The battle for Donbas – What you need to know

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has said the battle for Donbas has begun. As Russia has launched an assault to seize the eastern Donbas region of Ukraine

Moscow bombarded cities with rocket and artillery fire on Monday and in a video address Mr Zelensky said that “the battle for Donbas has begun”.

Ukraine’s top security official, Oleksiy Danilov, said that Russia tried to break through the Ukrainian front lines in the region.

Video shows Ukrainian forces in Mariupol ambushing a Russian military convoy

The battle for Donbass

The offensive has been long-expected after Russia failed to seize Kyiv.

Russia initially appeared to want to capture major Ukrainian cities and topple the government.

But after facing stiff resistance, Russian defence officials said that its main objectives in the “first stage of the operation” had been “generally accomplished” and its forces were moved from areas around the capital.

They announced plans to redirect the focus of the invasion towards the “liberation” of the Russian speaking Donbas region.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has portrayed the invasion as an attempt to demilitarise and “denazify” Ukraine, something Ukraine and its allies dismiss as a ruse for the attack.

The change in Russia’s objectives as set out by President Vladimir Putin during a speech last week, where he announced that his aim was “to help the people who live in the Donbas, who feel their unbreakable bond with Russia”.

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What you need to know – major Ukrainian cities hit hard

The governor of the Luhansk region said the situation was “hell”, with constant fighting being reported in some cities.

In Ukraine’s second city of Kharkiv, the regional governor said evacuations of civilians were taking place in areas where intense clashes are expected.

Russian defence officials said its forces had hit hundreds of military targets in Ukraine on Sunday night, including 16 military facilities in the Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk and Dnipropetrovsk regions, as well as a port in Mykolayiv in the south and east of Ukraine.

Zelensky speaks via video link

Speaking in a video message on Monday night, Mr Zelensky said that he and his forces “will defend ourselves” and pledged “not give up anything Ukrainian“.

“A very large part of the entire Russian army is now focused on this offensive, The battle for Donbas” he added, but said that Ukraine’s forces will fight on “no matter how many Russian troops are driven there, we will fight”.

Moscow claimed last month that it controlled 93% of Luhansk and 54% of Donetsk and its forces are expected to try and encircle the remaining Ukrainian troops in the region.

But they face a protracted fight with some of Kyiv’s most battle-hardened troops. Ukraine is believed to have between 40-50,000 soldiers in the Donbas, many of whom have spent years fighting against Russian-backed separatists forces in the region.

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