Wednesday 29, June 2022
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Zelenskyy: Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine has begun

News Desk: Russia launched its long-feared, full-scale ground offensive to take control of Ukraine's east on Monday, attacking along a broad front over 300 miles (480 kilometers) long, Ukrainian officials said in what marked the opening of a new and potentially climactic phase of the war.

"The Russian troops have begun the battle for the Donbas," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced in a video address. He said a "significant part of the entire Russian army is now concentrated on this offensive."

The Donbas is Ukraine's mostly Russian-speaking industrial heartland in the east, 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.

In recent weeks, the Kremlin declared the capture of the Donbas its main goal of the war after its attempt to storm Kyiv failed. After withdrawing from the capital, Russia began regrouping and reinforcing its ground troops in the east for an all-out offensive.

"No matter how many Russian troops are driven there, we will fight," Zelenskyy vowed. "We will defend ourselves. We will do it every day."

The offensive got underway after Russia bombarded the western city of Lviv and a multitude of other targets across Ukraine in what appeared to be an intensified bid to grind down the country's defenses.

The Ukraine military's general staff said Russian President Vladimir Putin's forces were increasing assaults in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions both of which are part of the Donbas as well as in the area of Zaporizhzhia.

"This morning, almost along the whole front line of the Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv regions, the occupiers attempted to break through our defenses," Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine's national security council, was quoted as telling Ukrainian media. "Fortunately, our military is holding out. They passed through only two cities. This is Kreminna and another small town."

He added: "We are not giving up any of our territories."

A Ukrainian military official said street battles had begun in Kreminna and that evacuation was impossible.

Luhansk regional military administrator Serhiy Haidai said heavy artillery fire set seven residential buildings on fire and targeted the sports complex where the nation's Olympic team trains.

Haidai later told Ukrainian television that Russians took control of the city after "leveling everything to the ground," so his forces retreated to regroup and keep on fighting.

Meanwhile, in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol, Denys Prokopenko, commander of the Azov Regiment of the Ukrainian National Guard that was holding out against Russian forces, said in a video message that Russia had begun dropping bunker-buster bombs on the Azovstal steel plant where the regiment was holed up.

The sprawling plant contains a warren of tunnels where both fighters and civilians are sheltering. It is believed to be the last major pocket of resistance in the shattered city.

At least seven people were reported killed in missile strikes on Lviv, a city close to the Polish border that has seen only sporadic attacks during almost two months of war and has become a haven for civilians fleeing the fighting elsewhere. To the Kremlin's increasing anger, Lviv has also become a major gateway for NATO-supplied weapons.

The attack on Lviv hit three military infrastructure facilities and an auto shop, according to the region's governor, Maksym Kozytskyy. He said the wounded included a child.

A Lviv hotel sheltering Ukrainians who had fled the fighting in other parts of the country was also badly damaged, Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said. The city has seen its population swell with elderly people, mothers and children trying to escape the war.

"The nightmare of war has caught up with us even in Lviv," said Lyudmila Turchak, who fled with two children from the eastern city of Kharkiv. "There is no longer anywhere in Ukraine where we can feel safe."

Lviv, the biggest city and a major transportation hub in western Ukraine, is about 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Poland, a NATO member.

SK

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