The secretary of Ukraine’s Defense Council said Russian forces launched their expected attack on eastern Ukraine on Monday, attempting to breach Ukrainian lines in the Donbass region.
“This morning, along almost the entire front line of the Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv regions, the occupiers attempted to break through our defenses,” Oleksiy Danilov said in televised comments.
“They began this morning trying to start the active phase,” he said.
The Donbass, mainly composed of Luhansk and Donetsk Oblasts along Ukraine’s eastern border with Russia, has been the site of sporadic fighting since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the simultaneous support of Donbass separatist movements.
After Russian forces failed to capture Kyiv last month, the Kremlin announced it was refocusing its efforts to capture the Donbass, while shelling continued across Ukraine.
Reports of fighting in the region on Monday came days after Russian forces crowded near Izium, a town in the Kharkiv region just outside the Donbass.
The attack also came hours after it came under the target of a massive Russian bombing campaign across Ukraine. including as far west as Lviv, near the Polish border. Russian officials reported attacks on military bases in Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhya, Dnipro and Mykolaiv, as well as in Donetsk in the center of the Donbass.
Mariupol, a strategic port city in the southern Donbass, has continued to defend itself against Russian attack, although its defenders are shrinking. Ukrainian control of the city is the primary obstacle for Russian forces entering the Donbass in Crimea.
Experts predicted that any full-scale Russian attack on the Donbass would be followed by the capture of Mariupol.
post with wires