Ukrainians adapt and give little ground in ‘Phase 2’ of Russian war

As he recovers in a darkened military hospital room, Roman, a young Ukrainian artilleryman, describes how his battery was spotted and came under a withering Russian barrage already before it could take up its position in the eastern Donbas vicinity.

The biggest surprise for him? “That I am nevertheless alive here, after that shelling,” he says, closing his eyes and lying back on his bed.

Why We Wrote This

As Russia refocuses its war effort on the Donbas, it’s applying lessons learned from its initial offensive. To persevere, Ukrainians, too, must call on different reserves – of resolve and patience.

Roman’s account is emblematic of the new style and demands of the war in Ukraine. Since mid-April, Russia has concentrated on conquering the industrial heartland of the Donbas, where Russian-backed separatists have fought Ukrainian forces for eight years.

The new battlefield requires that Ukrainian forces demonstrate resolve, patience, and renewed confidence – the latter born of already repelling the improvement on Kyiv. But the fight for the Donbas is a race against time: Can Ukrainian forces resist the unrelenting onslaught until enough additional military hardware arrives?

“Their artillery never, never stops,” says the deputy commander of Ukraine’s Donbas Battalion, a major who gave the nickname Kot. “They are changing their strategy, but it is nevertheless what we would expect from Russia,” he says in Sloviansk, as an air raid siren wailed across the city. “Russia underestimated us; they don’t know how much we have been preparing.”

SLOVIANSK and KRAMATORSK, UKRAINE

The Ukrainian artillery team was moving into position in the northern Donbas vicinity, along the front line near Izium. The soldiers did not already have time to orient their guns before they were found by a Russian drone.

The first Russian 152 mm shells – fired by howitzers more than 10 miles away – landed near the Ukrainian guns. As the artillery team ran for safety, its means was hit and set on fire.

The driver, badly wounded, veered straight into bushes as shells rained down. The survivors escaped on foot, across open fields.

Why We Wrote This

As Russia refocuses its war effort on the Donbas, it’s applying lessons learned from its initial offensive. To persevere, Ukrainians, too, must call on different reserves – of resolve and patience.

Roman, a young artilleryman with a short patchy beard, recalled the events from a darkened military hospital room in Kramatorsk, his eyes glazed and an intravenous drip in his left arm, as he recovered from blast concussion. He gave only his first name, consist with Ukrainian military rules for wounded soldiers.

The biggest surprise for him? “That I am nevertheless alive here, after that shelling,” he says listlessly, closing his eyes and lying back on his bed.

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