Russia begins ‘new phase of the war’ as Battle for Donbas begins

Russian forces attacked along a broad front in eastern Ukraine on Tuesday as the long-awaited “Battle for Donbas” got underway.

Following claims by Ukrainian officials, including from President Volodymyr Zelensky, that Russia had begun “a new phase of the war” in the east, areas in the Donbas were targeted overnight and early this morning.

“The occupiers made an attempt to break through our defenses along nearly the entire frontline,” the general staff said in a statement early Tuesday.

A “very large part of the entire Russian army is now focused on this offensive,” Zelensky said in a video address overnight. “No matter how many Russian troops they send there, we will fight. We will defend ourselves.”

Zelensky’s office said at least eight people had been killed and 13 wounded in shelling or fighting in Luhansk and Donetsk frontline towns and villages.

His chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, assured Ukrainians their forces could hold off the offensive.

“Believe in our army, it is very strong,” he said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov confirmed that Moscow was starting a new stage of what it calls its special military operation in Ukraine which he predicted would be a significant development.

“Another stage of this operation (in eastern Ukraine) is beginning and I am sure this will be a very important moment of this entire special operation”, Lavrov said in an interview with India Today TV .

In southern Donetsk, the general staff said the Russian military had blocked and shelled the strategic port city of Mariupol and fire missiles at other cities.

This map shows the extent of the Russian invasion of Ukraine

(Press Association Images)

Russia gave the last Ukrainian defenders holed up in a giant steel works in Mariupol an ultimatum to surrender by noon (0900 GMT) or die.

“All who lay down their arms are guaranteed to remain alive,” the defense ministry said.

Russian-backed separatists said the pro-Moscow forces were preparing to storm the Azovstal factory, believed to be the last base of Ukrainian troops who have survived the longest and most brutal siege of the war.

Russian troops have already seized the city of Izyum, which sits along a highway north of Slovyansk, and they are poised to push toward the city from the north and the east. Slovyansk lies just north of another key city, Kramatorsk, where an earlier Russian attack on a train station killed more than 50 people.

Damaged and burned vehicles are seen at a destroyed part of the Illich Iron & Steel Works Metallurgical Plant

(Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The coal and steel producing Donbas has been the focal point of Russia’s campaign to destabilize Ukraine since 2014 when the Kremlin used proxies to set up separatist “people’s republics” in Luhansk and Donetsk.

Driven back by Ukrainian forces in March from an assault on Kyiv in the north, Russia has poured troops in to the east to regroup for a ground offensive in two provinces known as the Donbas. It has also been launching long-distance strikes at other targets including the capital.

Ukrainian media reported explosions, some powerful, along the front line in the Donetsk region, with shelling taking place in Marinka, Sloviansk and Kramatorsk.

Blasts were also heard in Kharkiv in the northeast, Mykolaiv in the south and Zaporizhzhia in the southeast while air raid sirens were also going off in main centers near the front line, officials and media said.

The governor of the Russian province of Belgorod said Ukrainian forces had struck a border village wounding one resident.

Ukrainian soldiers sit on an armored military vehicle in the city of Severodonetsk, Donbas region

(AFP via Getty Images)

Western countries and Ukraine accuse Russian president Vladimir Putin of unprovoked aggression, and the White House said US president Joe Biden would hold a call with allies on Tuesday to discuss the crisis, including how to coordinate on holding Russia to account.

French president Emmanuel Macron said his dialogue with Putin had stalled after mass killings were discovered in Ukraine.

Moscow said its missiles struck military targets in eastern and central Ukraine including ammunition depots, command headquarters, and groups of troops and vehicles. It reported that its artillery hit hundreds of Ukrainian targets, and that warplanes conducted 108 strikes on troops and military equipment. The claims could not be independently verified.

Additional reporting by agencies

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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