Land bridge from Donetsk to Crimea?

R.Ussland has released the official death toll for the second time since the Russian invasion of Ukraine began a month ago. Since then, 1,351 Russian soldiers have been killed and 3,825 wounded, the Russian agency Interfax reports, citing the defense ministry. For the last time it was said on March 2 that up to that point there had been 498 deaths. On Thursday, NATO reported on 7,000-15,000 fallen Russian soldiers, citing Russian and Ukrainian sources and intelligence information. In Russia, the war is referred to as a “special military operation”.

According to the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, Russian troops have in part managed to create a land bridge from the Donetsk region in the east to the Crimean peninsula. According to local police, four people were killed on Friday morning when a clinic was bombed in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. The building served as a center for humanitarian aid. Russia has repeatedly claimed that it only attacks Ukrainian military facilities. North of Kiev, the town of Slavutych is surrounded, according to local authorities. Shortly after the announcement, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said a first attack on the city had been repulsed. The information has not been independently verified.

Boryspil Mayor Volodymyr Borysenko on Friday urged civilians to flee the city, which is located near the Kiev International Airport. The fact that there were many civilians in the surrounding villages made it difficult for the army to expel the occupiers. In northern Ukraine, Russian troops are said to have surrounded Chernihiv, the governor said. The city is bombed with artillery and fighter planes.

Meanwhile, observers from the UN human rights team in Ukraine are receiving mounting evidence of mass graves in the isolated city of Mariupol. There are said to be 200 bodies in one grave, the leader of the observer group, Matilda Bogner, tells reporters. Evidence can be found in satellite images, for example. For weeks, city residents have not had the opportunity to properly bury the victims of the fighting.

Ukrainian counter-offensive

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian army has been able to push back the counter-offensive Russian forces in various parts of the country. The Pentagon said on Friday that Russia no longer has full control of the Black Sea city of Kherson. Cherson was the first and so far only major city that Putin’s troops were able to completely conquer. It is of great strategic importance, especially for the supply of Crimea. Furthermore, the territorial conquests of the Ukrainians could endanger the Russian troops, which advanced in the direction of Mikolayiv.

Western observers consider the fact that Russia took up defensive positions around Kiev and was partially pushed back as a further sign of the military successes of the Ukrainian army.

Russia wants to focus on the Donbass

Despite this, the Russian general staff has drawn a positive conclusion on the deployment so far. “Overall, the basic tasks of the first phase of the operation have been completed,” Russian Deputy Chief of Staff Sergei Rudskoy said on Friday, according to the Interfax news agency. “The combat potential of the Ukrainian armed forces has been significantly reduced.” This allows “to concentrate the main efforts on achieving the main objective: the liberation of the Donbass”.

The statement also indicates a change of strategy on the part of the Russian leadership. Since the original goal of a swift takeover of Kiev, the establishment of a Moscow dependent government and the “demilitarization” of Ukraine has not been achieved, the Kremlin now wants to focus on the Donbass in order to present military successes there. The alleged “genocide” against the Russian-speaking population living there was cited by Russian President Vladimir Putin as the main reason for the attack on Ukraine.

In the Kremlin’s propaganda, the “reduction” of the Ukrainian armed forces could also be presented in such a way that the goal of “demilitarization” of Ukraine was more or less achieved.

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