The Ukrainian armed forces are preparing for a major Russian offensive in the east of the country.
Ukrainian officials have been warning for days that Russian troops are massing and rearming to launch a full-scale attack on the Donbass region, saying the attack could come any day now.
When Russia withdrew its troops from the Kyiv area last week, it announced that it would shift its focus to the Donbass in the east. Half of the Donbass has been under Russian control since the 2014 invasion, and now Russia is preparing to take the rest of it.
Analysts say Vladimir Putin is trying to capture that territory so he can have some sort of victory by May 9, the day Russia celebrates its victory over Nazi Germany in World War II.
Ukrainian lawmaker Inna Sovsun says her country’s troops in Donbass are on par with Russia’s ground forces in numbers and better prepared than expected as they continue to receive more weapons from the West. “We are receiving some weapons as we speak, the question is whether they will be delivered to Donbass on time.”
Ukrainian President Zelensky says more and faster is needed. The US and EU have jointly pledged $1.3 billion in additional military aid, and Canada has pledged another $500 million.
Even with more weapons, Sovsun says Russia has two advantages, air superiority and the presence of Ukrainian civilians. Sovsun says Russia is using the civilians there as hostages.
According to Sovsun, evacuation efforts are being hampered by Russian bombing. She expects many civilian casualties and says there is already evidence that Russia is committing atrocities there. “We know of over 2,000 children kidnapped from Donbass and taken to Russia. We have reports of rape in these areas. They shoot indiscriminately into residential areas and destroy people’s homes.”
Sovsun attended an emergency session of parliament on Thursday, where members passed a resolution recognizing Russian atrocities in Ukraine, such as the mass killing of civilians in Bucha, as genocide and urging the world to also label it a genocide.
Vahif Markov is a web developer from Mykolaiv, a town just thirty kilometers from the fighting in the east, where he says resources are scarce and people continue to move out of fear of being killed by Russian shelling .
Markov fears that the big offensive in Donbass could exacerbate fighting in his vicinity. “The Russians are trying to push more tanks into Kherson, so no one knows their plans, and maybe they’ll try to get into Mykolaiv too, so it’s not safe at the moment.”