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Putin Strikes Back at Ukraine: The Donbas War Has Begun

Ukraine
TOS-1 firing. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

After weeks of gradual withdrawals from Kyiv and the west of Ukraine, Russian soldiers have officially launched an offensive in the Donbas region of Ukraine.

The contested region, which is home to Kremlin-backed separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk, was declared independent by Russian President Vladimir Putin in a presidential decree just before he launched the Ukraine invasion on February 24.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy revealed how Russian forces have finally launched a full attack on the Donbas region, as promised earlier this month when the Kremlin announced that Russia would move onto the second phase of its “special military operation.”

“This morning, along almost the entire front line of Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv regions, the occupiers attempted to break through our defenses,” Ukrainian Defense Secretary Oleksiy Danilov also said in a statement.

“Shaping Operations”

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby described the actions of Russian soldiers on Monday as “shaping operations,” meaning that the Russians are continuing to set the stage for what they believe could be a successful assault on the ground.

While Russia has reconfigured its approach in the Donbas region, the fighting isn’t new.

Kirby said that Russians are “shaping and setting the conditions for future offensive operations” and that active combat in Donbas is continuing as it has “for the last several weeks.”

Donbas has witnessed intense clashes between pro-Kremlin separatists and the Ukrainian military since the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014. It prompted years of fighting in the region and was used by the Russians as a justification for his invasion of Ukraine.

Zelenskyy “Will Not Give Up Anything Ukrainian”

During his Monday night address, President Zelenskyy vowed to continue fighting Russian soldiers in the Donbas region and insisted that Ukraine will not cave to Russia’s demands.

“No matter how many soldiers are drawn there, we will defend ourselves,” he said. “We will fight. We will not give up anything Ukrainian.”

Zelenskyy said that he was grateful to all troops fighting for Ukraine in the cities of Donbas, Mariupol, and in the Kharkiv region.

“Which protect the fate of all Ukraine, holding back the strength of the gourd,” he said of the troops. “Rubížne, Popasna, Zolote, Lysyčansk, Sêvierodonetsk, Kramatorsk and all-all, which throughout all these years and forever – with Ukraine.”

Zelenskyy’s words may be interpreted in several different ways. His comments may have been a reference to Ukrainian land, indicating his refusal to accept Russia’s terms and recognize the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk from Ukraine.

On a broader level, however, Zelenskyy may have also been referring to Russian negotiators’ insistence that Russian be recognized as an official language in Ukraine, and the abduction of Ukrainian children who have since been relocated to Russia.

Jack Buckby is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.

Written By

Jack Buckby is 19FortyFive's Breaking News Editor. He is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.