Russian and Ukrainian forces are concentrating in the east of the country as thousands of civilians flee the area, threatening the next major war.
The fighting may seem significantly different from the war for the capital of Ukraine, which saw Russian forces being pushed back from the areas around Kiev, leaving smokestack bombs and bombed suburban houses in their uprising.
After retreating from the area around Kiev, Russian forces relocate to a new offensive in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine.
With Russia’s invasion in 2014 and short supply lines, analysts say they will operate in familiar territory. The Russians could have relied on a vast rail network to repatriate their army – they had no such rail network north of Kiev.
Ukrainian leaders say they are preparing for a major confrontation. Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba last week urged NATO leaders to send reinforcements. Western weapons have been poured into Ukraine in recent days, but Kuleba said more is needed and urgent. He warned that the war in eastern Ukraine would “remind you of World War II.”
The center of gravity appears to be near the eastern city of Izium, which was captured last week by Russian forces trying to join forces with other forces in the southeastern Donbas region of Ukraine. The Russians are trying to secure a land route between the Donbass and the Crimean Peninsula in the Black Sea, which Russia occupied and annexed in 2014.
There are other indications that both forces are preparing for a major battle. According to Maxar Technologies, which released the images on Sunday, the newly released satellite images showed hundreds of vehicles moving south through the Ukrainian city of Velykyi Burluk.
“It will be a large-scale battle with hundreds of tanks and fighting vehicles – it will be fierce,” said Franz-Stephen Cody, a research colleague at the International Strategic Research Institute in London. “The scope of military operations in the region will be significantly different than anything seen before.”
Since Russia annexed Crimea, Moscow has supported separatist uprisings in the two eastern provinces – Donetsk and Luhansk – Donbass. More than 14,000 people have been killed in the last eight years.
“Russia operates on a very familiar terrain,” said Keer Giles of the Center for Conflict Research in the UK. He added that Moscow’s forces would “learn from its mistakes in the early days of the campaign against Ukraine.”
Railways in the East have an added advantage for Russia, Mr. Giles said the networks there were already dense and congested territories controlled by Russia.
However, considering all the Russian advantages in the East, some analysts doubt that the military in eastern Ukraine would be more effective than it was in the north of Kiev. According to Western officials and analysts, the Russian forces that attacked the Ukrainian capital were badly dismantled. They claim that many Russian factions are suffering from low morale and that some soldiers are refusing to fight.
“Normally it takes months to rebuild a radical army, but it looks like the Russians are pushing them into this fight,” said Frederick W., director of the Critical Threats program at the American Enterprise Institute, which has partnered with the company. Kagan said. For war surveillance monitoring the war in Ukraine. “The forces they position are being badly attacked and their morale seems to be low.”
Mr. Kagan said that in the east, Russian forces could face the same movement problems that occurred during the invasion of northern Ukraine. Russian forces were mostly confined to the country’s roads because they could not cross the terrain. It attacked Russian armored vehicles and trucks by Ukrainian forces, destroying hundreds of Russian vehicles – using anti-tank missiles provided by the West.
For Russians, traffic problems could get worse. Spring rains will turn most of the landscape into mud, and movement will be hampered.
Mr. Kagan Russian forces “are significantly connected by road, which can actually make the East more challenging because the road network is much worse than the network around Kiev.”
In the end, both forces face serious challenges. Kagan said.
“The Russians have a lot of weight to bear, but they have a lot of problems,” he said. Kagan said. “The Ukrainians have more morale, more motivation, and a lot more determination. But they are more numerous and they do not have the infrastructure of a militarized state to support them.
“In my mind, this is a toss-up.”
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