Kyiv, Apr 6 (EFE).- The Ukrainian defense ministry said Wednesday that Russia was preparing an offensive to establish total control of eastern Donetsk and Lugansk cities and southeastern Mariupol.
In a report issued on the 42nd day of the Feb.24 invasion, the ministry said the Russian forces were continuing their offensive towards Izyum, a city on the Donets River in the Kharkiv region of eastern Ukraine, and towards Slovyansk and Barvinkove, also in the same province.
Analysts believe that the cities are critical to the Russian offensive in the self-declared republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.
“In the Donetsk direction, the enemy is trying to improve the tactical position of its units,” the report said, adding the attempts to carry out assault operations in the nearby areas had not been successful.
The Ukrainian ministry referred to the situation in the besieged city of Mariupol heavily bombed during the invasion.
Ukraine says that more than 150,000 people in this strategically important port on the Sea of Azov are without basic services.
“Attempts to storm Mariupol do not stop. The defenders of the city held a heroic defense for more than 40 days, restraining the overwhelming forces of the Russian invaders,” the report said.
The Russian military announced its latest offensive to take the port city on Tuesday after Ukrainian forces rejected a deadline to lay down their arms and leave the city.
“The battle of Mariupol continues, with Russian forces continuing to pound the city using artillery and air power,” United States-based think tank, Institute for the Study of War, said in its latest analysis on Tuesday.
According to the institute, Russian forces are positioning themselves to continue their invasion in eastern and southern Ukraine after having abandoned the attack on Kyiv and “are reportedly redeploying some of the withdrawn combat forces from Belarus to Russia.”
“Russian units that retreated from Kyiv will not likely regain combat effectiveness for some time, and it is not clear that the Russians intend to return them to the fight soon,’ it added.
Russian operations also continued on a small scale basis in the southeast from Izyum toward Slovyansk, where they have made limited progress, said the institute.
“Russia has not yet attempted to mass large concentrations of forces on this axis but continues instead to send individual battalion tactical groups to advance on their own,” it said. EFE