Battle for Donbas region has begun, says Volodymyr Zelensky

·2-min read
Battle for Donbas region has begun, says Volodymyr Zelensky

Ukrainian President Volodmyr Zelensky has said the “Battle for the Donbas” region has begun as Russian forces launched a fresh offensive in the east of the country.

In a video address on Monday evening, Mr Zelensky warned that Vladimir Putin’s troops had “long prepared” to attack the region after failing to take Kyiv.

“No matter how many Russian troops are driven there, we will fight. We will defend ourselves. We will do it every day,” he said, adding that a “significant part” of Mr Putin’s army was now concentrated on the new offensive.

Earlier this month, Moscow claimed it would refocus its military efforts in the eastern region after fierce Ukrainian resistance thwarted the Russian army’s advance. However, Mr Putin’s forces launched fresh strikes on the western city of Lviv and Kyiv over the weekend despite the pledge.

“This morning, along almost the entire front line of the (eastern) Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv regions, the occupiers attempted to break through our defences,” Ukraine’s Security Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov said in televised comments on Monday.

In a post on Facebook, the Ukrainian armed forces command said that Russia’s main military force was concentrating on taking control of the entirety of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions that make up the swathe of land known as the Donbas.

"The second phase of the war has begun... Believe in our army, it is very strong," the Ukrainian president’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

Russia has been bulking up its army in the east of Ukraine with troops withdrawn from Ukraine’s north and neighbouring ally Belarus, a close ally of the Kremlin.

Elsewhere, at least seven people were reported dead after Russian missiles struck Lviv on Monday, which lies close to the Polish border.

A three-year-old boy was among those injured, according to regional officials.

Regional governor Maksym Kozytskyy said the Russian attack had hit three military infrastructure facilities and an auto shop. A hotel sheltering refugees fleeing the conflict was also badly damaged, Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said.

A few thousand Ukrainian troops continued to fight Mr Putin’s forces in the besieged southern city of Mariupol as of Tuesday evening – defying a Russian warning to surrender or face “elimination”. Ukrainian officials say that 21,000 people have been killed in the city after weeks of intense Russian shelling.

In other developments, two British fighters who were captured by Russian forces were seen on state TV demanding an exchange for Putin ally Viktor Medvedchuk.

Shaun Pinner, 48, and Aiden Aslin were taken captive by Russian troops last week while defending Mariupol. It was unclear how freely the two men were able to talk and they spoke after being prompted by an unidentified man.