Three Reasons Why Russia Is Transferring Its War Machine To East Ukraine

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  • Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks as he is surrounded by Ukrainian servicemen as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, in Bucha, outside Kyiv, Ukraine, April 4, 2022.
  • Tanks of pro-Russian troops drive along a road during the Ukraine-Russia conflict in Ukraine on April 17, 2022.
  • Ian Bremmer noted that Russia was now in “phase two” of its invasion, with different strategic objectives.

The “fight for Donbas” appears to be started in Ukraine, as Russia focuses its war machine on the country’s eastern territory, which the Kremlin sees as a significant strategic, political, and economic objective as reported by CNBC.

Launching attacks

After mostly withdrawing from northern Ukraine, Russia’s long-awaited offensive in the east looked to kick off in earnest on Monday, with its military forces launching attacks across the Donbas.

“It can now be declared that Russian troops have started the struggle for Donbas, which they have been preparing for a long time,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Monday, adding that “a very big part of the total Russian army is now focused on this attack.”

CNBC examines the three primary reasons why Russia is now concentrating its efforts in eastern Ukraine:

1. Russia needs a ‘victory’

A longtime focus for Russia, the Donbas region includes two Russian-backed separatists “republics” in Luhansk and Donetsk.

They have been fighting Ukrainian forces for years.

Now, Russia’s apparent refocus on the area comes after a few military successes in the rest of Ukraine despite almost two months of fighting.

As such, analysts believe this has prompted Russia to refocus its efforts on the complete takeovers of key strategic cities in southern Ukraine and on the Black Sea, for example, the port cities of Mykolaiv, Mariupol and Kherson.

The Kyiv Independent newspaper reported in March that Russian troops were being told that the war must end by May 9, citing intelligence from the general staff of the armed forces of Ukraine.

The Russian Defense Ministry was unavailable to immediately comment on this when contacted by CNBC.

2. Russia wants a land bridge

A “win” in eastern Ukraine is not only key for Russia in terms of its military strategy; it has significant economic value, too.

Firstly, the Donbas itself is a heavily industrialized region known for its coal mining industry and large coal reserves that Russia could potentially access if it annexed the entire region.

And secondly, control of the region would also enable Russia to create a “land bridge” to Crimea, which it annexed from Ukraine in 2014, and which is a vital military and trading hub for Moscow on the Black Sea.

Eurasia Group founder and President Ian Bremmer noted that Russia was now in “phase two” of its invasion, with different strategic objectives.

This includes “capturing all of the Donbas” including the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces, he said in emailed comments Monday, and securing a land bridge from the region to Crimea.

3. Russian identity politics

The Donbas region is also important to Russia when it comes to its own national identity and its influence over former Soviet territories — and the people within them that still identify as being Russian.

Figures vary, but it’s believed that around 14,000 people were killed during the prolonged but lower-level conflict in the area.

Political analysts saw this as a cynical precursor to an incursion because Russia could defend such a move by saying it was seeking to “protect” its citizens from Ukraine.

Russian state media has focused on Donbas residents fleeing in recent weeks, repeatedly accusing Ukraine’s military of war crimes in the region, allegations denied by Ukraine.

For its part, Russia has repeatedly denied backing rebels in the Luhansk and Donetsk areas, despite evidence of financial support for the breakaway “republics” and Russian weapons being used by separatists to fight Ukrainian forces.

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Source: CNBC

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