Ukraine says Russia has begun its offensive to take control of eastern Ukraine while a Russian missile attack hit the western city of Lviv, killing at least seven people.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video address Monday, “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.” The Donbas region includes Luhansk and Donetsk, two provinces that are already partly held by Russian-backed separatists, along with the port city of Mariupol to the south. Capturing the region would allow Russia to control a land corridor to the Crimean Peninsula, which it seized in 2014.
Russia’s withdrawal of its forces from areas around Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, and other parts of the north in recent weeks prompted assessments from Western military officials that Russia was reinforcing and redeploying those assets to eastern Ukraine.
In the western city of Lviv, regional Governor Maksym Kozystkiy said three missiles hit military infrastructure sites, while another struck a car tire repair shop. Lviv, which is about 60 kilometers from Poland, had previously escaped the worst of the violence of the Russian invasion that began nearly two months ago.
The city is a major transportation hub in Ukraine, which has been receiving weapons from Western allies.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the United States has no indication that any Western aid was targeted in Lviv.
The new barrage came as Russian President Vladimir Putin contended during a video call with economic officials that the sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies had failed.
He said the West “expected to quickly upset the financial-economic situation, provoke panic in the markets, the collapse of the banking system and shortages in stores.” However, he added, “The strategy of the economic blitz has failed.”
Western officials say the sanctions have pushed Russia into a sharp recession that will hurt its economy for years.
Asked Monday if the Biden administration is considering more sanctions against Russia, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters the United States will “continue to expand our sanctions targets and continue to take steps to both further tighten our sanctions to prevent evasion.”
U.S. President Joe Biden is holding a video call with allies Tuesday to discuss what the White House called “our continued support for Ukraine and efforts to hold Russia accountable.”
Russia initially described its aims as disarming Ukraine and defeating nationalists there. Kyiv and its Western allies say those are bogus justifications for an unprovoked war of aggression that has driven a quarter of Ukraine’s 44 million people from their homes.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse