After 55 days without gaining territory in Ukraine, Russia is betting all its chips on this week’s attacks, which Moscow has called “second phase” of the war, focusing on the east of the invaded territory. Only this Tuesday (19), Russian troops quadrupled the number of bombings on Ukrainian territory compared to the previous daythe vast majority of them in the east of the country.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, its troops carried out 1,260 attacks overnight. The number is four times greater than the 315 attacks carried out the day before, an amount already much higher than the previous days.
The Ukrainian government also said it had identified the new phase of Ukraine’s war. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced that new offensives in the Donbass region have already begun.
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The offensive is seen as decisive for the outcome of the war, because it could culminate in both Russia’s conquest of territories in eastern Ukraine and a major hole in Moscow’s budget. The Russian government has moved almost all of its army and weapons of war to the region, and could face further sanctions as a result of the new attacks.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday (19) he predicted a significant development of the new phase. “Another stage of this operation (in eastern Ukraine) is starting and I am sure that this will be a very important moment of this whole special operation,” he declared.
Ukrainian soldiers guard an area in the east of the country – Photo: via Reuters
A “very large part of the entire Russian army is now focused on this offensive,” Zelensky said in a video speech. “No matter how many Russian troops they send there, we will fight. We will defend ourselves.”
Zelensky’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, assured the Ukrainians that his forces could contain the offensive. “Believe in our army, it is very strong,” he said.
What do local leaders say?
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 started,” Gaidai said on Facebook. “There is fighting in Rubizhne and Popasna, incessant fighting in other peaceful cities,” he added.
At least eight civilians were killed on Monday by Russian gunfire and attacks, according to regional authorities.
Four people died in Kreminna, a small town in the Lugansk region seized by the Russians on Monday, Gaidai said on Telegram.
Another four people died in the Donetsk region, according to the Ukrainian governor of that region, Pavlo Kyrylenko.
Cloud of smoke is seen over steelworks symbol of resistance in Mariupol
After failure in Kiev, Donbass becomes focus
After failing in the first attempt to seize the Ukrainian capital, the Russians are now focused on increasing their influence in the breakaway eastern regions. The aim of the new offensive is to capture the entirety of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, as well as Mariupol, the southern port city that has been under siege for weeks. Moscow’s idea is to create a corridor between that region and Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014.
A Ukrainian flag in front of a building hit by Russian bombs in Mariupol, where soldiers resist Moscow’s ultimatum.
Mariupol is one of Russia’s main objectives, which since the beginning of the war has surrounded the port city in the south of the country. Residents and soldiers, however, showed strong resistance. This Tuesday (19), the battle takes place in the industrial complex of Azovstal, the last point of resistance in Mariupol.
The Russian government has claimed that Ukrainian soldiers fighting at the scene have surrendered, but Ukraine has not confirmed.
Map shows the situation of the war in Ukraine — Photo: Arte g1