After days of regrouping and reinforcing, the Russian military began a new and potentially climactic phase of the war in Ukraine by launching a long-feared full-scale ground offensive to take control of the country’s industrial heartland, the Donbas, Ukrainian officials said.
The stepped-up assaults began April 18 along a broad front of over 300 miles (480 kilometers), Ukrainian officials said.
“The Russian troops have begun the battle for the Donbas,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced in a video address April 18. He said a “significant part of the entire Russian army is now concentrated on this offensive.”
Zelenskyy’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, assured Ukrainians their forces could hold off the offensive in “the second phase of the war.”
Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces for eight years in the mostly Russian-speaking Donbas and have declared two independent republics that have been recognized by Russia.
In recent weeks, the Kremlin declared the capture of the Donbas its main goal of the war after its attempt to storm Kyiv failed.
“No matter how many Russian troops are driven there, we will fight,” Zelenskyy vowed. “We will defend ourselves.” (AP, Reuters)