Ukraine war: Phase 1 of military operation almost complete, says Russia

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Russia has claimed that phase 1 of the military operation in Ukraine has almost been completed.

Russia’s defence ministry said the armed forces would now focus on completely “liberating” eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region.

The announcement appeared to indicate that Russia may be switching to more limited goals after running into fierce Ukrainian resistance in the first month of the war.

Russian news agencies quoted the defence ministry as saying that Russian-backed separatists now controlled 93% of Ukraine’s Luhansk region and 54% of the Donetsk region – the two areas that jointly make up the Donbass.

The ministry said it did not rule out storming Ukrainian cities that had been blockaded and that Russia would react immediately to any attempt to close the airspace over Ukraine – something Kyiv has asked NATO to do, but NATO has resisted.

On February 24, Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine in what is called a “special operation” to weaken its southern neighbour’s military capabilities and root out people it called dangerous nationalists.

Ukrainian forces have mounted stiff resistance to the invasion and the West has imposed sweeping sanctions on Russia to force it to withdraw its forces.

The defence ministry said on Friday that the operation would continue until Russian forces had completed the tasks that had been set, without elaborating.

Russia’s military had considered two options for its operation in Ukraine, one confined to the Donbass and the other on the whole territory of Ukraine, the defence ministry continued.