Russia announces completion of first stage of military operation in Ukraine, main goal to 'liberate' Donbastext_fields
Moscow: Russia's defence ministry said on Friday that the first phase of its military operation in Ukraine was mostly complete and that it would focus on completely "liberating" eastern Ukraine's Donbas region.
Colonel-General Sergei Rudskoy, first deputy chief of Russia's General Staff, said at a briefing on Friday, "In general, the main tasks of the first stage of the operation have been completed. The combat potential of the armed forces of Ukraine has been significantly reduced, allowing us, I emphasise again, to focus the main efforts on achieving the main goal - the liberation of Donbas."
The announcement appeared to indicate that Russia may be switching to more limited goals after running into fierce Ukrainian resistance in the first month of the war.
Russian news agencies quoted the defence ministry as saying that Russian-backed separatists now controlled 93% of Ukraine's Luhansk region and 54% of the Donetsk region - the two areas that jointly make up the Donbas.
At the briefing, Rudskoy said that 1,351 Russian military personnel have been killed in Ukraine so far and 3,825 wounded. However, as per Nato, up to 15,000 Russian troops have died in the war.
Colonel-General Sergei Rudskoy said, "The public and individual experts are wondering what we are doing in the area of the blockaded Ukrainian cities. These actions are carried out with the aim of causing such damage to military infrastructure, equipment, personnel of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the results of which allow us not only to tie down their forces and prevent them from strengthening their grouping in the Donbas but also will not allow them to do this until the Russian army completely liberates the territories of the DPR and LNR."
DPR and LNR refer to the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics, separatist regions of Donbas in eastern Ukraine that Russia recognised prior to the invasion.
"Initially, we did not plan to storm them in order to prevent destruction and minimise losses among personnel and civilians. And although we do not exclude such a possibility, however, as individual groupings complete the tasks set, and they are successfully solved, our forces and means will be concentrated on the main thing -- the complete liberation of Donbas," Rudskoy said.
Although the Russian military has claimed it is not targeting civilians, there is overwhelming evidence that suggests the opposite.