Russian offensive begins in eastern Ukraine

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Russian Airborne troops marching. It has been over two months since Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops to invade Ukraine. Courtesy of Wikimedia

Note: For a compiled source of reports and updates from the frontlines, including an interactive map of the conflict, go to the volunteer-run Ukrainian website liveuamap.com. 

It has been over two months since Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops into Ukraine, prompting the largest war in Europe since World War II. While several important events happened over the past week in Ukraine, none are as critical as the new Russian offensive in the east of the country. Based upon reports from Ukrainian government officials and posts by citizens on social media, the campaign is approaching from the north and south, hoping to surround vast numbers of Ukrainian soldiers and capture Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine. However, the new offensive is considered by intelligence departments and media organizations to be on a rapidly approaching deadline. 

“In its daily intelligence update on the Russian invasion, U.K. defense officials said that Moscow wants big military gains before its annual commemoration of the end of World War II on May 9,” Newsweek said on April 20.  

April 21 

On April 21, Vladimir Putin announced that Russian forces had won in Mariupol, a city in southeastern Ukraine that had been under siege since the first days of the war, according to the Associated Press. However, Ukrainian defenders still remain in control of some sections of the city, and the declaration of victory is dubious. 

The Azovstal iron and steel factory in Ukraine. A few thousand Ukrainian troops have stubbornly held out for weeks at this plant despite attacks from Russian forces. Courtesy of Wikimedia

“But a few thousand Ukrainian troops, by Moscow’s estimate, have stubbornly held out for weeks at the Azovstal steel plant, despite a pummeling from Russian forces and repeated demands for their surrender. About 1,000 civilians were also trapped there, according to Ukrainian officials,” AP News said.

Mariupol’s defenders are believed to be tying down several Russian battalion tactical groups, or BTGs, which would be used on the ongoing offensive in the east of Ukraine. Several videos have emerged from soldiers inside Azovstal requesting additional ammunition, weapons and provisions for civilians in the vast underground floors of the plant. 

“‘We really want to go home. We are running out of food,’” a mother said in a video released by the Azov Battalion, published on NBC.  

NBC has stated they cannot verify the footage independently, which shows women and children receiving rations from the Azov Battalion deep inside the steel factory. 

“The Azov Battalion is part of the Ukrainian National Guard, but it also has had historical links to neo-Nazis and other far-right Ukrainian organizations,” NBC said.

File:Volodymyr Zelensky 2019 presidential inauguration 33.jpg
Zelensky at the 2019 presidential inauguration. On April 23, Zelensky warned that the statement shows Russia’s desire in the war is to annex territory rather than a denazification campaign. Courtesy of Wikimedia

April 22 

Fires broke out at several Russian factories and military research centers from April 21 to 22, according to the Guardian. Locations include the Dmitrievsky Chemical Plant in Kineshma and an aircraft research facility in Tver. The causes of the fires are unknown, and neither the Russian nor Ukrainian government have issued any statements assigning blame or claiming responsibility for the accidents.

“The death toll was initially put at five but Tass News and local authorities said it had increased to seven,” the Guardian said regarding the fire at the Tver facility.

April 23 

A Russian general stated the possible goals of Russia if their operations in eastern Ukraine succeed, according to Reuters.

“Rustam Minnekayev, deputy commander of Russia’s central military district, was quoted by Russian state news agencies as saying full control over southern Ukraine would give it access to Transnistria, a breakaway Russian-occupied part of Moldova in the west,” said Reuters.  

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has warned that the statement shows Russia’s desire in the war is to annex territory, and not a denazification campaign as Russian media has claimed. Moldova, like Ukraine, is not a NATO member, but the nation has a population and economy far smaller than Ukraine. 

April 24 

Anthony Blinken and Lloyd Austin, the U.S. secretaries of State and Defense respectively, visited president Zelensky in Kyiv, according to Bloomberg News.

President Joe Biden walks with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky along the White House. Zelensky has repeatedly asked Biden to visit Kyiv. Courtesy of Wikimedia

“The U.S. authorized a $165 million ammunition sale and the return of diplomats in the coming days. It comes as Russia shifts its forces to the east after failing to make ground around Kyiv in the north,” Bloomberg said. 

Zelensky had repeatedly asked U.S. president Joe Biden to visit Kyiv, following several other national leaders such as British prime minister Boris Johnson and the prime ministers of Poland, Czechia and Slovenia. Vice President Kamala Harris visited Poland in early March but did not enter Ukraine. 

American aid to Ukraine has rapidly increased, including over $2.4 billion worth of military equipment and $1 billion in humanitarian aid and supplies, according to the Department of Defense

A video from Twitter shows Russian troops in Novotoshkivske, a village of 2,000 that is about 20 miles from Lysychansk, a city in eastern Ukraine that is a target of the Russian offensive. 

April 25 

Secretary of Defense Austin in a press talk. In a recent press conference, Secretary of Defense Austin emphasized the U.S. policy to hope a Ukrainian victory weakens Russia’s military might. Courtesy of Wikimedia

Talks between Blinken, Austin and Zelensky continued, focusing on the Ukraine Democracy Defense Lend-Lease Act of 2022 currently in Congress, according to Politico. 

“The act will revive the policy of military equipment donations that was used in the Second World War. It passed the Senate unanimously on April 7, and is currently in the House of Representatives,” Politico said. 

In a press conference, Secretary of Defense Austin emphasized the U.S. policy to hope a Ukrainian victory weakens Russia’s military might. 

“Austin escalated Washington’s wartime rhetoric toward Moscow, warning that U.S. officials ‘want to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can’t do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine,’” Politico said. 

April 26 

United Nations General Secretary Antonio Guterres visited Moscow to speak with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, according to CBS News. Guterres had previously attempted to form a ceasefire between Russia and Ukraine but had been rejected by Russia. 

“But after his ‘very frank discussion’ with Lavrov, Guterres told reporters it was ‘clear that there are two different positions on what is happening in Ukraine,’ suggesting the Russian diplomat had given him little to fuel hope of any imminent step back from hostilities,” CBS said. 

Ukrainian president Zelensky criticized Guterres’ visit, seeing the General Secretary’s visit to Moscow before Kiev as illogical and unfair. According to Zelensky, Guterres should have first visited the devastated towns and cities of Ukraine to understand the consequences of the Russian invasion before meeting with Lavrov.

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