Battle for Donbas: Russian forces begin fresh offensive on eastern front

18 April 2022, 23:03 | Updated: 19 April 2022, 12:44

By Emma Soteriou

Russian forces have launched a fresh assault on Ukrainian positions along the entire 300-mile front line in the eastern Donbas region.

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The renewed Russian attack comes after weeks of failed attempts by the invaders to take over Ukraine's capital Kyiv.

Instead, commanders are refocusing their efforts on the pro-Russian Donbas region, which separatists have partly controlled since 2014.

Russian forces have launched an attack along a broad front in eastern Ukraine on Tuesday as part of the ground offensive.

They also unleashed a barrage of rocket and artillery fire on a number of eastern areas, with eight civilians killed in the city of Kreminna in Luhansk and in the Donetsk area.

Speaking in a video address, Mr Zelenskyy said: "The Russian troops have begun the battle for the Donbas, for which they have been preparing for a long time. 

"A significant part of the entire Russian army is now concentrated on this offensive."

He added: "No matter how many Russian troops are driven there, we will fight. We will defend ourselves. We will do it every day."

Zelenskyy's announcement followed statements from several senior officials suggesting a new stage of the war had begun on Monday.

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Security council secretary Oleksiy Danilov said: "This morning, along almost the entire front line of Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv regions, the occupiers attempted to break through our defences. 

"They began their attempt to start the active phase this morning."

Meanwhile, Ukraine's presidential chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, said on Telegram that "the second phase of the war has started".

He added: "Believe in our army, it is very strong."

The regional governor of the eastern Lugansk region, Sergiy Gaiday, also confirmed the much-anticipated attack prior to the president's address.

He said in a Facebook post: "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."

Earlier on Monday, missile strikes were said to have killed at least seven people in the western city of Lviv, with 11 also injured in the attack.

The city had been largely unscathed from Russian attacks since the conflict began, with the strikes causing the first civilian deaths to be recorded there.

Mayor Andriy Sadovyi said it showed that there were now "no safe and unsafe locations" in Ukraine.

"Everyone is unsafe," he added.

The move came as a surprise for many, with Lviv being located hundreds of miles from the front line in the east of the country.