Russia launches offensive in eastern Ukraine: Zelensky

  • The second phase of Russia’s war against Ukraine began when Russia launched an attack on eastern Ukraine.
  • Russia has again focused on Ukraine’s Donbas region.
  • Russian forces have been accused of shelling and blocking escape routes out of Ukrainian cities during siege.

Russia has launched a major offensive in eastern Ukraine, Kiev officials said, opening a new phase of its invasion after being thwarted in efforts to capture the capital.

The United States is due to hold a video meeting with allies on Tuesday to discuss the conflict in Ukraine, where Moscow’s military campaign has once again focused on the eastern region of the Donbas, which has been partially controlled by pro-Kremlin separatists since 2014.

“We can now confirm that Russian troops have begun the battle for the Donbas, which they have been preparing for a long time,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told Telegram late Monday.

He said:

No matter how many Russian soldiers are brought here, we will fight. We want to defend ourselves.

Prior to the long-awaited advance, the Ukrainian authorities had urged people in the Donbas to flee west to escape.

“The second phase of the war has begun,” said Kyiv President Andriy Yermak.

Control of the Donbas would allow Moscow to create a southern corridor to the occupied Crimean peninsula.

In the southern part of the region, Russia continued its advance to conquer the besieged port city of Mariupol, where the last remaining Ukrainian forces have finally taken a stand.

But despite the desperate situation in the city, a senior U.S. Department of Defense official said Mariupol “is still challenged.”

Russia has also added 11 tactical battalion groups – including artillery, helicopters and logistical support – to its forces in eastern Ukraine, the official added, bringing the total to 76 in the country.

Monday also saw the first shipments of a new US military aid package arrive at Ukraine’s borders to be handed over in its fight against the Russian invasion.

On April 13, the United States unveiled a $ 800 million tranche of equipment for Ukraine, including helicopters, howitzers and armored personnel carriers.

Strikes throughout Ukraine

Moscow forces on Monday struck targets across the country, killing at least seven people in the western city of Lviv.

Lviv has been largely spared bombing since Russia invaded on February 24, and the city and its surroundings had become a haven for those seeking security from the war zone.

But “today we clearly understood that we have no safe places in Ukraine. It is very dangerous,” a bank employee who gave his name as Natalia told AFP after the strikes.

Russia’s defense ministry said Monday it had hit 16 military targets across Ukraine.

Among the affected sites was a depot near Lviv, which Moscow said had weapons recently supplied to Ukraine from the United States and Europe.

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Shortly before Zelensky’s speech, the regional governor of the Lugansk region, Sergiy Gaiday, also announced the beginning of Russia’s long-awaited attack.

“It’s a hell. The offensive has begun, the one we’ve been talking about for weeks. There are constant fighting in Rubizhne and Popasna fighting in other peaceful cities,” he said on Facebook.

Russian shelling killed at least eight civilians in eastern Ukraine, according to local authorities.

Gaiday said four people died as they tried to flee the city of Kreminna in Lugansk as Russian troops moved in.

“The Russian army has already gone in there, with a huge amount of military hardware … Our defenders have retired to new positions,” Gaiday said in a statement on social media.

But Ukrainian Presidential Adviser Oleksiy Arestovich said Russian forces had not captured the city.

Nearby, in the village of Novodruzhesk, tired locals have carried the bulk of the fighting.

“We are being bombed everywhere. It is a miracle that we are still alive,” Nadya, 65, said in a trembling voice.

“We were lying on the ground waiting. Since February 24, we have been sleeping in the basement.

She said:

There is no more water, electricity, nothing. We have no more money, no more petrol – we can not leave.

Ukrainian officials on Monday halted the evacuation of civilians from frontline and eastern cities for another day, accusing Russian forces of blocking and shelling escape routes.

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Tuesday that there would be no humanitarian corridors to evacuate civilians in the country for a third day in a row because there has been no agreement from Russia.

Vereshchuk said earlier that Russia’s “refusal to open these humanitarian corridors in the future will be grounds for prosecuting all those involved in war crimes”.

Mariupol City Council has reported that more than 1,000 civilians are trapped in shelters under the Azovstal steelworks, where Ukrainian forces are waging a desperate final battle against the Russians.

“(They are) mostly women with children and the elderly,” they said on Telegram.

‘Heavy attacks’

President Vladimir Putin has said he launched the military operation on February 24 to rescue Russian-speakers in Ukraine from a “genocide” carried out by a “neo-Nazi” regime.

He recognized the independence of two self-proclaimed separatist republics in Donetsk and Lugansk shortly before the invasion began.

On Monday, Putin praised the 64th Motor Rifle Brigade – which is accused of committing atrocities near Kiev – and awarded them battle honors for “heroism and bravery, perseverance and courage”.

Ukraine has claimed the brigade is guilty of war crimes while occupying the suburb of Bucha on the outskirts of Kiev, where residents were shot and killed, some with their hands tied.

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The European Union condemned Russia’s “arbitrary” bombing of Ukrainian civilians following the attacks on Lviv.

Its foreign policy chief Josep Borrell pointed to “particularly powerful attacks” in eastern and southern Ukraine and an offensive against the other city of Kharkiv, in which officials said Russian shelling killed three people.

“Attacks on Lviv and other cities in western Ukraine show that no part of the country is spared the Kremlin’s senseless attacks,” Borrell added.

In an attempt to strengthen ties and speed up membership in the bloc of 27 nations, Zelensky said Ukraine hoped to gain EU candidate status within a few weeks.

On Monday, he handed the EU envoy to Kiev a two-volume answer to a membership questionnaire brought by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in March.

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Russia launches offensive in eastern Ukraine: Zelensky

Source link Russia launches offensive in eastern Ukraine: Zelensky

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