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Maps of Ukraine: Why Russia is Struggling in Eastern Ukraine

Maps of Ukraine: Why Russia is Struggling in Eastern Ukraine

The Ukrainian military released drone footage on May 4 showing what it said were attacks on Russian military assets in the east of the country. (Video: Ukrainian Army via Storyful)

More than a month after Russia shifted its focus from attacking the Ukrainian capital to trying to carve out parts of the country’s east, the invading forces have made little progress — and Ukraine is launching counterattacks. The war is “in a bit of a stalemate,” according to Lt. Gen. Scott Perrier, a senior US Department of Defense official.

As Russia consolidated its hold this week on the southern port city of Mariupol after a violent 12-week offensive, the invasion across much of the east continued in creep.

With no end in sight, these maps explain how terrain, geography, and logistics shape the battle of the major cities, where the outcome of the war can be determined.

Ukrainians excelled in defending urban and forest areas during the initial phase of the war, striving for control of Kyiv. But compared to the northwest, parts of the east of the country are relatively open – especially the plains extending from Crimea – making them harder to defend From advancing tanks.


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Russian progress

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Russian progress

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“It’s easy to maneuver,” said Gustav Gressel, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. It is difficult for Ukraine to resist “because it is flat, and it is all visible.”

Why did Russia abandon urban warfare in Kyiv and turn to great battles in the East

Russian forces have already held a swathe of territory along the coast in the south and are fighting for control of the hills above. But the front lines are in the southeast Almost at a standstill.

In southeastern Ukraine, predicament in ghost villages on the front line

However, the idea of ​​a flat Earth that is easy to traverse doesn’t tell the whole story.

The terrain is not uniform, and some of it is easy to defend: towns and small towns are scattered in the northern part of Donetsk, and small rivers and hills pass through the region, with forests stretching along the Donetsk River, which flows from Russia. As they did around Kyiv, Ukrainian forces destroyed bridges, thwarting the Russian advance, according to Mason Clark, the Russian team leader at the Institute for the Study of War.

Ukrainian military claims that this footage shows destroyed Russian military vehicles and a pontoon bridge near the Siverskyi Donets River in Luhansk. (Video: Reuters)

Russian forces suffered heavy losses last week when a Ukrainian attack destroyed a pontoon bridge they were using to try to cross the Donets River.

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Russia has a deep reservoir of tanks and armored vehicles, but spring rains until June can also create mud that slows it down, according to Dmytro Dyadin, an ecologist at OM Beketov National University of Urban Economics in Kharkiv.

What do you know about the role Javelin anti-tank missiles can play in Ukraine’s fight against Russia

In the Donbass and Kharkiv regions, up to two-thirds of the land is used for agriculture, according to Deo El Din. Clusters of trees around farms in northern Donetsk provide cover for Ukraine’s armed forces Anti-tank weapons Like Javelins and NLAWs in ambush to Russian convoys, Clark said. The Ukrainians have also mined some land to direct Russian forces into the roads, where they are easy to target, according to Michael Kaufman, director of the Russian Studies Program at CNA, a nonprofit research and analysis organization in Arlington, Virginia.

The Ukrainian army said it destroyed a Russian tank in the Kharkiv region with an anti-tank gun provided by the Swedish government. (Video: Ukrainian Ministry of Defense via Storyful)

“line of communication”

In 2014, separatists with the support of Moscow declared “people’s republics” in large parts of Donetsk and Luhansk, along the Russian border. Known as the coal country and industrial center of Ukraine, the Mainly Russian speaking regions She has been in the crosshairs of Russia for years.


The extent of Russia’s progress

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Russian progress

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A “line of communication” over 260 miles long divided Government-controlled and separatist-held areas, tearing families and communities apart. The fighting left more than 14,000 people dead between 2014 and early this year.

Ukrainian forces spent eight years building defenses along the line.

Russian forces have bombed heavily the entire length of the contact line in recent weeks, but have struggled to break the line of contact in Donetsk.

Russia has said that it intends to capture the entire Donbass region, the borders of which extend far beyond the original line of communication.

Russian forces made significant advances in Luhansk. According to Clark of the Institute for the Study of War, at least 90 percent of the area is in Russian hands.

The completion of the capture of the port city of Mariupol this week opened a strategic land bridge from Russia to Crimea, the Russian peninsula annexed by Ukraine in 2014. Russia’s success in Mariupol gave its forces access to a major highway and freed units to help attack the cities In the Zaporizhzhia region.

But Ukraine still clings to large chunks of Donetsk. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters in early May that its forces were “strongly resisting.”

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Institute for the Study of War evaluation As of May 15, it is likely that the success of Ukrainian defenses in Donetsk, combined with the weakening of Russian combat power, may have motivated Russia to shift its focus to capturing the rest of Luhansk, rather than attempting a greater encirclement of Ukrainian forces in Donbass.

A city with a population of about 45,000, Izyum is located on the Donets River, at the highest point of the Kharkiv region on the border with Donetsk. A city council member told The Post last month that it is “the gateway to Donbass.” Its hilltop location gives the forces controlling it a panoramic view of the nearby roads and villages.

Russian forces captured the town on 1 April after an attack Heavy fighting for three weeks. Since then, it has served as a springboard for Russian forces trying to advance south.


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from isyum

Russian forces

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from isyum

Russian forces

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“If the Russians are going to succeed,” Clark said, “Isium will be the most important point” in their Donbass campaign.

In April Russia withdrew some of its forces from northeastern Ukraine and concentrated them in the Izyum region. But here, the Russians seem to be trapped in the roads. Clark said they moved on three roads leading from Izyum towards the cities of Sloviansk and Parvenkov and an unspecified target further west.

Reportedly, Russian forces sustained heavy losses in early May along the Izyum axis and made a relative stop on the road to Sloviansk.

They made further progress towards Barvinkove, reaching the outskirts of the city. According to Kaufman, the capture of Barvinkove, about 30 miles southwest of Izyum, would help Russian forces cut off the Ukrainian railroad supply line to Slovansk in the far east.

But the lack of manpower is a major limitation for Russia. Ukrainian counterattacks north of Kharkiv exacerbated this problem, forcing Russia to redeploy forces from the Izyum region. On Saturday, Ukrainian officials said that Ukrainian forces are launching another counterattack near Izyum.

At this point, Clark said, Russian efforts in the Izyum region may be aimed at preventing Ukraine from regaining territory, rather than gaining territory.

Russia has learned to create stable supply lines the hard way, after logistical problems obstructed the first stage from the invasion. In the war in the East, efforts to secure such roads partly explain the creeping speed of the Russian advance.

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Russian supply lines operate to support its operations from Izyum from the Belgorod and Valoyki regions of Russia.


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Lines to Izium

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This month’s Ukrainian counteroffensive pushed Russian forces to the Russian border. Clark said it was unlikely that the Ukrainians would be able to cut off Russian supply lines soon, but that counterattacks would “certainly pose a threat to the Russians.”

The Ukrainian side also has to worry about supplies, even within its borders, where the railways have come under Russian attack.

The Three Cities on the Road to Russia

Kaufman said that conquering the Donbass would require Russia to take three major cities: Sloviansk, Kramatorsk, and Severodonetsk. “They are small towns,” he said, “but they are cities nonetheless–not a tank country.” this means urban warRussian weakness.

The cities are located near the border between Donetsk and Luhansk, near the Donetsk River.

Ukrainian troops are concentrated in Severodonetsk and the neighboring city of Lyschansk, and they are trying to maintain a line west of the city of Lyman. Russian forces continue He bombed and slowly advanced towards Liman.

The capture of the Liman region could enable the Russian forces to advance into Slovenia from the east, as well as from the Izyum region to the west. Clark said that taking Slovyansk would isolate Ukrainian fighters defending against an attack from Severodonetsk.

Slovyansk and Kramatorsk are railway hubs, and Kramatorsk has a large hospital. But the control of the two cities ‘maybe behind it [Russia’s] Clark said.

As the fight approaches, The Ukrainians set up fortified artillery fighting positions In wooded areas around Kramatorsk and digging trenches along country roads.

A video posted by Pavlo Kirilenko, governor of the Donetsk region, on March 18 shows extensive damage to apartment buildings in Kramatorsk, with Ukrainian authorities saying two people were killed and at least six wounded in a Russian raid. (Video: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=722513842241988)

Russia has enough vehicles and weapons to last a grinding war, according to analysts, while Ukrainian fighters are smarter and more motivated, despite their dependence on foreign weapons.

“This will be a longer war of attrition, not the kind of blitzkrieg that the Russians were hoping to achieve,” said Emil Kotlarsky, a senior analyst at the open source defense intelligence agency Guinness.

Map sources: May 16 land control data provided by the Institute for the Study of War, AEI’s Critical Threats Project. Landcover data via Copernicus and Global Land Service.

Sammy Westfall and Dalton Bennett contributed to this report.