Russia attacks hundreds of miles away, Ukraine says

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian forces attacked across a broad front in eastern Ukraine on Tuesday as part of a large-scale ground offensive aimed at seizing control of the country’s eastern industrial heartland in what Ukrainian officials called a “new phase of the war”. ”

The Ukrainian General Staff said that the Russian forces were focusing their efforts on taking full control of the Donbass region. “The occupiers attempted to break through our defenses along almost the entire front line,” the General Staff said in a statement on Tuesday.

The intensified assaults began Monday on a front of more than 300 miles (480 kilometers), concentrated on the Donbass regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, with Russian forces trying to advance in several sections, including from the neighboring region of Kharkiv.

In southern Donetsk, the General Staff said the Russian military continued to blockade and shell the strategic port city of Mariupol and fire missiles at other towns.

On Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video address that a “significant part of the entire Russian military is now focused on this offensive.”

Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces for eight years in the predominantly Russian-speaking Donbass and have declared two independent republics that have been recognized by Russia. Russia has said that taking Donbass has been its main objective in the war since its attempt to seize the capital, kyiv, failed.

“No matter how many Russian soldiers are taken there, we will fight,” Zelenskyy promised. “We will defend ourselves.”

Troops battled through the streets of Kreminna on Monday before Russia could take control of the city, according to Luhansk regional military administrator Serhiy Haidai.

Haidai said that before advancing, Russian forces “just started leveling everything to the ground.” He said his forces withdrew to regroup and continue fighting.

The Kreminna breakthrough brings the Russians closer to the city of Sloviansk, considered a key target of the Russian offensive. Sloviansk was seized by pro-Russian fighters in 2014, only to be retaken by Ukrainian forces months later after heavy fighting.

Russian troops have already captured the town of Izyum, which lies along a highway north of Sloviansk, and they are about to push towards the town from the north and east. Sloviansk is just north of another key town, Kramatorsk, where an earlier Russian attack on a train station killed more than 50 people.

On Monday morning, Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security Council, told Ukrainian media that the defensive line had not been broken elsewhere.

“Fortunately, our army is holding up,” Danilov said.

In Mariupol, Denys Prokopenko, commander of the Azov regiment of the Ukrainian National Guard, said in a video message that Russia had started dropping bunker busters on the Azovstal steelworks where the regiment was resisting.

The sprawling factory contains a maze of tunnels where combatants and civilians take shelter. It is believed to be the last major pocket of resistance in the shattered city.

Russia has surrounded Mariupol and is fighting a bloody battle to take it. If Russia takes Mariupol, it would free up troops for use elsewhere in the Donbass, deprive Ukraine of a vital port and complete a land bridge between Russia and the Crimean peninsula, seized from Ukraine from 2014 .

In western Ukraine, near the Polish border, at least seven people were reported killed in missile strikes on Lviv on Monday.

Lviv has been a haven for civilians fleeing fighting elsewhere. And to the growing anger of the Kremlin, the city has also become a major gateway for NATO-supplied weapons.

The attack hit three military facilities and a car shop, according to the region’s governor, Maksym Kozytskyy.

A hotel housing Ukrainians who had fled fighting in other parts of the country was also badly damaged, Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said.

“The nightmare of war caught up with us even in Lviv,” said Lyudmila Turchak, who fled with two children from Kharkiv in the east.

Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, was hit Monday by a bombardment that killed at least three people, according to Associated Press journalists on the spot. Shelling could be heard overnight and into Tuesday morning in the main eastern city, which has been hit several times but remains firmly under Ukrainian control.

Moscow said its missiles hit military targets in eastern and central Ukraine, including ammunition depots, command headquarters and groups of troops and vehicles. He reported that his artillery hit hundreds of Ukrainian targets and that warplanes carried out 108 strikes on troops and military equipment. The claims could not be independently verified.

General Richard Dannatt, the former head of the British army, told Sky News that Russia was carrying out a “softening up” campaign ahead of the Donbass offensive.

A senior US defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss Pentagon assessments on the war, said there were now 76 Russian combat units, known as battalion battle groups, in eastern and southern Ukraine, up from 65 last week. This could translate to around 50,000 to 60,000 troops, based on what the Pentagon said at the start of the war, that was the typical strength of a unit of 700 to 800 troops.


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