Ukraine war: Russia begins Donbas offensive

Russian forces launched an attack on eastern Ukraine Monday, attempting to break through Ukrainian lines in the Donbas area, the secretary of Ukraine’s defense council said.

“This morning, along almost the entire front line of Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv regions, the occupiers attempted to break through our defenses,” Oleksiy Danilov said in televised comments.

“They began their attempt to start the active phase this morning,” he added.

The Pentagon did not dispute Ukrainian reports, Monday, but characterized the attacks as so-called “shaping operations” in preparation of a larger, future assault.

“We still consider what we’re seeing to be a piece of shaping operations, that the Russians are continuing to set the conditions for what they believe will be eventual success on the ground,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

“We believe that the Russians are shaping and setting the conditions for future offensive operations. We also see that there is active combat going on the the Donbas — as there has been for the last several weeks,” he added.

Smoke over Ukraine
Russian forces began their expected attack on eastern Ukraine, attempting to break through Ukrainian lines in the Donbas area.
AFP via Getty Images

The Donbas, made up primarily of the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts along Ukraine’s eastern border with Russia, has been the site of sporadic fighting since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and Moscow’s simultaneous backing of Donbas separatist movements.

After Russian forces failed to take Kyiv last month, the Kremlin announced it was refocusing its efforts on taking the Donbas, while continuing to shell the whole of Ukraine.

Monday’s reports of fighting in the region come after days of Russian forces massing near Izyum, a city in the Kharkiv oblast just outside the Donbas.

The assault also comes just hours after a massive Russian bombardment campaign struck targets throughout Ukraine, including as far west as Lviv, near the Polish border. Russian authorities reported striking military targets in Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, Dnipro and Mykolaiv, as well as in Donetsk in the heart of the Donbas.

Tank
The Donbas has been the site of sporadic fighting since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.
REUTERS

Meanwhile, the Pentagon assesses that Russia has reinforced its troops in southern and eastern Ukraine, adding tens of thousands of soldiers to the region across at least ten new battalion tactical groups.

Mariupol, a strategic port city in the southern Donbas, has continued to hold out against a Russian onslaught, though its defenders are dwindling. Ukrainian control of the city is the primary impediment to Russian forces in Crimea entering the Donbas.

Experts have predicted that any full-scale Russian assault on the Donbas would occur following Mariupol’s capture.

With Post wires

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