Russia steps up offensive in east Ukraine; Kyiv says Putin’s forces eyeing Donetsk-Luhansk

As Russia is gathering its army for an operation in Ukraine’s east, a top Russian commander revealed that the Russian forces have been trying to gain full control of southern Ukraine as well as the eastern Donbas. According to a CBS News report, as a part of the “second stage” of its offensive on Ukraine, Russia’s military announced on Friday that it intends to conquer all of Donbass and southern Ukraine, as well as go as far south as Moldova.

It is worth noting that the parts of Donbass are controlled by separatist groups, Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic. Further, the declaration establishes significantly broader military objectives than Moscow had previously acknowledged.

Rustam Minnekayev, the acting Central Military District Commander, stated at the Union of Defense Plants of the Sverdlovsk Region’s annual conference on Friday, “Since the beginning of the second stage of the special operation, and it started just two days ago, one of the tasks of the Russian army has been to take full control of Donbas and southern Ukraine,” CBS News reported.

Taking control of southern Ukraine would enable Russian force to access Transdniestria

Further, Minnekayev went on to say that Russia’s operation in east would enable the creation of a land route to Crimea and have a significant impact on key aspects of the Ukrainian economy. He added that taking control of southern Ukraine would enable the Russian force to access Transdniestria, where facts of mistreatment of the Russian-speaking people have also been documented.

Transnistria is a tiny Russian-speaking breakaway territory that borders Ukraine on the west. Transdniestria is the breakaway province of Moldova that is not recognised internationally but has pro-Russian officials and around 1,500 Russian soldiers deployed there.

Although it is uncertain whether General Minnekayev’s remarks were formally approved by the Kremlin, they were extensively reported in Russian state media outlets such as Interfax and Tass, BBC reported.

In addition to this, Moscow had asserted that “the first stage” of the invasion had been accomplished before the Russian troops retreated from Kyiv, and that it is now concentrating its attempts on the “liberation” of two eastern regions to bring them under the control of pro-Russian leaders in the breakaway region of Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, CBS News reported.

Military analysts, as well as Western authorities, have connected Russia’s pullback from Kyiv to heavy losses in soldiers and equipment, as Ukrainian resistance looked to have surpassed Russian expectations and thwarted Russia’s intended intention of seizing the city quickly and declaring victory.

However, as per the CBS News report, Russia looks to be scaling up its declared objectives, this time focusing on southern Ukrainian cities, despite the fact that earlier attempts to assault them have failed.

The major fighting is currently going on in Donbass: Ukraine’s security head

Meanwhile, the major fighting in Ukraine is currently occurring in the Donbass, the nation’s industrial heartland in the east, according to Ukraine’s security head, who added that Russia is deploying additional troops every day. More than 100,000 Russian forces, including mercenaries from Syria and Libya, are presently fighting in Ukraine, Associated Press reported citing Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council.

According to Danilov, amid the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, some of Russia’s elite military forces have left the vital Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, which the Kremlin declared “liberated” on Thursday, and are now going to the nation’s east to take part in the combat there.

(Image: AP)