Putin launches enormous onslaught on Ukraine as masses of Russian troops storm Donbas

Putin launches enormous onslaught on Ukraine as masses of Russian troops storm Donbas

USA News

VLADIMIR Putin’s troops have launched the “battle for the Donbas”, Ukraine has confirmed.

Ukraine: Battle of Donbas is ‘very important’ says Zelensky

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President Volodymyr Zelensky said the much-anticipated attack on the eastern region of Donbas is now underway. He claimed: “We can now confirm that Russian troops have begun the battle for the Donbas, which they have been preparing for a long time. A large part of the Russian army is now dedicated to this offensive.” His remarks follow warnings from other senior officials that Russia had begun its assault on Monday and come only a day after the Ukrainian leader stressed the importance of the fight, which his chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, described as the start of “the second phase of the war”.

According to Kyiv, Moscow has been bulking up its forces in the east of the country using troops that it pulled out of the north and neighbouring Belarus, a close Russian ally.

In a post on Facebook, the Ukrainian armed forces command said the core of Russia’s main military was concentrating on taking control of the entirety of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, while the Ukrainian Security Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov said in televised comments Putin‘s soldiers had begun “their attempt to start the active phase this morning”.

He added: “This morning, along almost the entire front line of the (eastern) Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv regions, the occupiers attempted to break through our defences.”

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Vladimir Putin

Putin’s forces have launched the long-anticipated assault on the Donbas region (Image: Getty)

The Kremlin on March 25 announced the first phase of its “military operation” in Ukraine was mostly complete, and that it would focus on completely “liberating” the Donbas region.

On Sunday, just before the expected moment arrived, Mr Zelensky said the battle could “influence the course of the whole war”.

During an interview on CNN’s State of the Union, the president drew back to 2014, when protests by pro-Russian groups in the Donbas region escalated into a war between the Ukrainian army and Russian-backed separatists of Donetsk and Luhansk, to explain the relevance of how things turn out in the area.

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Volodymyr Zelensky

‘The battle for Donbas is very important,’ President Zelensky warns (Image: Getty)

He said: “For us, the battle for Donbas is very important. It is important for different reasons, for the reason of safety, first of all.

“Our grouping located in Donbas is one of the best military we have. It’s a large grouping and Russia wants to encircle them and destroy them.

“It is 44,000 professional military men who survived a great war from the beginning of  2014. This is why it is very important for us to preserve that part of our army, that is one of the most powerful.”

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Mr Zelensky added that although Ukrainian forces have defended themselves from Russian attacks on cities like Kyiv and Chernihiv, if Putin‘s military wins in Donbas, it could “come further towards Kyiv”.

Moscow’s defeat after the Russians spent a month trying to envelop Kyiv should have been a cause for celebration. However, it was predicted Moscow’s unsuccessful attempts to take the Ukrainian capital and other major cities would mark a turning point and mean the Donbas would be next.

Kyiv’s defeat after the Russians spent a month trying to envelop it should have been a cause for celebration.

Last week, a senior Pentagon official told reporters during a briefing: “They want to achieve some physical, tangible objectives in the Donbas within the next couple of weeks.”

But on Monday, in line with the usual spirit conveyed since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began on February 24, Mr Zelensky suggested the same fierce resistance shown in the more than seven weeks of war can be expected going forward.

He said in a video address: “No matter how many Russian troops are driven there, we will fight. We will defend ourselves. We will do it every day.”

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