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Russian Forces Moving into Donetsk After Putin Celebrates ‘Major Victory’

Smoke rises after shelling during Ukraine-Russia conflict in Donetsk. Reuters/ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO
Smoke rises after shelling during Ukraine-Russia conflict in Donetsk. Reuters/ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO

Russian forces are moving into Ukraine's southeastern Donetsk province just days after the Kremlin celebrated a "major victory" in neighboring Luhansk, a Ukrainian official said Tuesday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's army is engaged in heavy fighting as it makes its way into Donetsk, the southern province in Ukraine's Donbas region, after seizing the towns of Lysychansk and Severodonetsk in long and costly battles, according to the governor of Luhansk. The battlefield report seemed to contradict Putin's televised message on Monday that Russian troops "should rest and build up their combat capabilities" after their victory in Luhansk.

"Heavy fighting is going on at the edge of Luhansk region. ... All the forces of the Russian army and reserves have been redirected there. ... They are sustaining heavy losses," Luhansk Gov. Serhiy Gaidai told Ukrainian television, according to Reuters.

"A large quantity of equipment is being sent towards Donetsk region. Of course, after Luhansk region, Donetsk is at the top of their list," Gaidai added.

On Monday, Putin and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu appeared in a televised meeting in which the Russian leader congratulated his generals and troops for their "success" in Luhansk. Putin signaled that his troops would take an operational pause after the capture of the province.

“Putin‘s public comment was likely meant to signal his concern for the welfare of his troops in the face of periodic complaints in Russia about the treatment of Russian soldiers,” according to the Washington-based think tank Institute for the Study of War.

Gaidai said on Telegram on Tuesday that Russia lost "thousands" during the storming of Lysychansk alone, and he added that captured Russian soldiers "admit, every day they receive an order to advance further, they do not always carry it out, because the losses in personnel are very significant."

In his television interview, Gaidai claimed Russia is losing so many men that troops "are not taking all their wounded with them. The hospitals are full to bursting, as are the morgues."

The governor seemed optimistic that Ukrainian resistance would soon force Russia to slow down its operation in the Donbas region.

"Our forces have been hitting their depots away from the front lines. A great deal of equipment and fuel needed for equipment is being destroyed. So we can assume that they will have to take a breather at some point," Gaidai said.

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