Russia seizes new city in offensive to take control of eastern Ukraine
'Nowhere is beyond Russia's reach,' Moscow has stepped up its assault in Ukraine as the second phase of its war has been unleashed, ITV News Correspondent Peter Smith reports
Russian forces have seized east Ukraine's city of Kreminna in a long-feared "new phase" of the war.
After a Russian push to Kyiv failed to overrun the city, President Vladimir Putin's troops regrouped in preparation for an all-out offensive in the Donbas - an eastern region where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces for the past eight years.
On Tuesday morning, Ukraine’s military said a “new phase of war” had begun.
Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov confirmed the claim, saying in an interview that his country's "operation" in Ukraine has entered a new stage.
He said on Tuesday that “the operation is continuing, and another phase of this operation is starting now". Lavrov emphasised that it is aimed at the “full liberation of the Donetsk and Luhansk republics".
Meanwhile, the British Government has been briefed that the next phase of the war in Ukraine is likely to be “an attritional conflict” that could last several months.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said a senior UK national security official told ministers on Tuesday that Russia’s greater number of troops was “unlikely to be decisive on its own” against fierce Ukrainian resistance.
The official told the Cabinet that there are signs Russia has not learned the lessons from previous setbacks in northern Ukraine, with evidence of troops being committed to the fight in a “piecemeal fashion” and some soldiers and units refusing to fight.
Boris Johnson’s spokesman, Max Blain, said the prime minister had told ministers that Ukraine’s position remained “perilous,” with Russian President Vladimir Putin “angered by defeats but determined to claim some sort of victory regardless of the human cost.”
Moscow’s troops seized control of one city in the Donbas on Monday, according to Luhansk governor Serhiy Haidai. The breakthrough in Kreminna takes the Russians one small step closer to their apparent goal of encircling Ukrainian troops in the region.
The capture of Kreminna also takes the Russians closer to the city of Slovyansk, whose loss by the Russia-backed separatists represented a humiliating setback for Moscow in the early stages of the separatist conflict in 2014. Ukrainian officials said Russian forces are attacking the east along a broad, 300-mile long front. Despite this, President Volodmyr Zelenskyy vowed Ukraine will fight Russia's troops in the east "every day".
The Pentagon press secretary, John Kirby, said on Monday that the Russians are continuing to set the conditions for what they think will bring them success on the ground, "by putting in more forces, putting in more enablers, putting in more command and control capability for operations yet to come”.
Russia said it struck several areas with missiles, including the northeastern city of Kharkiv and areas around Zaporizhzhia and Dnipro, which are west of the Donbas. Five civilians were killed in a barrage on Kharkiv, Governor Oleh Synyehubov said on Tuesday. Meanwhile, in the besieged southern port city of Mariupol - where officials predict 21,000 people have been killed - commander of the Azov Batallion, Denys Prokopenko, said in a video message that Russia had begun dropping bunker-buster bombs on the Azovstal steel plant where the regiment was holed up.
The sprawling plant contains a warren of tunnels where both fighters and civilians are sheltering. It is believed to be the last major pocket of resistance in the shattered city.
The capture of Mariupol is seen as key as it would deprive Ukraine of a vital port and complete a land bridge between Russia and the Crimean Peninsula, seized from Ukraine from 2014, and free up forces to head elsewhere in the Donbas.
The Ukrainian National Guard's Special Forces Unit "Azov" released drone video which it said showed fighting in Mariupol
Pentagon spokesperson Admiral John Kirby said it was difficult to know how long Ukraine could hold off Russian forces in the besieged city.
On Monday morning Russia bombarded the western city of Lviv and numerous other targets across Ukraine in what appeared to be an intensified bid to grind down the country's defences, while building up its own forces for a major ground offensive in the east.
Lviv's mayor said at least seven people were killed and 11 are wounded, including one child, in the four rocket attacks on the city close to the Polish border.
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The city, until now, had largely escaped most of the bombardment and became a safe haven for civilians fleeing the fighting and a major gateway for NATO-supplied weapons.
Russia's defence ministry claimed it hit shipments of foreign weapons sent to help Ukraine's forces in eastern cities.
Lviv officials said Russian forces hit three military infrastructure facilities and an auto shop, while a hotel sheltering Ukrainians who had fled the fighting in other parts of the country was also badly damaged.
The Donbas has been under attack since the invasion began - so what's different this time? Peter Smith explains
“The nightmare of war has caught up with us even in Lviv,” said Lyudmila Turchak, who fled with two children from the eastern city of Kharkiv.
“There is no longer anywhere in Ukraine where we can feel safe.”
Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, was also hit by shelling over the weekend that killed at least three people.
A powerful explosion also rocked Vasylkiv, a town south of the capital of Kyiv that is home to an air base, according to residents. It was not immediately clear what was struck.
Military analysts say Russia was increasing its strikes on weapons factories, railroads and other infrastructure ahead of its assault on the Donbas.
Moscow said its missiles struck more than 20 military targets in eastern and central Ukraine in the past day, including ammunition depots, command headquarters and groups of troops and vehicles.