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Russia pours in more troops and presses attack in the east – Press Telegram

By ADAM SCHRECK

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) – Russia stormed cities and towns along a 100-kilometer-long boomerang-shaped front and dumped more troops into Ukraine on Tuesday in a potentially key battle for control of the eastern core of coal mines and factories. of the country.

If successful, the Russian offensive in what is known as the Donbas would essentially cut Ukraine in two and give President Vladimir Putin a much-needed victory after a failed attempt by Moscow forces to storm the capital, Kiev, and almost more seriously. expected. two months of war.

The eastern cities of Kharkiv and Kramatorsk suffered a deadly attack. Russia also said it had fired missile zones around Zaporizhzhia and the Dnipro west of the Donbass. Multiple explosions were heard in the southern city of Mykolaiv on Wednesday morning, the regional governor said. A hospital was previously bombed in the nearby town of Bashtanka.

In Mariupol, the now devastated port city of Donbas, Ukrainian troops said the Russian army dropped heavy bombs to crush what was left of an expanding steel plant and hit a hospital that housed hundreds of people.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said Moscow forces had bombed numerous Ukrainian military sites, including troop concentrations and missile warhead storage depots, in or near several cities or villages. These statements could not be independently verified.

In what both sides described as a new phase of the war, the Russian assault began on Monday along a front that stretches more than 300 miles (480 kilometers) from northeastern Ukraine to the southeast of the country. The Ukrainian army said Russian forces had tried to “break through our defenses along almost the entire front line.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the Russian army was launching everything it had into battle, with most of its ready-to-fight forces now concentrated in Ukraine and across the border with Russia.

“They have taken almost everyone and everything that is capable of fighting us against Ukraine,” he said in his nightly video to the nation.

Despite Russian claims to attack only military sites, they continue to target residential areas and kill civilians, he said.

“The Russian army in this war is going down in world history forever as the most barbaric and inhumane army in the world,” Zelenskyy said.

Weeks ago, following the failed Russian push to take Kiev, the Kremlin said its main goal was to capture the mostly Russian-speaking Donbas, where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces for eight years.

A Russian victory in the Donbas would deprive Ukraine of industrial assets concentrated there, including mines, metal plants and heavy equipment factories.

A senior U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the Pentagon’s assessments of the war, said the Russians had added two more combat units, known as battalion tactical groups, in Ukraine for the past 24 hours. That raised the total number of units in the country to 78, all in the south and east, up from 65 last week, the official said.

That would translate into about 55,000 to 62,000 troops, according to what the Pentagon said at the start of the war was the typical unit strength of 700 to 800 soldiers. But to accurately determine Russia’s fighting capacity at this stage is difficult.

A European official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military assessments, said Russia also has between 10,000 and 20,000 foreign fighters in the Donbas. They are a mix of mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner private group and Russian proxy fighters from Syria and Libya, according to the official.

While Ukraine described Monday’s attacks as the start of the much-feared offensive in the east, some observers noted that there had long been an escalation there and questioned whether this was really the start of a new offensive.

The U.S. official said the offensive in the Donbas began in a limited way, mainly in an area southwest of the city of Donetsk and south of Izyum.

Justin Crump, a former British tank commander now with strategic advisory firm Sibylline, said the Ukrainian comments could be partly an attempt to persuade allies to send more weapons.

“I think what they’re trying to do by positioning this is … concentrate people’s minds and efforts on saying,‘ Look, the conflict started in the Donbas, ’” Crump said. “This puts pressure on NATO and EU suppliers in part to say, ‘Guys, we’re starting to fight now. We need this now. ”

President Joe Biden is expected to announce a new package of weapons in the coming days that will include additional artillery and ammunition, according to a U.S. official, who was not allowed to comment publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also said his country will send heavy artillery to Ukraine. And Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has told Zelensky that the Netherlands will send more heavy weapons, including armored vehicles.

Western weapons have played a key role in allowing over-armed Ukrainians to drive Russians away.

Journalists from the Associated Press in Kharkiv said at least four people had been killed and three injured in a Russian attack on a residential area of ​​the city. The attack occurred when residents were trying to maintain a sense of normalcy, with municipal workers planting spring flowers in public areas.

An explosion also shook Kramatorsk, killing at least one person and injuring three, according to AP journalists at the scene.

In Bashtanka, an unspecified number of people were injured when Russian forces bombed the hospital, destroying the reception area and the dialysis unit, regional council chief Hanna Zamazeeva said on Facebook. Bashtanka is about 70 kilometers (40 miles) north of Mykolaiv.

Eyewitness accounts and official reports gave a broad picture of the scope of the Russian advance. But independent reports in parts of the Donbas held by Russian and separatist forces are very limited, so it is difficult to know what is happening in many places on the ground.

Military experts say the Russian target is to surround Ukrainian troops in the north, south and east.

The key to the campaign is the capture of Mariupol, which would deprive Ukraine of a vital port and complete a land bridge between Russia and the Crimean peninsula, seized from Ukraine in 2014. It would also free Russian troops to move elsewhere from the Donbas.

A few thousand Ukrainian troops, according to Russian estimates, remained locked in a Mariupol steel plant, which represented what was believed to be the city’s last major source of resistance.

Russia has issued a new ultimatum to Ukrainian defenders to surrender on Wednesday after a previous ultimatum was ignored. The Russian Defense Ministry said that those who surrender will be able to live and receive medical treatment. There was no immediate response from Ukrainian troops, but they repeatedly promised not to give up.

Instead, the deputy commander of the Azov regiment, who was among the remaining troops in Mariupol, said the Russian military dropped heavy bombs on the steel plant and hit an “improvised” hospital. “We’re pulling people out from under the rubble,” Sviatoslav Palamar told Radio Liberty.

Serhiy Taruta, the former governor of the Donetsk region and a native of Mariupol, also reported the bombing of the hospital, where he said 300 people, including wounded soldiers and civilians with children, were protected.

Reports could not be independently confirmed.

Zelenskyy said the Kremlin had not responded to a proposal to swap Viktor Medvedchuk, the jailed leader of a pro-Russia party, for Mariupol defenders.

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Associated Press journalists Mstyslav Chernov and Philip Dana in Kharkiv, Ukraine; Danica Kirka in London; and Robert Burns and Aamer Madhani in Washington contributed to this report, as did other AP staff members around the world.

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Follow AP war coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

Russia pours in more troops and presses attack in the east – Press Telegram Source link Russia pours in more troops and presses attack in the east – Press Telegram

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