LVIV: Russian forces have launched their anticipated offensive in eastern Ukraine, attempting to push through defences along almost the entire front line early on Tuesday (Apr 19) in what Ukrainian officials described as the second phase of the war.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia had begun the “Battle of Donbas” in the east and a “very large part of the entire Russian army is now focused on this offensive”.
“No matter how many Russian troops they send there, we will fight. We will defend ourselves,” he vowed in a video address.
Zelenskyy’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, assured Ukrainians their forces could hold off the offensive in “the second phase of the war”.
“Believe in our army, it is very strong,” he said.
There was no immediate comment from Russia’s defence ministry on the latest fighting. The governor of the Russian province of Belgorod said Ukrainian forces had struck a border village, wounding one resident.
Ukrainian media reported a series of explosions, some powerful, along the front line in the Donetsk region, with shelling taking place in Marinka, Slavyansk and Kramatorsk.
BEIJING: China told Russia that it will continue to increase “strategic coordination” with it regardless of international volatility, the foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday (Apr 19).
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng gave this assurance to the Russian ambassador to China, Andrey Denisov, on Monday, the statement said.
Le cited the almost 30 per cent increase in China-Russia trade in the first three months of this year as evidence of the “resilience and endogenous power” of the cooperation between the two countries, according to the statement.
Both men also discussed Ukraine.
China has refrained from condemning Russia over Ukraine, where the United Nations has said there have been more than 2,000 civilian deaths since the war started on Feb 24.
Russia denies targeting civilians in what it calls a “special operation”.
Western capitals and Ukraine accuse Russian President Vladimir Putin of unprovoked aggression, and the White House said US President Joe Biden would hold a call with allies on Tuesday to discuss the Ukraine crisis, including on how to coordinate on holding Russia accountable.
French President Emmanuel Macron said his dialogue with Putin had stalled after mass killings were discovered in Ukraine.
The United Nations said on Monday the war’s civilian death toll had surpassed 2,000, reaching 2,072 as of midnight on Apr 17 from the start of the Russian invasion on Feb 24.
About 4 million Ukrainians have fled the country.
Russia denies targeting civilians in what it calls a special operation to demilitarise Ukraine and eradicate dangerous nationalists. It rejects what Kyiv says is evidence of atrocities, saying Ukraine has staged them to undermine peace talks.