Putin humiliated as bogged-down Russian troops scrape ‘minimal gains’ in eastern Ukraine

Ukraine claims to have destroyed Russian 2S4 Tyulpan mortar

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The Russian assault in eastern Ukraine has flagged, despite the use of overwhelming artillery and air power against Ukrainian defenders. However, Moscow has stepped up their offensive in a desperate attempt to capture strategic centres in eastern Ukraine bringing in so-called “terminator tanks”.

Russia has been trying to encircle Ukrainian defenders at Severdoneskt – the last Ukrainian strongpoint in the Lunhansk region – according to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW). The region is the site of the now famous doomed river crossing, during which Russia lost approximately 70 vehicles and up to 1000 men.

Ukrainians are taking heavy casualties but have so far held the area which Russia needs in order to encircle defenders and consolidate gains in the east.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has described fighting in the Donbas as “hell” but said the fact that Russia had made so few gains following nearly three months of war was “good news”.

He said: “Every day that our defenders take away from these offensive plans of Russia, disrupting them, is a concrete contribution to the approach of the main day. The desired day that we are all looking forward to and fighting for: Victory Day.”

There were reports that some Ukrainian forces had begun a tactical retreat in the area, as heavy Ukrainian equipment was brought in for support. One soldier, speaking to The Times anonymously, claimed some Ukrainian troops were retreating.

He said: “Troops are leaving their positions as the Russians advance.”

The Ministry of Defence has confirmed that Russia has brought in “terminator tanks”, although with only ten available it is unclear what effect these might have on the battlefield.

The “terminator tank” is an armoured fighting vehicle designed for urban combat, something which Russia has been largely unsuccessful at against a more nimble Ukrainian fighting force.

The Ministry of Defence also confirmed that Russia has taken catastrophic losses which could turn Russian public opinion against the war.

In a Tweet it said: “In the first three months of its ‘special military operation’, Russia has likely suffered a similar death toll to that experienced by the Soviet Union during its nine year war in Afghanistan.”

“The Russian public has, in the past, proven sensitive to casualties suffered during wars of choice. As casualties suffered in Ukraine continue to rise they will become more apparent, and public dissatisfaction with the war and a willingness to voice it may grow.”

The news comes as a sick “filtration and deportation” operation is underway in the recently captured city of Mariupol. A city of approximately 450,000 before the war, it is unclear how many Ukrainians remain under a potentially brutal Russian occupation.

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According to the Ukrainian broadcaster Ukrinform, the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights Liudmyla Denisova said as many as 4,000 men were living in horrible conditions in these filtration camps as well as a number of children.

Russia is thought to be forcing the men to accept citizenship of Russia or a “breakaway Republic” and then forcing the men to fight for Russia.

She said: “The occupiers claim that these men will be ‘mobilized’ to join the ranks of illegal armed formations of certain areas of Donetsk region in July-August. To do this, our citizens are forced to write applications for acquiring the citizenship of a self-proclaimed pseudo-republic or Russia”

The Mayor of Mariupol claimed that 70 people, including 12 children, were forcibly deported from Mariupol.

The city recently fell after Ukrainian forces surrendered following a nearly three month battle during which Russian forces were unable to penetrate the maze-like Azovstal steel plant.

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