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Kadyrov said Russian troops will launch further attacks against Kyiv, the besieged port of Mariupol and ‘all other’ Ukrainian cities after Putin’s men have taken control of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions in eastern Ukraine.
It comes amid warnings from British intelligence chiefs that Putin’s troops could use white phosphorous munitions in Mariupol as fighting there intensifies, with Ukrainian forces saying they are preparing for the ‘last battle’ in the city.
The Chechen leader vowed to launch their offensive on Kyiv and other cities, despite Russian troops retreating from the area to focus their assault on eastern Ukraine.
‘There will be an offensive… not only on Mariupol, but also on other places, cities and villages,’ Kadyrov said in a video posted on his Telegram channel.
‘Luhansk and Donetsk – we will fully liberate in the first place … and then take Kyiv and all other cities.’
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov today said Russian forces will launch a renewed offensive on Kyiv, despite Vladimir Putin moving his troops away from the Ukrainian capital
Rescuers carry the body of a woman, who was found inside a building that was destroyed by Russian shelling, amid Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine, in Borodyanka, Kyiv region, on Monday
Kadyrov, who has often described himself as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ‘foot soldier,’ said there should be no doubt about Kyiv.
‘I assure you: not one step will be taken back,’ Kadyrov said.
Russia has deployed Chechen fighters, reputed to be particularly fierce, in Mariupol. Capturing the city on the Sea of Azov would give Russia a land bridge to the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia seized from Ukraine and annexed eight years ago.
Tens of thousands of Russian troops are also heading to the regions of Luhansk and Donetsk – known collectively as the Donbas.
The Kremlin is seeking a victory there to justify its ‘special military operation’, which has failed to capture any major cities. According to Western officials, Russian commanders believe the Donbas represents their best chance of success.
They have retreated from other areas, including around Ukraine’s capital city Kyiv, to focus their efforts there. But Ukrainian forces are determined to push them back.
Russia is believed to be seeking a link between occupied Crimea and Moscow-backed separatist territories Donetsk and Lugansk in Donbas.
Kadyrov has been repeatedly accused by the United States and European Union of rights abuses, which he denies.
Moscow fought two wars with separatists in Chechnya, a mainly Muslim region in southern Russia, after the 1991 break-up of the Soviet Union.
But it has since poured huge sums of money into the region to rebuild it and given Kadyrov a large measure of autonomy.
Residents carry their belongings near buildings destroyed in the course of Ukraine-Russia conflict, in the southern port city of Mariupol on Sunday
Russia on Monday continued its shelling of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in eastern Ukraine, but battling Ukrainian forces repulsed several assaults and destroyed Russian tanks, vehicles and artillery equipment, the UK’s MoD said.
The MoD warned that Russia’s ‘continued reliance’ on unguided bombs in Ukraine increases the risk of further civilian casualties as the weapons decrease their ability to discriminate when targeting and conducting strikes.
Zelensky on Sunday warned Ukrainians to brave for a Russian onslaught in the country’s east within days, as he vowed that his forces will ‘respond’.
Russian-backed separatists have been fighting Ukraine in the eastern Donbas region since 2014 and parts of the region are under Moscow’s control.
‘Russian troops will move to even larger operations in the east of our state,’ Zelenksy said in his nightly address on Sunday. ‘They can use even more missiles against us, even more air bombs.
‘But we are preparing for their actions. We will respond.’
Lugansk governor Sergiy Gaiday warned that the region could suffer as badly as Mariupol, a besieged port city that even pro-Russian authorities say has been 70 percent ruined by fighting.
‘The battle for Donbas will last several days, but during these days our cities may be completely destroyed,’ Gaiday said.
In a later Telegram message, he said Russian troops knew that ‘there is no surviving critical or any other infrastructure in our area’.
‘Therefore, every shelling of the housing stock is a deliberate terrorist attack.’
Ukraine is believed to have tens of thousands of soldiers in the east, the majority of its military force, ahead of what is believed to be a decisive battle in the war.
Firefighters conduct work on debris after shelling hit residential areas at the Leninsky district’s Yelenovka village of the pro-Russian separatists-controlled Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, on Sunday
Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces are preparing for a ‘last battle’ to control the southern port of Mariupol, besieged by Russians since the invasion, marines in the city said Monday.
‘Today will probably be the last battle, as the ammunition is running out,’ the 36th marine brigade of the Ukrainian armed forces said on Facebook.
‘It’s death for some of us, and captivity for the rest,’ it added, saying it had been ‘pushed back’ and ‘surrounded’ by the Russian army.
It said it had been defending the port for 47 days and ‘did everything possible and impossible’ to retain control of the city.
Russian forces have said that fighting has recently centred around the city’s Azovstal iron and steel works and in the port.
The marines said that is where ‘the enemy gradually pushed us back’ and ‘surrounded us with fire, and is now trying to destroy us.’
The brigade said around half of its men are wounded, adding: ‘The mountain of wounded makes up almost half of the brigade. Those whose limbs are not torn off return to battle.’
‘The infantry was all killed and the shooting battles are now conducted by artillerymen, anti-aircraft gunners, radio operators, drivers and cooks. Even the orchestra.’
Rescuers search for bodies under the rubble of a building destroyed by Russian shelling in Borodyanka, Kyiv region, on Monday
The marines complained over a lack of support from Ukraine’s military leadership: ‘No one wants to communicate with us anymore because we’ve been written off.’
Mariupol has seen the most intense fighting since the Kremlin launched its attack on Ukraine, with the city being virtually razed to the ground. Thousands of civilians are thought to have died in the city.
A US defence expert told Sky News that the next three weeks will ‘determine the outcome of the war’ in Ukraine.
He said that whilst Putin’s troops had ‘reassessed their objectives in the war’ to focus on eastern Ukraine, their ‘major problem’ is whether they can ‘reconstitute enough combat power’ to take on a ‘very experienced’ Ukrainian force there.
The US defence expert said: ‘The next three weeks will be decisive. It will determine the outcome of the war.
‘If we in the West can increase our sense of urgency in supplying the Ukrainians, wrapped up to the level of the Berlin Airlift, the Ukrainians can really come out of this with a victory.’
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Monday that Russia will not pause its military operation in Ukraine for subsequent rounds of peace talks.
Russian officials say peace talks with Ukraine are not progressing as rapidly as they would like, and have accused the West of trying to derail negotiations by raising war crimes allegations against Russian troops in Ukraine, which Moscow denies.
Speaking in an interview with Russian state television, Lavrov said he saw no reason not to continue talks with Ukraine but insisted Moscow would not halt its military operation when the sides convene again.
Lavrov said that President Vladimir Putin had ordered to suspend military action during the first round of talks between Russian and Ukrainian negotiators in late February but that Moscow’s position had changed since.
‘After we became convinced that the Ukrainians were not planning to reciprocate, a decision was made that during the next rounds of talks, there would be no pause (in military action) so long as a final agreement is not reached,’ Lavrov said.