Russia's expected offensive in eastern Ukraine has begun, Ukrainian officials have announced.
President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video address shared on Telegram, “Now we can state that the Russian forces have started the battle for the Donbas that they have been getting ready for a long time.”
The Pentagon says Russia added artillery, ground combat forces and other capabilities in recent days ahead of this new ground offensive in the Donbas region in Ukraine.
A senior U.S. defense official said the number of combat units known as battalion tactical groups in eastern and southern Ukraine had grown to 76 from 65 last week. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal U.S. military assessments of the war.
It’s difficult to know at this stage of the war, but that could add up to 50,000 to 60,000 Russian troops, depending on how developed the groups are.
The official said that if Russian forces succeed in fully controlling the southern port of Mariupol it could free up nearly a dozen battalion tactical groups for use elsewhere in the Donbas region.
The official also said that four U.S. cargo flights arrived in Europe on Sunday with weapons and other materials, part of $800 million in assistance announced last week.
The official said training of Ukrainian personnel on U.S. Army and Marine Corps 155mm howitzers was set to begin at an undisclosed location outside of Ukraine in the next several days. The U.S. pledged 18 howitzers to bolster Ukrainian forces in the Donbas fight, and these trainees can in turn train more soldiers inside Ukraine.
The European Union’s top diplomat condemned Russia’s “indiscriminate and illegal” attacks on Ukraine on Monday as the country experienced the most intense missile strikes in weeks.
Josep Borrell, the high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, said in a statement that the EU supports the work of the International Criminal Court and other efforts to ensure accountability for human rights violations.
“There can be no impunity for war crimes,” said Borrell, who called for Russia to immediately cease hostilities and withdraw forces from Ukraine.