Russia said on Friday that it now wants to focus its efforts on “liberating” eastern Ukraine, and has acknowledged that 1,351 soldiers have been killed since the start of the military offensive in Ukraine.
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“The main objectives of the first phase of the operation have been achieved. The combat capabilities of the Ukrainian forces have been significantly reduced, which will allow them to focus more on the main goal: the liberation of the Donbass “, announced Deputy Head of State-Russian Major Sergei Rudskoy.
Russia’s major advances were in eastern and southern Ukraine, but it did not conquer major cities.
The Ukrainian Donbass has been partially controlled by pro-Russian separatists since 2014. Prior to the February 24 attacks, Russia recognized their independence and launched its military intervention with the official aim of protecting them from the “carnage” carried out by the Ukrainian authorities.
“1,351 soldiers were killed and 3,825 wounded,” the deputy general of the Russian General Staff also announced at a press conference.
A previous official report from Moscow on March 2 stated that 498 Russian soldiers had been killed in Ukraine. kyiv, for its part, reported very heavy losses in the ranks of the Russian army.
Mr Rudskoi also described Western countries’ distribution of arms to Kyiv as a “big mistake”. “It will prolong the conflict, increase the number of victims and have no effect on the outcome of the operation,” he declared.
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He said Russia would “respond accordingly” if NATO set up a no-fly zone over Ukraine, kyiv had not been successful for several weeks.
Mikhail Myzintsev, director of Russia’s National Defense Management Center, said at the same meeting that Russia had released 419,736 refugees from eastern Ukraine since the start of the operation.
“The Russian military will continue this special military operation until all targets are achieved,” said Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry.
The Kremlin claims to want to “dinazify” and “militarize” its pro-Western neighbors.