President Zelensky said Russia’s final push to conquer the east of the country is under way (Picture: AP/REX)
Russia has begun its offensive to capture the east of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky has told his country.
The president said the government believe the battle for the Donbas has begun after days of increased levels of fighting.
Russian troops are concentrating on annexing the eastern region after failing to break through around Kyiv.
Invading forces have reportedly launched new attacks along Ukraine’s defensive lines, with reports of heavy shelling.
It marks the start of the second phase of a war which has been ongoing since February 24.
Delivering a televised address, he 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.
He said a ‘significant part of the entire Russian army is now concentrated on this offensive’.
He added: ‘No matter how many Russian troops are driven there, we will fight. We will defend ourselves. We will do it every day.’
Russian military vehicles move on a highway in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces near Mariupol today (Picture: AP)
Civilian buildings were destroyed amid what Russia said was airstrikes on a military facility near Lviv this morning (Picture: Getty)
It comes after renewed Russian airstrikes across the country as far west as Lviv.
The Kremlin has ordered increased attacks after the sinking of the Moskva, the naval flagship which sunk off Ukraine’s south coast.
Russia has spent more than three weeks pulling troops away from Kyiv to bolster the ranks poised to attack eastern cities.
Pro-Moscow sources say they are now almost in total control of the city of Mariupol, a strategic port city which stands in the way of Russian forces in the east and in Crimea.
It’s believed some Ukrainian fighters are holding on inside the city but it appears Russia is on the verge of its first significant breakthrough since the beginning of the war.
President Zelensky’s comments come after similar assessments from other Ukrainian officials earlier today.
A worker walks through what remains of the premises he worked at after it was hit by a Russian missile in Lviv (Picture: Getty)
Security Council secretary Oleksiy Danilov said in televised comments on Monday afternoon: ‘This morning, along almost the entire front line of Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv regions, the occupiers attempted to break through our defences.
‘They began their attempt to start the active phase this morning.’
The Ukrainian president’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, wrote on the Telegram messaging app: ‘The second phase of the war has begun. Believe in our army, it is very strong.’
Pro-Moscow forces have held parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts – collectively known as the Donbas – since 2014, along with the Crimean peninsula.
Kyiv believes Moscow intends to extend the territory already controlled by its forces and proxies to reach the historic boundaries of the area.
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