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Freeing Crimea and the Donbas from Putin's grasp is a laudable goal, but it isn't going to happen, writes Sir Max Hastings via @opinion 

▶️ VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from the frontlines of Ukraine’s Donbas region, where an anticipated counteroffensive is ready to start with the arrival of spring.

After months of pouring soldiers into eastern Ukraine to seize the entire Donbas region, Russia’s progress essentially adds up to this: three small settlements and part of the city of Bakhmut, a high-profile battlefield with limited strategic value.

Moscow’s inability to gain much ground in the Donbas shows how its military has struggled to efficiently capture urban areas throughout the war. Here are the towns and cities it wanted to capture, and what they have actually captured.

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Russia has only managed to inch forward, encountering well-prepared Ukrainian positions with defensive lines heavily fortified from nearly a decade of fighting Russian-backed separatists in the Donbas region.

Russian forces have made very few gains in the Donbas region since August of last year. Despite mobilizing hundreds of thousands of fresh recruits, Russia’s winter offensive hasn’t fared well. See more here:

“.. Moscow’s inability to gain substantial ground in the Donbas shows how little its offensive has achieved and how much its military has struggled to efficiently capture urban areas throughout the war.” @nytimes ⁩ #ukraine  🇺🇦

UA New episode of Ukraine: The Latest @djknowles22  is joined by @FrancisDearnley , @jkjourno , @HamishDBG  and @SheridanDani  who was reporting live in the Donbas, as they discuss the latest updates in Ukraine. 🎧 Listen 👇

▶️ VOA's Heather Murdock reporting from the city of Lyman, in Eastern Ukraine. This city is a very important railway hub, and it is called the Gates of Donbas. Russians took it last spring, but Ukrainians retook it in the fall.

A former coal miner and furniture salesman, Vladlen Tatarsky was convicted of bank robbery in Ukraine in 2014 but fled prison shortly after Kremlin-backed separatists siezed control of large swathes of the Donbas region


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Zelensky addressing the Russian people in Russian now: “Today I initiated a phone call with the president of the Russian Federation. The result was silence, though the silence should be in the Donbas. As a result I want to address all citizens of Russia…

As the world watches, we see the donbas'>Ukrainian Donbas standing. We are connected and we stand with you against Russian tyranny, President Zelensky. Alliances matter. Slava Ukraini. @ZelenskyyUa  UA

Let’s try this then: the will of the people who live in the Donbas & Crimea should decide whether they’re part of Russia or Ukraine

The latest statements from Lavrov and Shoigu make very clear that Putin's war aims in Ukraine extend well beyond Donbas. Giving Putin another chunk of Ukraine will not produce lasting peace. Only stopping Putin on the battlefield will.

If Putin's army is not stopped in Donbas, it will continue to march West. What invading army ever stops on its own? They only stopped when they were forced to do so by another army. Give Ukrainians the weapons they need to stop Putin's army!

Zelensky: The fight in the Donbas “will surely go down in military history as one of the most brutal battles in Europe and for Europe.” He said about Russian forces: “We are dealing with absolute evil.” The Ukrainian president also repeated pleas for Western military assistance.

Putins army in Donbas has much great firepower than the Ukrainian army. Leaders of the free world must act faster to alter this balance of power in favor of Ukraine. It’s just that simple.

In 2014, appeasers hoped that giving Putin Crimea and Donbas would produce peace. It didn't work. 8 years later, he invaded Ukraine. Why on earth do people think today that giving Putin more of Ukraine will produce peace? Illogical.

The maps of Ukraine being shown on televison need to change parts of Donbas regions from "Russia-backed separatists controlled" to "Russia-occupied." There are no independent, Ukrainian separatist movements in these regions. It's simply Russian occupation.

The Ukrainians shot down MH17, the Syrian opposition gassed themselves, the White Helmets are al-Qaeda, Navalny collapsed because of medication he was taking, the GRU agents were in Salisbury to see the cathedrals, there are no Russian troops in Crimea or Donbas