Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced on Monday the start of a Russian offensive against eastern Ukraine, a region partly under the control of pro-Russian separatists and where fighting has intensified.
“Now we can say that Russian troops have started the battle for Donbass, for which they have been preparing for a long time. A large part of the entire Russian army is now dedicated to this offensive,” Zelensky declared in a speech broadcast by Telegram. “No matter how many Russian soldiers are brought here, we will fight. Let’s defend ourselves.”
Shortly before, the Ukrainian governor of the Lugansk region, Sergei Gaidai, also announced the start of the Russian offensive against eastern Ukraine.
“This is hell. The offensive we’ve been talking about for weeks has begun,” Gaidai said on Facebook. “There is fighting in Rubizhne and Popasna, incessant fighting in other peaceful cities.”
At least eight civilians were killed on Monday by Russian gunfire and attacks, according to regional authorities.
Since announcing the withdrawal of its troops from the Kiev region, Russia has concentrated its armed forces in eastern Ukraine, which has been the target of frequent bombing since the beginning of the Russian invasion on February 24.
The Ukrainian army announced several weeks ago a major Moscow offensive against the Donbass region, much of which is under the control of pro-Russian separatists from the self-proclaimed republics of Lugansk and Donetsk.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has claimed to carry out a military operation in Ukraine to save the Russians of Donbass from the “genocide” orchestrated by the Ukrainian “Nazis”.