Russia is planning to make the final assault on Ukraine around New Year, with the forces preparing to annex the old industrial heartland of Donbas in the east immediately, sources close to Kremlin have told CNN-News18.
According to the Russian Defence Ministry, Russian President Vladimir Putin and defence minister Sergei Shoigu had visited army units fighting in Ukraine on Thursday.
Russia had already annexed Donetsk, Luhansk (two provinces of Donbas), Kherson and Zaporizhia in September but is yet to attain full military control of these four ‘oblasts’ (provinces).
Russia’s army chief Valery Gerasimov had said Russian troops are “focused on completing the liberation" of Donetsk. According to news agency AFP, Gerasimov also said Russia had used hypersonic missiles for the first time in Ukraine including Kinzhal missiles — part of an arsenal of weapons Putin has described as “invincible".
Russian sources said the Ukrainian army is running out of weapons, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who visited the US on December 21 for the first time since the war began in February 2021, hopes to get an extra $45 billion aid from Joe Biden to help “defend our values and independence”.
The US President has promised more military aid to Zelensky, especially, the Patriot surface-to-air missile battery, along with a security assistance of $1.85 billion, which he approved to Ukraine.
About Ukraine’s Donbas
Donbas is Ukraine’s coal and steel producing area, and its two big eastern regions are Donetsk and Luhansk, which run from outside Mariupol in south to the norther border with Russia.
Donbas is broadly Russian-speaking but the so-called people’s republics created by Russia are not recognised in the region, according to BBC.
Putin wanted to capture Donbas as he repeatedly accused that Ukraine had carried out genocide in the east – a claim not yet verified. Moscow is likely to annex Donbas and other adjacent areas as it did with Crimea in 2014.
The Kremlin had on Thursday accused Kyiv and Washington of turning a deaf ear to its concerns and charged the US was using Ukraine as a battleground to weaken Russia.
It came as President Vladimir Putin insisted Russia was aiming for a speedy end to the “war”. “Our goal is… to end this conflict. We are striving for this,” Putin said. “We will seek to make sure that it all ends, and the sooner, the better”.
(With inputs from agencies)
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