Russia has launched its anticipated action to seize territory in the east of Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said.
“Now we can already state that the Russian troops have begun the battle for the Donbas, for which they have been preparing for a long time,” said Zelenskiy, speaking in his nightly video address to the nation.
The president said that a “significant part” of the Russian army was focused on the eastern part of the country, adding that “no matter how many soldiers are driven there, we will defend ourselves. We will fight. We will not give up anything Ukrainian”.
Presidential chief of staff Andriy Yermak offered the same view, saying that the “second phase of the war” had begun.
The launch of the operation follows continued escalation in Russian attacks on the east following the decision to give up on capturing Kyiv. Vladimir Putin has declared his intention to seize Donbas, large parts of which are already under the control of pro-Russian separatists.
Control of Donbas would allow Moscow to create a land corridor to Crimea, which has been under Russian occupation since 2014.
US president Joe Biden plans hold further discussions with allies over the Ukraine crisis, including on how to coordinate on holding Russia accountable, the White House said. French president Emmanuel Macron earlier said growing evidence of mass killings in Ukraine had stalled talks with Moscow.