Ukraine says ‘battle for Donbas’ has BEGUN as powerful blasts heard along eastern front – World News


Footage appearing to be of heavy Russian shelling in the east of Ukraine has been shared online while Ukrainian officials have said there have been powerful explosions as the ‘battle for Donbas’ has started

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Ukraine: Zelensky marks start of Russian offensive in Donbas

The ‘battle for Donbas’ has begun as Russian forces launch an all-out onslaught of eastern Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin ‘s war machine has commenced its bombardment of the east with chilling footage posted on social media showing the night sky lit-up amid the relentless fresh shelling of cities.

Kremlin forces launched their long-anticipated offensive through the east of Ukraine in what is being seen as the second phase of the conflict, beginning from Monday night.

Footage on social media appears to show repeated heavy shelling centred in the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk while Ukrainian media reported some powerful explosions in the cities of Marinka, Slavyansk and Kramatorsk.

Ukrainian officials and media also said explosions were heard in Kharkiv in the northeast of Ukraine, Mykolaiv in the south and Zaporizhzhia in the southeast.

Air raid sirens were also going off in main centres near the front line.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia had begun the “Battle of Donbas” and that a “very large part of the entire Russian army is now focused on this offensive”.

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“No matter how many Russian troops they send there, we will fight. We will defend ourselves,” he said in a video address.

Zelensky’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.

Ukraine’s top security official, Oleksiy Danilov, said Russian forces attempted to break through Ukrainian defences “along almost the entire front line of Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv regions”.

Driven back by Ukrainian forces in the north, Russia has refocused its ground offensive in the two eastern provinces known as the Donbas, while launching long-distance strikes at other targets including the capital, Kyiv.

Donbas has been the focal point of Russia’s campaign to destabilise Ukraine, starting in 2014 when the Kremlin used proxies to set up two separatist “people’s republics” in the ex-Soviet state. It is also home to much of Ukraine’s industrial wealth, including coal and steel.

Russia’s defence ministry said it had hit hundreds of military targets in Ukraine overnight.

At the same time the governor of the Russian province of Belgorod said on Tuesday that Ukrainian forces have struck a village near Russia’s border with Ukraine, wounding one resident.

It was not immediately clear whether the strike on the village of Golovchino that figured in posts by governor Vyacheslav Gladkov on messaging app Telegram was carried out by artillery, mortars, missiles or was an aerial attack.

This month, Russia accused Ukraine, which it invaded in late February, of a helicopter attack on a fuel depot in Belgorod, as well as of shelling villages there several times, and firing missiles at an ammunition depot.

Russia calls its action in Ukraine a “special military operation”.

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