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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday said Russia’s large-scale offensive in the eastern Donbas region had begun.  

After weeks of having their assaults on Kyiv thwarted at every turn, Putin‘s commanders are now refocusing their efforts on the Donbas region that pro-Moscow separatists have partly controlled since 2014.

Russia withdrew many of its troops from the region around the Ukrainian capital at the start of the month, and in recent weeks fighting has intensified as the bulk of Russian troops redeployed to a swathe of territory to the south-east of Kharkiv.  

‘We can now confirm that Russian troops have begun the battle for the Donbas, which they have been preparing for a long time. A large part of the Russian army is now dedicated to this offensive,’ Zelensky said on Telegram.

‘No matter how many Russian soldiers are brought here, we will fight. We will defend ourselves.

‘I am grateful to all our fighters, to all our heroic cities in Donbass, Mariupol, as well as to the cities in the region of Kharkiv that are being held.’ 

The offensive in the Donbas marks a new phase of the war which will see Russia double down on its efforts to seize the territories of Donetsk and Luhansk after attempts to seize cities across Ukraine were repelled. 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday said Russia's large-scale offensive in the eastern Donbas region had begun

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday said Russia's large-scale offensive in the eastern Donbas region had begun

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday said Russia’s large-scale offensive in the eastern Donbas region had begun

After weeks of having their assaults on Kyiv thwarted at every turn, Putin's commanders are now refocusing their efforts on the Donbas region that pro-Moscow separatists have partly controlled since 2014

After weeks of having their assaults on Kyiv thwarted at every turn, Putin's commanders are now refocusing their efforts on the Donbas region that pro-Moscow separatists have partly controlled since 2014

After weeks of having their assaults on Kyiv thwarted at every turn, Putin’s commanders are now refocusing their efforts on the Donbas region that pro-Moscow separatists have partly controlled since 2014

The Ukrainian flag flutters between buildings destroyed in bombardment, in the Ukrainian town of Borodianka, in the Kyiv region on April 17, 2022

The Ukrainian flag flutters between buildings destroyed in bombardment, in the Ukrainian town of Borodianka, in the Kyiv region on April 17, 2022

The Ukrainian flag flutters between buildings destroyed in bombardment, in the Ukrainian town of Borodianka, in the Kyiv region on April 17, 2022

A man walks near a residential building destroyed during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 17, 2022

A man walks near a residential building destroyed during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 17, 2022

A man walks near a residential building destroyed during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 17, 2022

Shortly before Zelensky’s address, the regional governor of the eastern Lugansk region Sergiy Gaiday also announced the beginning of Russia’s much-anticipated attack.

‘It’s hell. The offensive has begun, the one we’ve been talking about for weeks. There’s constant fighting in Rubizhne and Popasna, fighting in other peaceful cities,’ he said on Facebook.

Russian shelling killed at least eight civilians in eastern Ukraine on Monday, according to local authorities.

Gaiday said four people died as they tried to flee the city of Kreminna in Lugansk, which Russian forces captured on Monday.

In the neighbouring region of Donetsk, regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said four other civilians died after Russian bombardment.

A large Russian offensive in the Donbas region had been predicted by Ukraine’s army for weeks.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he launched the military operation to save the region’s Russian-speaking population from a ‘genocide’ carried out by a ‘neo-Nazi’ Kyiv regime.

Putin recognised the independence of two self-proclaimed separatist republics in Donetsk and Lugansk shortly before the full-scale Russian invasion began on February 24.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he launched the military operation to save the region's Russian-speaking population from a 'genocide' carried out by a 'neo-Nazi' Kyiv regime

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he launched the military operation to save the region's Russian-speaking population from a 'genocide' carried out by a 'neo-Nazi' Kyiv regime

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he launched the military operation to save the region’s Russian-speaking population from a ‘genocide’ carried out by a ‘neo-Nazi’ Kyiv regime 

Colonel Ivan Grishin, Commander of the 49th anti-aircraft missile brigade of the Russian Army's tactical air defence unit, is reported to have been killed in Ukraine

Colonel Ivan Grishin, Commander of the 49th anti-aircraft missile brigade of the Russian Army's tactical air defence unit, is reported to have been killed in Ukraine

Colonel Ivan Grishin, Commander of the 49th anti-aircraft missile brigade of the Russian Army’s tactical air defence unit, is reported to have been killed in Ukraine

His army’s assault on the Donbas regions comes as Ukraine’s armed forces declared more than 20,000 Russian troops have died since the start of the invasion.

According to the latest figures, a total of 20,600 Russian servicemen have been confirmed dead by the Ukrainian authorities, while even the most conservative Western estimates, given at the start of the month, put the Russian death toll between 7,000-15,000. 

As the war entered its 54th day, Ukrainian authorities also announced that Colonel Ivan Grishin, commander of Russia’s 49th anti-aircraft missile brigade, was killed amid fighting near Kharkiv

His death pushed the number of Russia’s high-ranking military commanders to have died on the frontlines to 35. 

Source: Daily Mail

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