#UKRAINERUSSIAWAR. Donbass, clashes across the front line

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The Azov surrendered to Russia on their way out of the Azovstal plant – the Russian Defence Ministry showed a video counting 265 soldiers – and were transported to the Donbass to receive initial medical care and assistance, and also food. Military correspondents, however, on the afternoon of 17 May spoke of 2,500 people and defined the situation in the steelworks as follows: ‘Some 404 militants who had settled in the basement of the plant are injured, another 55 are seriously injured, i.e. unable to move independently. About 200 people are dead. At least 3 people in the plant are Russian prisoners (an officer and 2 soldiers). Of the settled militants, 804 are from the Azov battalion, the rest are from the 53rd, 54th, 56th brigades, the 36th marine brigade, the 1st battalion of the 501st, 503rd brigade, 12 National Guard Brigade’.

And while the international press has turned the spotlight on the events in Mariupol, the decision of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation is awaited: on 26 May, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation will examine the case on the recognition of the Azov battalion as a terrorist organisation and the prohibition of its activities in Russia, reports the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation. This would mean that the Azovs could be tried by Russian courts as terrorists and not as prisoners of war.

Russia has let it be known that it will not participate in any Council of Europe working formats, including PACE, according to Kostantin Kosachev, a diplomat and DUMA vice-president. Not only has the Ministry of Foreign Affairs made it known that negotiations with Ukraine are not ongoing, Kiev has effectively withdrawn from this process.

Ukraine meanwhile makes it known that it is suffering economically and not only militarily from the war. Antonkha Gerashchenko – Advisor to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine lamented the price increases in Lviv: ‘In western Ukraine, rental prices have tripled, quadrupled! In some hotels in Lviv, the price has jumped at least twice! And where is the compassion? Where is the desire to help those Ukrainians who have lost their homes or fled the bombing. This is called looting!”

And again the head of the Ukrainian National Bank, Kirill Shevchenko, said that Ukraine’s losses due to the hostilities amounted to 50% of GDP and the National Bank might abandon its policy of a fixed hryvnia exchange rate at the level of UAH 29.25/USD.

On 16 May, Ukrainian media reported that in three months of war, pensions and civil servants’ salaries would have to be cut. Ukraine is therefore on the brink of bankruptcy. Add to this the fact that if Putin does not accept the exchange of prisoners of war, Ukraine will have to enlist and send to the front men and women who are not trained for the task. And so it will be difficult for them even with a huge amount of new and continuously supplied weapons to hold up a front.

This means that Ukraine is destined, as things stand, to capitulate: it is only a matter of months. On 17 May, some 16,000 Ukrainian militants entered the ‘cauldron’ near Severodonetsk and Lisichansk, the assistant to the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the LPR, Kiselev, reported. He explained that, according to available information, the main task of the Ukrainians in the area is the destruction of infrastructure.

Repeatedly, the cauldron is the technique whereby those who end up inside are unable to receive supplies and can only fight until the last bullet is fired, then surrender is expected either due to starvation or running out of ammunition.

Russia’s Ministry of Defence said in the morning briefing that: “The fired missiles destroyed the Ukrainian reserves that were completing combat coordination in training centres near Akhtyrka in Sumy region and Desna in Chernihiv region.”

And again “air-launched missiles hit 2 command posts and a communication centre, including the 30th mechanised brigade near Bakhmut, 28 Ukrainian army manpower and equipment concentration areas, 2 missile and artillery depots near Ugledar and Konstantinovka in the DPR”.

“Destroyed an electrical traction substation near the Merefa station in the Kharkiv region, which ensured the delivery of weapons and equipment from the US and Western countries to the Donbass. In the Chernobaevka area in the Kherson region, 8 rockets of the MLRS ‘Smerch’ were intercepted’. Also reported by the Ministry from 10.00 to 11.00 am Ukrainian military forces of ‘Smercha’ struck residential areas of Kherson, the Russian air defence intercepted all 10 rockets.

In Izyum, the Ukrainian armed forces maintained their positions through the use of cannons and artillery. It is mainly the Ukrainian air force that is affected. The Ukrainian counter-offensive in Kharkiv also continues, which, however, is not bringing the desired results.

As far as the Donbass line is concerned, the social sphere reports that clashes were taking place along the entire line on 17 May: ‘Direction Kharkiv: Ukrainians entrenched in Ternov. Information about crossing the Seversky Donets in the Stary Saltov area is not confirmed. South – no change’.

PAVLOGRAD ARCH: On the northern flank of the arch (from Izyum to Popasnaya) – in the Izyum area, fighting continues in the Dolgenkiy area and on the approaches to the Barvenkovo-Slavyansk highway. In the Oskol area, the Ukrainian Armed Forces grouping is divided into two parts: with a centre in Svyatogorsk and with a centre in Krasny Liman. There is no information on the fighting in the Severodonetsk agglomeration area, fighting continues in Toshkovka and on the approaches to Gorsky, artillery is actively working together with Zolote.

Central Front (Popasnaya to Marinka) – north of Popasna the LPR forces entered Kamyshevakha. In the direction of Artemovsk, fighting is taking place on the road to Pilipchatino. To the south, in the direction of Svetlodar, the village of Novozvanovka was liberated. Novoselovka II was taken in the Avdiivka area, advancing towards Novgorodskoye. There is information about the entry of DPR forces into Novomikhailovka, which is located south of Maryinka.

Southern flank of the arc (from the Dnepr River to Maryinka) – the front line is unchanged.

Kherson-Nikolaev direction – the front line is unchanged: the Black Sea – Aleksandrovka – Maksimovka – Snigirevka – Vysokopolie – the Dnepr River.

Graziella Giangiulio