If successful, the Russian attack on the Donbass will essentially split in two Ukraine and gave President Vladimir Putin a much-needed victory after Moscow’s failed attempt at the capital, Kiev.
The eastern cities of Kharkiv and Kramatorsk came under heavy attack. Russia also said it hit the areas around Zaporizhzhia and Dnipro in the Western Donbass with missiles.
The regional governor said multiple explosions were heard early Wednesday in the southern city of Mykolaiv. A missile attack on a hospital was previously reported in the nearby town of Bashtanka.
In Mariupol, the now devastated port city in the Donbass, the Ukrainian military said Russian troops dropped heavy bombs to flatten the remains of a steel mill and hit a hospital where hundreds of people were living. are sheltering.
However, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said Moscow’s forces were only shelling Ukrainian military sites, including troop concentrations and missile warheads. Those claims cannot be independently verified.
In a new phase of the war, Russia began its offensive along a front extending more than 300 miles (480km) from northeastern Ukraine to its southeast on April 18. Ukraine’s military said Russian forces managed to “penetrate our defenses along almost the entire front line”.
In his nightly address to the nation, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the Russian military is throwing all they have into battle, with most of its combat-ready forces now concentrated in Ukraine and right across Russia’s border.
“They have poured everyone and everything they can against Ukraine,” he said, despite Russia’s claim to only hit military sites, they continued to target residential areas and kill civilians. often. “The Russian army in this war is writing its name in world history forever as the most barbaric and inhuman army in the world,” Zelenskyy said.
A few weeks ago, after Russia gave up its attempt to capture Kiev, the Kremlin announced that its main goal was to capture the mostly Russian-speaking Donbass, where Moscow-backed separatists have been battling forces Ukraine for 8 years.
A Russian victory in the Donbass would deprive Ukraine of concentrated industrial assets, including mines, metalworks and heavy equipment factories.
A senior US defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the Pentagon’s assessment of the war, said Russia has added two more combat units (known as battalion-level combat groups). in Ukraine in the previous 24 hours.
According to the official, the total number of units that Russia has deployed throughout Ukraine has risen to 78, all in the south and east, up from 65 last week.
That means the number has grown to about 55,000 to 62,000 men, based on what the Pentagon said at the start of the war that a typical unit strength was between 700 and 800 men. But it is very difficult to determine the exact combat capabilities of Russia at this stage.
Likewise, a European official who spoke on condition of anonymity said Russia also has 10,000 to 20,000 foreign fighters in the Donbass. According to the official, they are a combination of mercenaries from Russia’s private Wagner Corporation and Russian proxies from Syria and Libya.
While Ukraine described the April 18 attacks as the beginning of a long feared offensive in the East, some observers noted that escalation had been going on there for some time and questioned. Ask if this is really the start of a new attack.
The US official said the offensive in Donbass had begun in a limited manner, mainly in the area southwest of the city of Donetsk and south of Izyum.
Justin Crump, a former British tank commander who now works for the strategic consulting firm Sibylline, said Ukraine’s comments could in part be an attempt to persuade allies to send in more weapons.
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