The scope and underlying reasons for the statement are still difficult to determine. Russia announced on Friday, March 25, that it now wants to focus its efforts on “liberation” in eastern Ukraine, thirty days after launching a full-scale invasion of the country.
“The main objectives of the first phase of the operation have been met. The combat capacity of the Ukrainian forces has been significantly reduced, which allows (…) to concentrate most of its efforts on the main objective: the liberation of the Donbass “said Deputy Chief of Staff of the Russian General Staff Sergei Rudskoy.
The announcement of this reorientation of Moscow’s military targets comes as the front lines have hardly moved for several days. Russia’s most important progress was in eastern and southern Ukraine, but it did not conquer, apart from Kherson, major cities.
The Ukrainian Donbass has since 2014 been partially controlled by pro-Russian separatists. Just before the offensive on 24 February, Russia had recognized the independence of the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk and launched its military intervention, in particular with the official aim of protecting them from a suspected “genocide” orchestrated by the Ukrainian authorities.
“See more evidence on the spot”
A diplomatic source in Moscow said the Defense Ministry’s announcement was a face-saving move and could be a prelude to a reduction in Russian operations. “Their war objectives were much broader than the Donbass, leaving their forces divided with poorly coordinated attacks on several fronts of ill-prepared troops.”she said. “We need to see more evidence on the spot,” add this source.
Asked about the subject at a press conference following the Brussels European Council, Emmanuel Macron was cautious. Conclude it “it’s the beginning of a retreat or a defeat, it would be counterproductive (…), it’s too early to say “presented the French President. “In any case, this indicates very clearly that an operation carried out on all sides was simultaneously thwarted by the heroic resistance of the Ukrainian people, that is what we have seen for several days.”he remarked.
Sergei Rudskoy explained that Russia had originally thought of limiting its operation to the Donbass region, but had eventually chosen to expand it to the whole of Ukraine in order to weaken its military capabilities and prevent Kiev from sending reinforcements to the eastern part of the country.
In Washington, a senior Pentagon official assessed that this new priority, which Moscow showed, could be a way to weigh on its talks with Kiev and cut off Ukrainian forces concentrated on the Donbass front from the rest of the country.
In the evening, without reference to it, Volodymyr Zelensky seemed to react to the Russian announcement. “ Ukrainian sovereignty must be guaranteed. “ said the Ukrainian president in his daily video speech. “Ukraine’s territorial integrity must be guaranteed”, he said, referring in particular to the negotiations with Moscow. A few days ago, however, he opened the door to possible discussions about Crimea and Donbass.
Because at the same time, it seems that the negotiations are going awry. “The positions converge at the secondary points. But in the main [questions] politicians, we step on the water ”, thus released Vladimir Medinski, the Russian chief negotiator. The conversations are “very difficult”added the Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and rejected any “consensus” currently with Moscow.
In addition, the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Russian General Staff stated this “1,351 soldiers killed and 3,825 wounded” in the Russian ranks. The previous official report from Moscow, given on March 2, announced the deaths of 498 soldiers in Ukraine. kyiv in turn reports much greater losses from the Moscow army. In his video message from Friday night, Mr Zelensky presented the number of 16,000 dead without it being possible to confirm the Ukrainian president’s words.
In addition, Mr. Rudskoy described as “big mistake” western countries supply of weapons to Kiev. “This prolongs the conflict, increases the number of victims and will have no effect on the outcome of the operation” he declared. He added that Russia “would respond accordingly” if NATO in vain created a no-fly zone over Ukraine, as Kiev has been asking for for several weeks.
“The Russian army will continue to carry out this special military operation until all targets are reached”confirmed for his part that the spokesman for the Russian Ministry of Defense, Igor Konashenkov, echoed the remarks of the Vice-President of the Russian Security Council, Dmitry Medvedev, who, using the rhetoric of Vladimir Putin, had emphasized that the current military operation was “Continue until it reaches its goal of demilitarizing and de-Nazifying Ukraine”.
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