Ukraine's top commander says Russia aims to capture Chasiv Yar by May 9


  • World
  • Monday, 15 Apr 2024

FILE PHOTO: A Ukrainian CV-90 infantry fighting vehicle is driven, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, near the frontline town of Chasiv Yar in Donetsk region, Ukraine March 5, 2024. REUTERS/Oleksandr Ratushniak/File Photo

KYIV (Reuters) -Ukraine's top commander said on Sunday Russian forces aimed to capture the town of Chasiv Yar by May 9, setting the stage for an important battle for control of high ground in the east where Russia is focusing its assaults.

The fall of the town west of the shattered city of Bakhmut by the date Moscow marks the Soviet victory in World War Two would indicate growing Russian battlefield momentum as Kyiv faces a slowdown in Western military aid.

Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi, who warned this weekend that the situation in the east had deteriorated, said Russia was focusing its efforts west of occupied Bakhmut to try to capture Chasiv Yar before moving towards the city of Kramatorsk.

Chasiv Yar in the Donetsk region lies 5-10 kilometres (3-6 miles) from Bakhmut, the devastated city captured by Russian forces in May last year after months of bloody fighting.

Kyiv's brigades were holding back the assaults near Chasiv Yar for now and had been reinforced with ammunition, drones and electronic warfare devices, he said in a statement on the Telegram messenger.

"The threat remains relevant, taking into account the fact that the higher Russian military leadership has set its troops the task of capturing Chasiv Yar by May 9," he said, without elaborating.

Ukrainian Defence Minister Rustem Umerov, writing on Facebook, said he visited Ukrainian units on the eastern front on Sunday and described the situation as "tense", with Russia trying to make headway in areas west of Bakhmut.

"Despite the numerical superiority of the enemy, we effectively disrupt these plans thanks to the courage, training and professionalism of the defenders," he wrote.

Russia marks May 9 with a big military parade on Red Square overseen by President Vladimir Putin who won a new six-year term in the Kremlin at a tightly-controlled election in March.

ATTACKS ON THE ENERGY SYSTEM

The war has escalated in recent weeks with Russia staging three massive air strikes on Ukrainian power plants and substations, raising fears over the resilience of an energy system that was hobbled in the war's first winter.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told Ukrainians in his nightly address on Sunday: "The situation at the front during such a hot war is always difficult. But these days - and especially on the Donetsk front - it's getting harder."

The Ukrainian leader has warned the Kremlin may be preparing to launch a big offensive in late spring or summer.

It is unclear where that attack would come, but Russia has focused its attacking efforts in the Donetsk region.

Ukraine has this year tried to find a pressure point to strike back against the Kremlin, using domestically-produced long-range drones to bomb oil facilities deep inside Russia.

Ukraine now faces manpower challenges and artillery shell shortages.

Rob Lee, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a think-tank in Philadelphia, said on X that Chasiv Yar would likely prove an important battle.

"Chasiv Yar is located on defensible high ground. If Russia takes the (town), they could potentially increase the rate of advance deeper into Donetsk (region) as part of an expected summer offensive," he said.

"Russian forces will still have to cross the canal to take the (town), but they have now reached the canal southeast of the (town). Immediate increased deliveries of ammunition could prove critical."

(Reporting by Tom Balmforth; Editing by David Holmes and Diane Craft)

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