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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Russia bombards east as it declares new phase of war

A strike in Kharkiv on Tuesday killed at least three people.

By Marc Santora and Ivan Nechepurenko

Russia declared Tuesday that its offensive for control over Ukraine’s industrial heartland was underway as it bombarded targets across the sprawling eastern front, with Ukrainian officials saying they were mounting a spirited defense.

“Another phase of this operation is starting now,” Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, as Russia’s Defense Ministry announced that its missile and artillery forces had struck hundreds of Ukrainian military targets overnight. The strikes hit facilities in the eastern Ukraine region known as Donbas and also in the southern region of Mykolaiv, a key stronghold on the way to the Black Sea port of Odesa, Russia said.

The Pentagon estimated that Russia has already sent 11 more battalion tactical groups into Ukraine, additional forces likely to comprise 8,000 to 11,000 soldiers. It also has tens of thousands more in reserve north of Ukraine who are being resupplied and readied to join the fight, American officials said.

Ukraine said that it had repulsed seven Russian thrusts, destroying 10 tanks and 18 armored units in the battles. The claims of both militaries could not be independently verified.

Ukrainian and Pentagon officials said Russian forces appeared to be engaged in “shaping operations,” smaller attacks that are often precursors to larger troop movements, or serve as a distraction from other fronts. This campaign, they said, was likely to be much more methodical than the deep raids and rapid advances that Russia unsuccessfully attempted in the first weeks of the war.

As Russian forces pounded Ukrainian targets along much of the 300-mile front line, for the third day in a row the Ukrainian government said that fighting in the east made it impossible to evacuate civilians, leaving hundreds of thousands trapped.

“A very large part of the entire Russian army is now focused on this offensive,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a speech overnight. “No matter how many Russian soldiers are driven there, we will fight.”

In other developments:

— The White House said that President Joe Biden met with allies in a videoconference to discuss how to step up military assistance for Ukraine and increase economic pressure on Moscow as the war enters a possibly decisive new phase.

— About 2,000 civilians were trapped at a large steel factory in Mariupol along with Ukrainian forces that are waging what appears to be the last defense of the city. Russia again called on the Ukrainians to surrender. The factory is a sprawling Soviet-era industrial complex that was built to survive nuclear war, and the fight for the plant was expected to be especially brutal. Its thick concrete walls, steel doors and underground warrens make for a nearly impregnable fortress.

— The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, confirmed that the bloc is working on the details of an embargo on Russian oil imports.

— About 60,000 Ukrainians living in the United States without legal documentation will be able to apply to stay and work temporarily in the country after the Biden administration expanded eligibility.

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