The Ukrainian Armed Forces are wearing down the occupant army and may bring in unexpected reserves into the fight.
Polish Gazeta.pl has given a thorough analysis of why the Ukrainian army in Donbass has started to retreat and why this is not fatal.
The situation in eastern Donbas has become very difficult for the defenders. Over the past week, the Russians have broken through the front and made serious progress. The Ukrainians seem to be running out of strength and are being forced to retreat.
A fortnight ago, the Russians suffered a major defeat along the northern flank of the Donbass while attempting to force the Seversky Donets River. But on other fronts, the Russians did better.
First, they managed to break through the defence line near Popasna and advanced further in three directions. Some analysts say that such a price had to be paid for the defence of the Donets, the forces were thrown there. And on May 25, the Russians advanced along the Bakhmut-Lysychansk road, the main artery for supplying Ukrainian forces near industrial Lysychansk and Severodonetsk, the administrative centre of Luhansk Region. So far the defenders are holding on, but there is a chance they may have to retreat to avoid encirclement.
The situation is also difficult for defenders of Liman, the last large town north of the Seversky Donets River. The Russian army has already entered the town, and the defenders have retreated to the suburbs and behind the railway line.
In the south of Donbass, the Russians are also pressing ahead. They have managed to enter the Donetsk suburb of Avdiivka, but there was not such a large-scale breakthrough as near Popasna.
Things are stable on other fronts near Kharkiv, in Kherson region and in Zaporizhzhya.
The Russians seem to have an advantage in the fighting in Donbass. Experts attribute this to the fact that the Ukrainians' forward units have been significantly damaged by the prolonged fighting, while the Russians' dominance in the air and destruction of fuel infrastructure make it difficult to move Ukrainian reinforcements. After a failed blitzkrieg, the Russians are slowly and methodically attacking village after village and town after town.
However, Igor Girkin, former defence minister of the "DPR", claims that everything is going according to plan for the Ukrainians. According to him, they have already decided to withdraw their troops gradually from the eastern part of Donbass and to form a strong line of defense on the Bakhmut-Seversk line, in the suburbs of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, where the Ukrainian army has its positions prepared.
Ukrainians are wearing down the enemy.
Although it looks like a disaster, the situation is not quite like that. It is more important for Ukraine now to keep as many of its good warriors alive as possible.
Since the start of the war they have been defending flexibly. At times they even withdraw from positions without a fight in order to hit the Russians hard somewhere else. The main task now is not to stop the Russian army, as they did in the north of Ukraine, but to inflict it the heaviest losses and to bleed it dry. This will make further offensive and advance deep into Ukraine simply impossible.
Even if the Russians capture most of Donbass, it will not mean their victory. Russian propaganda will present it as a huge success, but this success will be paid for with huge blood. It is unclear what is the point of such "victories". After all, what matters in war is not what territory you occupy, but whether the enemy is capable of resisting. The Ukrainians have no problem with this.
A lot of analysts believe that Russia has thrown all its forces to seize Donbass and has no more reserves. And if the Ukrainians retreat wisely and build a flexible but strong line of defence, they will halt the offensive. As a result, the Russians will not be able to encircle the groups of Ukrainian troops in the Donbass, and the Ukrainians will not lose any combat-ready units.
It is also a mystery where exactly Ukraine is accumulating its large reserves. Theoretically, the forces that the country is currently accumulating that are not fighting on the front lines of Donbass could be brought into play at an appropriate moment.
The Ukrainians could delay bringing them into play in order to wear down the Russians first and train their own troops well. The fact that they have not thrown all their forces into the Donbass indicates some kind of plan and that Ukraine feels fairly confident in the current situation.