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Final battle for Donbas: Russia opens a new war front

After a Russian push to the capital failed to overrun the city, the Kremlin declared that its main goal was the capture of the eastern Donbas region.

Agencies | Updated on: Tuesday, April 19, 2022, 11:18 PM IST

Damaged and burned vehicles are seen at a destroyed part of the Illich Iron & Steel Works Metallurgical Plant, as smoke rises from the Metallurgical Combine Azovstal during heavy fighting, in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces in Mariupol, Ukraine, on Monday, April 18, 2022 | AP
Damaged and burned vehicles are seen at a destroyed part of the Illich Iron & Steel Works Metallurgical Plant, as smoke rises from the Metallurgical Combine Azovstal during heavy fighting, in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces in Mariupol, Ukraine, on Monday, April 18, 2022 | AP
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Russia ratcheted up its battle for control of Ukraine's eastern industrial heartland, intensifying assaults on cities and towns along a front hundreds of miles long in what officials on both sides described as a new phase of the war.

After a Russian push to the capital failed to overrun the city, the Kremlin declared that its main goal was the capture of the eastern Donbas region.

If successful, that offensive would give President Vladimir Putin a vital piece of Ukraine and a badly needed victory that he could present to the Russian people amid the war's mounting casualties and the economic hardship caused by the West's sanctions.

In recent weeks, Russian forces that withdrew from Kyiv have regrouped in preparation for an all-out offensive in the Donbas, where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces for the past eight years and have declared two independent republics that have been recognized by Russia.

While Ukraine's president and other officials said the offensive had started, observers noted that it was just the beginning of a new massive onslaught.

Russian artillery hit 1,260 Ukrainian military facilities and 1,214 troops concentrations over the last 24 hours. The claims could not be independently verified.

The Pentagon cast the stepped-up campaign as “shaping operations” setting the stage for a broader offensive in the mostly Russian-speaking Donbas region.

The United States believes that Russian forces are “continuing to set the conditions for what they believe will be eventual success on the ground by putting in more forces, putting in more enablers, putting in more command and control capability for operations yet to come,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Monday.

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Published on: Tuesday, April 19, 2022, 11:18 PM IST