KYIV – “The Battle of Donbass” remains Russia’s main strategic focus in Ukraine, Britain’s defense ministry said on Friday, but suffered significant losses due to limited regional gains.
Russia withdrew its forces from outside Kiev last month after failing to capture the capital in the early stages of its February 24 offensive, and launched a major offensive in the eastern Donbass region of Ukraine.
Britain’s defense ministry says Moscow considers winning the “battle for Donbass” important if it is to achieve its stated goal of securing control over Donetsk and Luhansk territories.
The ministry said on Twitter that “fighting around Lysichansk and Severodonetsk has intensified, especially as attempts have been made to move south from Izim to Sloviansk.”
Due to strong Ukrainian resistance, Russian regional gains have been achieved at limited and significant costs, the ministry added in regular bulletins. Reuters could not immediately be reached for comment.
There have been some horrific wars and bombings in southern and eastern Ukraine, where the southern port of Mariupol has been under siege and in ruins for months. Its remaining inhabitants and Ukrainian forces are hiding underground in the work of Azvestal Steel.
The capture of Mariupol would link the pro-Russian separatist region to the Crimea region, which Moscow annexed in 2014.
Mariupol City Council said about 100,000 city dwellers were “at risk of death” due to Russia’s shelling and unhealthy conditions. It said the lack of drinking water and food was “catastrophic.”
An adviser to Ukraine’s president said this week that Russia was hitting the Azovstal steel plant with bunker-buster bombs. Reuters could not be reached for comment.
Ukrainian commanders in Azovstal have vowed not to surrender.
Ukraine’s General Staff said on Friday that Russia was shelling Ukraine’s positions along the southern and eastern communication lines to prevent them from reorganizing. It says the ajustal has been cut.
KYIV is still unprotected
Two Russian missiles hit Kiev during the UN chief’s visit on Thursday, Ukrainian officials said, raising concerns that the capital remained unprotected.
“The explosions prove that we should not be cautious,” said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Let’s not think that the war is over. ”
The earlier Moscow attack on Thursday drew new US pledges of military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
Focusing on Ukraine’s repeated requests for heavy weapons, U.S. President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., asked Congress for $ 33 billion to support Kiev, a huge jump in funding for more than $ 20 billion in arms, ammunition and other military aid.
“We need this bill to support Ukraine in its fight for independence,” Biden said. “The cost of this fight – it’s not cheap – but going to aggression is going to be more expensive.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin has called Moscow’s move a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine, protect Russian-speaking people from oppression and prevent the United States from using the country to threaten Russia.
Ukraine has rejected Mr Putin’s claims of repression, saying it was fighting an imperialist-style occupation of land that flattened Ukrainian cities, forced more than 5 million people to flee abroad and killed thousands since the February 24 attacks began.
Washington, which has imposed extensive sanctions on Moscow along with its allies, hopes that Ukrainian forces will not only be able to repel a former Russian attack but also weaken its military so that they no longer threaten their neighbors.
Russia sees NATO’s move as the equivalent of waging a “proxy war” against it and has made several threats this week for indefinite retaliation.
Identifying Moscow’s toughest response to Western economic sanctions, they cut off gas supplies to Poland and Bulgaria on Wednesday after refusing to pay the ruble.
Russia has reported that it has carried out a series of Ukrainian attacks in the Russian territories bordering Ukraine, and warns that such attacks pose a significant increase in risk.
Ukraine has not directly claimed responsibility for the attack inside Russia, but has said the incidents were retaliatory. Russia is outraged by a statement from NATO member Britain that it is legal for Ukraine to target Russian supplies.
Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters in Moscow that “in the West, they are openly calling on Kiev to attack Russia, including the use of weapons obtained from NATO countries.”
“I’m not advising you to test our patience any further.”
The U.S. mission at the OSCE Security Agency says the Kremlin could try to hold “Syrian referendums” in the occupied south and east since the February 24 attack, using “a well-worn playbook that steals from dark chapters of history.”
“This false, illegitimate referendum will undoubtedly be accompanied by a wave of abuse against those who oppose or undermine Moscow’s plan,” the US mission said. Russia did not immediately return calls seeking comment. – Natalia Genetes / Reuters