“The next few days may be the last chance to leave.” The message from the governor of the Ukrainian region of Luhansk, Sergey Gaïdaï, is indicative of the concern of Ukrainian officials. After arriving in the kyiv regionIn central Ukraine, the front has gradually moved east, and the Ukrainian authorities fear a massive attack in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.
These fears are based in particular on statements by Moscow, which announced on March 25 its intention to concentrate its offensive in the east of the country. After failing to seize the Ukrainian capital, Russia, however, claimed that “the main objectives of the first phase of the operation have been filled”, in the words of the Deputy Chief of the Russian General Staff. And add that the Russian army was now going “concentrate the bulk of efforts on the main goal: the liberation of Donbass.”
This territory includes the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, where the conflict between government forces and pro-Russian separatists has been going on since 2014. Regions that Russia had not yet taken control of before its reorientation to the east of the country. According to Julien Théron, researcher at Sciences Po Paris interviewed by franceinfo March 26, “The territory of Luhansk is controlled almost entirely by Russia, but that is not the case with Donetsk.”
This state of affairs could change, as the Russian military is massively redeploying to eastern Ukraine. According to a senior Pentagon official quoted by AFP, two-thirds of the Russian forces that had occupied the kyiv region since the beginning of the invasion have withdrawn to Belarus, in view, according to him, of a new assault on other parts of Ukraine. . “We see teams coming from different directions, [les Russes] bring men, let them bring fuel”Luhansk Governor Sergei Gaidai said in a video message broadcast on April 4.
Russian attacks have intensified since then. “All the free cities of the Lugansk region are under enemy fire.“add Sergei Gaidai. According to him, Russian bombardments left one dead, one wounded and seven missing on April 6 in the town of Roubizhne. Five other people were injured in the shelling of a humanitarian center in Sievierodonetsk.
The Ukrainian army in the Donbass is also about to be squeezed from the north and south by Russian forces, as explained. the special correspondents of France Télévisions on the spot. To slow down your progress, Ukrainian anti-tank obstacles increase on the strategic Krasnopillya highway, in the Donetsk region, but they have already advanced seven kilometers in a few days. Nearby, the Ukrainian city of Sloviansk is under permanent air alert.
To prevent further massacres of civilians, as in boutcha in the kyiv region, the ukrainian authorities have been calling for several days for the inhabitants of these regions to leave for the west of the country. On Thursday, Sergei Gaïdaï announced the establishment of humanitarian corridors for the inhabitants of seven eastern cities, including Sievierodonetsk. The police go through the buildings looking for neighbors to escort under the explosion of bullets. The evacuation order appears to have been heeded: the mayor of Dnipro, a city further to the west, announced on Thursday that a “Many people” he had arrived from the Donbass in the last few days. But many residents have also chosen to stay.
With the intensification of the offensives, these evacuations are becoming more and more dangerous. According to Sergei Gaïdaï, the 1,200 people evacuated on Wednesday were evacuated without any ceasefire. Further south, the humanitarian convoy organized by the Red Cross for Mariupol it has already been postponed several times, in particular due to the lack of security guarantees. “We can no longer help” population in case of a Russian attack, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk warned on Wednesday.
The director, who coordinates the organization of the humanitarian corridors, recalled on Wednesday, April 6, that“We must evacuate while this possibility exists. For the time being, it still exists”. With the advance of Russian troops in Donbass, the situation could rapidly deteriorate.