‘Another stage’ of“It starts now,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in a TV interview seen in India on Tuesday, stressing that Russia’s goal is “the complete liberation of the Donetsk and Luhansk republics.” His comments came hours after Ukrainian President Volodymyr… .
“Russian forces have begun the Battle of Donbass,” Zelensky said in a video address late Monday. “A large part of the entire Russian army is now focused on this offensive.”
The eastern Donbass region of Ukraine is mostly Russian-speaking. Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces there for eight years and have declared two independent republics recognized by Russia.
In recent weeks, after its failed attempt to storm Kyiv, the Kremlin declared that its main goal of the war was to gain control of the Donbass region. After withdrawing from the capital, Russia began to regroup and strengthen its ground forces in the east to launch an all-out offensive.
“No matter how many Russian troops are pushed there, we will fight,” Zelensky said. “We will defend ourselves. We will do it every day.”
Moscow said it bombed 1,200 targets in Ukraine overnight and told the last Ukrainian forces defending the giant Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol that if they surrendered before noon, they would “keep their lives”.
The Ukrainian forces, who defended the city for seven weeks, ignored previous similar offers. The Azovstal plant, covering an area of about 4 square miles, is the last major Ukrainian pocket of resistance in Mariupol. Mariupol is a strategic port on the Sea of Azov. Its capture is important for Russia because it stands in the way of a land bridge to the Crimea.
Earlier Tuesday, Eduard Basurin, a spokesman for the Russian-backed separatists in the Donbass region, said the offensive groups had moved into Azovstal in an attempt to uproot Ukrainian forces from there, after a barrage of artillery bombardments.
Meanwhile, Reuters news agency reported that the governor of the eastern Luhansk region said that Russian forces had captured the city of Kremena. If true, then Kremena would appear to be the first city to be captured in the new Russian offensive.
“Krymena is under the control of the ‘Orks’ (the Russians). They entered the city. Our defenders had to withdraw. They entrenched in new positions and continue to fight the Russian army,” Serhiy Gaidai told a press briefing. According to Reuters.
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