describing Russia's intentions as imperialism, by saying that it contradicted previous Russian claims that assured that Russia did not have territorial ambitions over Ukraine and that Russia had admitted that "the goal of the 'second phase' of the war is not victory over the mythical Nazis, but simply the occupation of eastern and southern Ukraine".[67] The Institute for the Study of War asserted that military operations consisted of small skirmish operations intended to test Ukrainian defenses, while bombardment campaigns continue to chisel away at Ukrainian defenses along the line of contact.[69]

Battle

Early operations (18–30 April)

On the night of 18 April 2022, Russian forces launched an intensive bombardment campaign against positions in Luhansk, Donetsk, and Kharkiv Oblasts.[70] Russian shelling overnight in Donetsk killed two civilians and wounded nine, according to online news sources.[71] Ukrainian President Zelenskyy announced that the "Battle for Donbas" had begun.[72] Russian artillery pounded cities in the Donbas, aiming at destroying critical infrastructure.[73]

The head of the Luhansk regional military administration, Serhiy Haidai, called on the region's residents to evacuate immediately so as to not become hostages or to be killed by the Russians.[74]

By 25 April, Russian forces achieved a three-to-one numerical supremacy over the Ukrainian forces (the traditional number considered to be the requirement for an attacking force), concentrating upwards of 76 Battalion Tactical Groups (BTG) with 800 people per BTG in the Donbas.[75][76][77][78]

In the first week, Russian forces secured full control over Kreminna,[79][80] advanced in Rubizhne,[22] occupied large areas of Popasna,[81][22] and continued to shell positions along the front line. According to a Ukrainian official, Russian forces captured 42 villages in the Donetsk Oblast, though she did not specify which villages had been captured.[7]

In the Slobozhansky and Donetsk operational districts, Russian troops intensified offensive operations in some areas, attempting to break through the Ukrainian defenses along almost the entire front line in Donetsk, Kharkiv and Luhansk regions with the aim of occupying the entirety of Donetsk and Luhansk.[82] Meanwhile, the Ukrainian government stated that Ukrainian forces launched a counterattack and recaptured the town of Marinka.[83] Libyan and Syrian mercenaries likely associated with the Wagner Group allegedly clashed with Ukrainian forces in Popasna. The Ukrainian government claimed that 20–25 mercenaries had been killed.[22]

Russian forces continued a slow, steady advance, capturing the towns of Popivka, Pischane, Novotoshkivske, Zarichne and Zhytlivka, and prepared to capture and advance past Popasna, advance southeast from Izyum and westwards from Kreminna.[84][8]

110 DPR servicemen had been killed and 451 wounded between 22 April and 29 April.[24]

Intensified clashes (1 May – present)

By 7 May, the city of Popasna was captured by Russian and Luhansk People Republic forces, with this being confirmed by the regional governor.[85][86] The city of Popasna was largely destroyed by this time. By 12 May, it was reported that Russian forces seized Rubizhne.[87]

A major battle on the Donets river took place, with Ukraine repelling multiple Russian attempts to cross the river.[88] The Ukrainian armed forces claimed to have destroyed an entire battalion of Russian forces, killing up to 1,000-1,500 soldiers.[89] The Institute for the Study of War reported 485 killed and wounded from a force of 550 Russian soldiers as well as 80 vehicles lost.[90]

Ukraine claimed to have launched a counterattack against Russian forces near Izium on 15 May.[91][92] On 15 May, it was reported that Russian forces had captured the village of Dovhen'ke, south of Izium.[93]

On 20 May, Russian forces made further advances in the west and south of Popasna, with the aim of cutting off the road to Sievierodonetsk.[94][95] Many analysts described the Russian advances in the Popasna area as a breakthrough.[96] By 22 May, Russian forces managed to secure their route of advance and attempted to simultaneously push west towards Bakhmut and north to cut off road links to Sievierodonetsk.[97] However, by May 24, pro-Ukrainian sources claimed that the level of progress in the Popasna direction had significantly slowed, with Russian forces suffering high levels of attrition.[98]

On 23 May, Russian forces were reported entering the town of Lyman, Ukrainian forces were reported leaving Svyatohirs'k.[99]

On 24 May, Russian forces captured the city of Svitlodarsk.[100]

Casualties

Military casualties

Military losses were more unclear, although Ukrainian authorities claimed to have killed up to 5,000 Russian soldiers through 18 May, whereas in sporadic casualty updates the Russian Ministry of Defense claimed to have killed over 6,000 Ukrainian soldiers by 18 May. The Donetsk People's Republic claimed to have killed over 1,000 Ukrainian soldiers by 22 May, whereas the Luhansk People's Republic claimed to have killed 652 Ukrainian troops by 23 May. The Donetsk People's Republic admitted over 2,000 casualties to its own fighters on 20 May.

According to Ukraine, between 50 and 100 Ukrainian soldiers were being killed daily on the Donbas front as of late May.[101]

During the fighting, a LPR battalion commander was killed when he and his fighters were surrounded by Ukrainian forces close to Kreminna and "fought to the last", according to the LPR. The clashes left an unknown number of killed and wounded.[15]

Breakdown Casualties Time period Source
Ukrainian forces
(ZSU, NGU)
6,590 killed 21 April – 22 May 2022 Russian Ministry of Defense
1,061 killed 18 April – 23 May 2022 Donetsk PR
667 killed 18 April – 23 May 2022 Luhansk PR
Russian forces
(RAF, Rosgvardiya, FSB)
4,483-5,503+ soldiers killed 18 April – 23 May 2022 Ukrainian Eastern Operational Command
Donetsk PR forces 395+ killed, 1,800+ wounded 23 April – 20 May 2022 Donetsk PR

Civilian casualties

As of 22 May, military activity related to the battle had killed and wounded more than 2,300 civilians.

Civilian Deaths by Area
Area Casualties Time period Source
Bilohorivka 60 killed, 7 wounded 8 May 2022 Ukrainian government[102]
Donetsk Oblast
(excluding Mariupol)
165 killed, 350 wounded 18 April – 22 May 2022 Ukrainian government[103]
Kreminna 200 killed 18–19 April 2022 Ukrainian government[104]
Sievierodonetsk 30 killed, 52+ wounded 16–22 April 2022 Ukrainian government[105]
Izium 44 killed 10 May 2022 Ukrainian government[106]
Kharkiv Oblast 51 killed, 154 wounded 18 April – 22 May 2022 Ukrainian government[107]
Luhansk Oblast 63 killed, 45 wounded 18 April – 22 May 2022 Ukrainian government[108]
Azovstal 600 wounded 29 April 2022 Ukrainian government[109]
Donetsk PR 199 killed, 321 wounded 23 April – 20 May 2022 Donetsk PR[110]
Luhansk PR 2+ killed 28 April 2022 Luhansk PR[111]
TOTAL 814+ killed, 1,530+ wounded 18 April – 22 May 2022

During the battle, Russia intensified its attacks on civilian areas. 60 civilians were believed to be killed and at least seven wounded due to a Russian airstrike on a school sheltering about 90 civilians in Luhansk Oblast,[112] whereas the bodies of 44 civilians were recovered from rubble underneath an apartment building in Izium. It was reported that 60 total civilians were killed.[113] During the Battle of Kreminna, near Rubizhne and Lysychansk,[114] Ukrainian forces lost control amid heavy fighting.[115] More than 200 civilians were killed during the battle, with four additional civilians being killed and one more wounded as they attempted to escape the fighting.[116]

The true number of civilian deaths is impossible to tabulate due to the fog of war and military occupation of Ukrainian territory.

See also

References

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  2. ^ Росіяни контролюють Ізюм – Генштаб ЗСУ
  3. ^ Reuters (8 May 2022). "Ukraine troops retreat from Popasna, Luhansk governor confirms". Reuters. Retrieved 8 May 2022.
  4. ^ "Ukrainian forces lose foothold in eastern town". CNN. 13 May 2022.
  5. ^ The Ukrainian authorities declare an end to the combat mission in Mariupol after weeks of Russian siege.
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  26. ^ "Обзор социально-гуманитарной ситуации, сложившейся на территории Донецкой Народной Республики вследствие военных действий в период с 07 по 13 мая 2022 г. — Уполномоченный по правам человека в ДНР". ombudsman-dnr.ru. Retrieved 13 May 2022.
  27. ^ "Обзор социально-гуманитарной ситуации, сложившейся на территории Донецкой Народной Республики вследствие военных действий в период с 14 по 20 мая 2022 г. — Уполномоченный по правам человека в ДНР".
  28. ^ 485-1,500+ killed during Battle of Siverskyi Donets [1] [2] 20 killed (18 April),[3] 30 killed (19 April),[4] 36 killed (20 April),[5] 200 killed (21 April),[6] 130 killed (22 April),[7] 150 killed (23 April),[8] 100 killed (24 April),[9] 160 killed (25 April),[10] 100 killed (26 April),[11] 75 killed (27 April),[12] 42 killed (28 April), [13] 173 killed (29 April), [14] 81 killed (30 April), [15] 57 killed (1 May), [16] 275 killed (2 May), [17] [18] 40 killed (3 May), [19] 36 killed (4 May), [20] 32 killed (5 May), [21] 15 killed (6 May), [22] 107 killed (7 May) [23] 190 killed (8 May) [24] 250 killed (9 May) [25] 260 killed (10 May) [26] 250 killed (11 May) [27] 180 killed (12 May) [28] 130 killed (13 May) [29] 80 killed (14 May) [30] 84 killed (15 May) [31] 178 killed (16 May) [32] 110 killed (17 May) [33] 220 killed (18 May) [34] 40 killed (19 May) [35] 80 killed (20 May) [36] 28 killed (21 May) [37] 9 killed (22 May) [38] 30 killed (23 May) [39] 180 killed (24 May) [40] total of 4,643-5,658+ killed claimed by Ukraine
  29. ^ 120 killed (21 April) [41] 200 killed (23 April),[42] 560 killed (26 April),[43] 330 killed (27 April),[44] [45] 620 killed (28 April),[46] [47] 280 killed (29 April),[48] 320 killed (30 April),[49] [50] 440 killed (1 May) [51] 540 killed (3 May) [52] [53] 600 killed (4 May) [54] 420 killed (8 May) [55] 620 killed (13 May) [56] [57] 100 killed (14 May) [58] 360 killed (16 May) [59] 470 killed (17 May) [60] 270 killed (18 May) [61] 210 killed (22 May) [62] 230 killed (23 May) [63] total of 6,590+ killed claimed by Russia
  30. ^ 56 killed (18 April) [64] 27 killed (19 April) [65] 35 killed (20 April) [66] 46 killed (21 April) [67] 27 killed (22 April) [68] 34 killed (23 April) [69] 26 killed (24 April) [70] 32 killed (25 April) [71] 39 killed (26 April) [72] 27 killed (27 April) [73] 31 killed (28 April) [74] 26 killed (29 April) [75] 34 killed (30 April) [76] 21 killed (1 May) [77] 32 killed (2 May) [78] 28 killed (3 May) [79] 39 killed (4 May) [80] 32 killed (5 May) [81] 59 killed (6 May) [82] 27 killed (7 May) [83] 23 killed (8 May) [84] 30 killed (9 May) [85] 28 killed (10 May) [86] 18 killed (11 May) [87] 23 killed (12 May) [88] 26 killed (13 May) [89] 30 killed (14 May) [90] 24 killed (15 May) [91] 22 killed (16 May) [92] 29 killed (17 May) [93] 30 killed (18 May) [94] 30 killed (19 May) [95] 20 killed (20 May) [96] 15 killed (21 May) [97] 22 killed (22 May) [98] 33 killed (23 May) [99] total of 1,061 killed claimed by DPR
  31. ^ 12 killed (18 April) [100] 28 killed (19 April) [101] 165 killed (20 April) [102] 17 killed (21 April) [103] 12 killed (22 April) [104] 13 killed (23 April) [105] 16 killed (24 April) [106] 14 killed (25 April) [107] 9 killed (26 April) [108] 17 killed (27 April) [109] 14 killed (28 April) [110] 15 killed (29 April) [111] 23 killed (30 April) [112] 9 killed (1 May) [113] 26 killed (2 May) [114] 52 killed (3 May) [115] 6 killed (4 May) [116] 7 killed (5 May) [117] 12 killed (6 May) [118] 27 killed (7 May) [119] 6 killed (8 May) [120] 7 killed (9 May) [121] 9 killed (10 May) [122] 5 killed (11 May) [123] 7 killed (12 May) [124] 5 killed (13 May) [125] 8 killed (14 May) [126] 9 killed (15 May) [127] 5 killed (16 May) [128] 5 killed (17 May) [129] 10 killed (18 May) [130] 20 killed (19 May) [131] 17 killed (20 May) [132] 19 killed (21 May) [133] 14 killed (22 May) [134] 12 killed (23 May) [135] 15 killed (24 May) [136] total of 667 claimed killed by Luhansk PR
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