Why ‘Battle for Donbas’ holds key to Russia-Ukraine conflict
Russian forces have initiated attacks on the Donbas region
Donbas is the Russia-speaking industrial heartland in east Ukraine
The conflict in Donbas has been raging for nearly 8 years
The Battle for Donbas has begun, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said announcing what was expected of the Russian approach – the offensive moving to eastern Ukraine. Explosions were heard from along the frontlines and a local government official told Al Jazeera that there was “constant fighting”. Moscow’s renewed eagle-eyed focus on eastern Ukraine comes after Russian forces had to retreat from the north in the face of Ukrainian resistance.
Where it all began
The Donbas is where it all began. Russian President Vladimir Putin granted legitimacy to the separatist aspirations of Donetsk and Luhansk by recognising them as independent republics right before the launch of the “special military operation” in Ukraine on February 24. In Donbas, Moscow-backed forces have been fighting Ukraine for the last eight years.
The significance of Donbas
Located in Ukraine’s industrial heartland, the Donbas is one of the regions with a high Russian-speaking population. Coal mining and metallurgy are the major industries in this region and the Donbas has some of the most hazardous mines in the world because of their depth and frequent methane explosions.
Ukraine, on the other hand, refuses to let Donbas go. “No matter how many Russian troops are driven there, we will fight. We will defend ourselves. We will do it every day.” Andriy Yermak, the president’s chief of defence staff, has called the Russian aggression in Donbas “the second phase of the war”. “Believe in our army, it is very strong,” he said.
How things stand
The Russian attack in Donbas has been brutal as usual. Increased assaults were reported from Luhansk and Donetsk regions – both of which are part of Donbas – as well as the area of Zaporizhzhia. “This morning, almost along the whole frontline of the Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv regions, the occupiers attempted to breakthrough our defences,” said Ukraine’s national security council secretary, Oleksiy Danilov.