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    The battle of Donbas could prove decisive in Ukraine war

    AP – Day after day, Russia is pounding the Donbas region of Ukraine with relentless artillery and air raids, making slow but steady progress to seize the industrial heartland of its neighbour.

    With the conflict now in its fourth month, it’s a high-stakes campaign that could dictate the course of the entire war.

    If Russia prevails in the battle of Donbas, it will mean that Ukraine loses not only land but perhaps the bulk of its most capable military forces, opening the way for Moscow to grab more territory and dictate its terms to Kyiv. A Russian failure could lay the grounds for a Ukrainian counteroffensive – and possibly lead to political upheaval for the Kremlin.

    Following botched early attempts in the invasion to capture Kyiv and the second-largest city of Kharkiv without proper planning and coordination, Russia turned its attention to the Donbas, a region of mines and factories where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014.

    Learning from its earlier missteps, Russia is treading more carefully there, relying on longer-range bombardments to soften Ukrainian defenses.

    It seems to be working: The better-equipped Russian forces have made gains in both the Luhansk and Donetsk regions that make up the Donbas, controlling over 95 per cent of the former and about half of the latter.

    Ukraine is losing between 100 and 200 soldiers a day, presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak told the BBC, as Russia has “thrown pretty much everything non-nuclear at the front.”

    President Volodymyr Zelenskyy earlier put the daily death toll at up to 100.

    A Donetsk People’s Republic militia’s multiple rocket launcher fires from its position not far from Panteleimonivka, eastern Ukraine. PHOTO: AP
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