Russia has launched a major offensive in eastern Ukraine, President Volodymir Zelensky said on April 18, with Moscow opening a new phase of its invasion after failing to take the capital kyiv. In recent weeks, the Russian military campaign has refocused on the eastern region of Donbass, which has been partially controlled by pro-Russian separatist forces since 2014.
“We can now say that Russian troops have started the battle for Donbass, for which they have been preparing for a long time. A very large part of the entire Russian army is now devoted to this offensive”said President Volodymyr Zelensky in a speech broadcast on Telegram.
76 Russian battalions in Ukraine
“No matter how many Russian soldiers are brought here, we will fight. We will defend ourselves”he claimed, after having warned the day before that“they literally want to complete and destroy the Donbass”. According to a senior US Defense Department official, Russia has increased by “eleven battalions” in one week its military presence in eastern and southern Ukraine, bringing the total of battalions in the country to 76.
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For Andriï Yermak, President Zelensky’s chief of staff, it is now clear that “the second phase of the war has begun”. “Trust in the Armed Forces of Ukraine”he launched on Telegram.
” It’s hell. The offensive has begun, the one we’ve been talking about for weeks”announced on Facebook the Ukrainian governor of the Lugansk region, Serguiï Gaïdaï. “There is fighting in Rubizhne and Popasna, constant fighting in other peaceful towns”he said, acknowledging that Kreminna was “unfortunately under the control of the Orcs”a pejorative nickname given to the Russian military.
This city, which had around 18,000 inhabitants before the war, is located about fifty kilometers northeast of Kramatorsk, the Ukrainian capital of the Donbass coalfield. At least four civilians were killed in Russian shelling as they tried to flee Kreminna, Gaidai said.
However, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych assured that “the Russian occupiers had not yet conquered Kreminna” and that of“intense street fighting” were taking place there.