Efforts can now be focused on the “liberation of the Donbass,” a senior defense official said
Russia’s armed forces have completed the “first stage” of their mission in Ukraine, according to a top military commander, who claimed Kiev’s combat potential has been severely diminished following one month of fighting.
At a Friday press conference, General Sergey Rudskoy said that Moscow has achieved its goals for its first phase of military operations in Ukraine and that it will now be able to focus its attention on the Donbass.
“In general, the main tasks of the first stage of the operation have been completed,” said Rudskoy, who serves as chief of the Russian military’s Main Operational Directorate. “The combat potential of the armed forces of Ukraine has been significantly reduced, which allows… us to focus our efforts on achieving the main goal – the liberation of Donbass.”
Official noted that Ukrainian forces had prepared for a “well-fortified defense zone”Over a span of eight years, the region was split. He said Russian troops are isolating key rail stations to cut off military supplies such as fuel and ammunition as well as troops replenishment, which is almost completely interrupted.
Rudskoy gave a rare update about combat losses and also stated that 1351 Russian soldiers had died during hostilities. Another 3,825 were injured. According to Ukraine, 16,000 Russian soldiers were killed and hundreds of artillery guns, tanks and armored vehicles destroyed by the Ukrainian army. Though Kiev has not offered casualty estimates for its own soldiers since mid-March – when it said 1,300 had died – the colonel general cited a much larger figure of 30,000 for those both killed and wounded.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February, thousands of foreign soldiers have been flocking to the front lines. Rudskoy reported that some 23,000 soldiers from 37 different countries had expressed an interest to fight. He said the Donbass officials rejected those offers. Ukrainian officials had offered similar estimates for their newly-created foreign legion. Ukrainian Brigadier Gen Kyrylo Budanov put the figure at more than 20.000.
Russia’s military operation followed a seven-year standoff over Kiev’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, and Moscow’s later recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. Minsk Protocol, which was French and German-brokered, was intended to regulate the state of these two areas within Ukraine.
Russia now demands that Ukraine declare itself neutral and vows to never join NATO. While Kiev expressed some desire to be part of the US-led NATO military bloc, Moscow demanded Ukraine officially declare that the Russian invasion was unprovoked. It also denied claims that the Russians were planning to take the republics.
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