On day 55 of the Russia-Ukraine war, Moscow said it has begun another phase of the conflict with Kyiv after it launched dozens of airstrikes across eastern Ukraine. The Ukrainian military also confirmed that fighting had escalated throughout the East. “The Russian occupiers intensified offensive operations along the entire line of contact,” news agency AFP quoted the general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces as saying.
Russia’s defence ministry said that “high-precision air-based missiles” had hit 13 Ukrainian positions in parts of the Donbas while other airstrikes “hit 60 military assets”, including in towns close to the eastern frontline. The new offensive was also acknowledged by Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov during an interview. “Another phase of this operation is beginning and I am sure it will be a very important moment in this entire special operation,” AFP quoted Lavrov.
Here are top developments of the day:
>Ukraine said the aim of Russia’s new offensive in eastern Ukraine was to seize all of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, establish a land link between those territories and Crimea, and destroy Ukraine’s armed forces. A senior US official said the latest offensive was the prelude to a much larger assault.
>Russian forces seized Kreminna – a city of over 18,000 people in eastern Ukraine –, the regional governor said.
>Amid fear over the possible use of nuclear arms in the war, Russia has said it will use only conventional weapons in Ukraine. Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov was speaking with India Today.
>Russia’s defence ministry said it had opened a corridor for Ukrainian forces who wanted to lay down their arms and safely leave the Azovstal steel works in the besieged city of Mariupol.
>Meanwhile, as fighting raged, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in a grim forecast said Ukraine is expected to suffer a 35 per cent collapse of its economy this year, while Russia’s GDP will drop 8.5 per cent — more than 11 points below the pre-war expectations. “The economic effects of the war are spreading far and wide — like seismic waves that emanate from the epicentre of an earthquake,” said IMF chief economist Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas.
>US President Joe Biden held a video call with its allies on the latest developments in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “The purpose of the call was “to discuss our continued support for Ukraine and efforts to hold Russia accountable as part of our close coordination,” the White House said on Tuesday.
>UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for a four-day “humanitarian pause” in fighting in Ukraine, starting Thursday to coincide with Orthodox Christians’ Holy Week observances. Noting that the Easter season is coming amid an intensifying Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine, the UN chief said the need for a “humanitarian pause” is all the more urgent.
(With inputs from AFP, Reuters, AP)