War's 'Second Phase' Underway With Russia's Full-Scale Assault on Donbas
Russian troops have "begun" the battle for the Donbas after repositioning troops in the east and south of Ukraine, according to Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday.
The new major offensive in the 54-day war has been called "the second phase of the war."
"Now we can already state that the Russian troops have begun the battle for the Donbas, for which they have been preparing for a long time," he announced Monday 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, Kremlin declared the capture of the Donbas its main goal of the war after its attempt to storm Kyiv failed.
"No matter how many Russian troops are driven there, we will fight," Zelenskyy vowed. "We will defend ourselves. We will do it every day."
Large-scale Russian offensives are being reported to have begun from the northern city Kharkiv to the southern city of Mykolaiv. Russians are currently launching artillery attacks on Ukrainian positions all along the front for cover for the advance.
Ukraine's presidential chief of staff earlier Monday declared "the second phase of the war has started," referring to Russia's new assault in eastern Ukraine. His words echoed those of Ukraine's top security official, who said earlier Russia had launched its new offensive Monday morning.
"Believe in our army; it is very strong," chief of staff Andriy Yermak wrote on the Telegram messaging app, assuring Ukrainians that Ukraine's forces could hold off the offensive.
Information from The Associated Press and Reuters were used in this report.