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Ukraine Defiant As Russia Launches Massive Offensive In East

By RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service April 19, 2022

The Ukrainian military says Russian forces have launched "aggressive actions" along almost the entire front line in eastern Ukraine, in what President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said was the start of the long-anticipated offensive in the eastern Donbas region.

Ukraine says Russian forces have launched attacks along the entire front line in the east as Moscow opens a new phase in its unprovoked invasion while blaming the West for prolonging the conflict by supplying weapons to Kyiv.

Ukraine's General Staff said on April 19 that thousands of Russian troops are fanning out their offensive on the 480-kilometer-long front line in the east in what President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said was the start of the "Battle of Donbas."

Ukrainian media reported powerful shelling in the Donetsk region in Maryinka, Slovyansk, and Kramatorsk, and officials said Russian forces were attempting to break through Ukrainian defenses "along almost the entire front line of the Donetsk, Luhansk, and Kharkiv regions."

After almost two months of unsuccessful attempts at seizing large and strategic cities despite intense and indiscriminate shelling, which has killed numerous civilians and caused widespread destruction, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced on April 19 that "another phase of this operation is starting now."

Russia has avoided calling its invasion of Ukraine a war, using instead the term "special military operation."

In Moscow, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the Russian military has "consistently implemented the plan to fully liberate" eastern Ukraine and accused the United States and other Western nations of supplying Ukraine with weapons so that the fighting continues "until the last Ukrainian."

Shoigu was shown on Russia's state Rossiya 24 TV channel, but it was not clear whether the footage was broadcast live or prerecorded. If confirmed, this would be 66-year-old Shoigu's first public appearance in days, amid reports he might have serious health problems.

In a video address on April 18, Zelenskiy vowed to repel the Russian troops despite their overwhelming advantage in manpower and weaponry.

The Russian Defense Ministry claimed on April 19 that its forces struck 1,260 targets in Ukraine overnight and downed a Ukrainian MiG-29 jet in the Donetsk region. The claim could not be independently confirmed.

On April 18, a series of Russian missile strikes on military infrastructure in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv killed at least seven people.

A hotel sheltering Ukrainians who had fled fighting in other parts of the country was among the buildings badly damaged, Lviv Mayor Andriy Sadoviy said.

Russia said the strikes on Lviv destroyed a large depot of foreign weapons recently delivered to Ukraine and an ammunition storage facility in the Kyiv region.

Ukraine's Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on April 19 that no humanitarian corridors have been agreed upon with Russia for a third successive day, leaving thousands trapped in several cities, including the besieged port of Mariupol.

"Unfortunately, there are no humanitarian corridors. Intense shelling continues in the Donbas," Vereshchuk said in a statement posted on her Telegram channel on April 19.

"We continue difficult negotiations on the opening of humanitarian corridors in the Kherson and Kharkiv regions," she added.

The continuing siege of Mariupol in Ukraine's southeast has caused "significant" civilian casualties and destroyed "large areas of infrastructure," Ukraine's Defense Ministry said.

An estimated 100,000 people remained in city -- out of its prewar population of 450,000 -- trapped without food, water, heat or electricity, Ukrainian officials say.

Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said Ukrainian forces defending Mariupol will fight to the end against Russian troops and denied that the city has fallen.

Russia's military says it controls almost all of Mariupol, while Ukraine's Azov Battalion is still holding out in the vast Azovstal steel plant.

Meanwhile, Western nations and their allies continue to discuss ways to ratchet up the pressure on Moscow to end its aggression.

U.S. President Joe Biden convened a virtual meeting of allies on April 19 to discuss the Ukraine conflict, the White House said.

The videoconference brought together the leaders of France, Britain, Germany, Romania, Poland, Italy, Canada, and Japan. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg also took part in the call, as well as the presidents of the European Commission and the European Council.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres denounced Russia's fresh offensive in eastern Ukraine and called for a four-day truce to mark Orthodox Holy Week.

"Instead of a celebration of new life, this Easter coincides with a Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine," Guterres told reporters at the UN in New York.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire announced on April 19 that an embargo on Russian oil at a European Union level was in the works, adding that President Emmanuel Macron favors such a move.

"I hope that in the weeks to come we will convince our European partners to stop importing Russian oil," Le Maire told Europe 1 radio.

Ukraine's leaders have pushed for an embargo on Russian energy saying money paid by European countries for Russian oil and gas is financing Moscow's war machine.

Germany, a major importer of Russian gas and oil, has so far resisted an immediate shutoff but says it plans to phase out Russian oil by the end of the year and most Russian gas by mid-2024.

One sticking point has been Hungary, where right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban has a friendly relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Officials in Budapest on April 19 reiterated that their country will not support sanctions on Russian oil and gas claiming it would hurt the country.

With reporting by AP, AFP, Reuters, and the BBC

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/russia-offensive-donbas- ukraine-zelenskiy/31810386.html

Copyright (c) 2022. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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