The Kremlin says it will focus on the “liberation” of the Donbas region in a sign it may be looking to end its military campaign after weeks of stalemate. Moscow claimed that Russian-backed separatists control 93 percent of Luhansk and 54 percent of Donetsk – the two areas that make up Donbas.
Colonel-General Sergei Rudskoy said the “main objectives of the first stage of the operation have generally been accomplished”, even though Vladimir Putin has previously said he wanted to take Kyiv, the capital, and topple Volodymyr Zelensky’s government.
He added: “the combat potential of the armed forces of Ukraine has been considerably reduced, which … makes it possible to focus our core efforts on achieving the main goal, the liberation of Donbas.”
The statement came as the city council in Mariupol said about 300 people died in the bombing of a theatre last week.
This is apparently the first indication by the Kremlin that it plans to scale back its invasion of Ukraine as an army chief said its “main goal” was now the “liberation” of the Donbas region on the eastern border with Russia.
Earlier, however, Russia’s defence ministry said the invasion would continue until it “reaches the targets set by Vladimir Putin”.
Mr Rudskoy said 1,351 Russian soldiers had died in the conflict and 3,825 had been injured.
The governor of Donetsk said on Friday afternoon that Ukrainian forces still control the besieged southern city of Mariupol.
Speaking on national television, Pavlo Kyrylenko said about 65,000 people had fled the city in private vehicles or on foot, while attempts to facilitate mass evacuations had mostly failed.
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