Ukraine is preparing for "the big battle" for the Donbas. Ukrainian President Volodomir Zelensky has warned in recent hours of a major offensive to seize control of eastern Ukraine, a warning that is already beginning to play out on the ground. According to US intelligence, new troops from Moscow are reportedly arriving on the borders with the aim of launching new large-scale attacks.
The Donbas pro-Russians have reportedly begun an assault on Azovstal, the last pocket of resistance in Mariupol, which has been under siege for more than a month. According to the spokesman of the Donetsk People's Republic militia, Eduard Basurin, "some assault groups, specially selected for this mission, have already begun their work, and we are being assisted by the Russian Federation with its aviation and artillery".
The assault was preceded by further missile attacks in the early hours of this morning in the city of Lviv, which claimed the lives of seven people. According to the authorities, one of the projectiles hit a tyre shop, causing a shock wave that would have reached a hotel where Ukrainians evacuated from other parts of the country were staying.
Over the weekend, Moscow issued an ultimatum to the Mariupol resistance to surrender their weapons in exchange for their lives. However, the Ukrainians refused to surrender, vowing to fight "to the end". In Zaporiyia, volunteers from the neo-Nazi Azov battalion claim that the option of surrender has not even been contemplated. "Surrender? We haven't even discussed it. The Russians can quietly dispense with their ultimatums. The heroes of Mariupol will fight to the last man, they do not seek martyrdom, they are ready to die. But reinforcements will arrive first".
According to Zelenksy himself, the Russians have been preparing "for a long time" for this offensive. However, the Ukrainian president is undeterred and maintains that Ukraine will resist, "no matter how many Russian soldiers they bring here, we will fight. We will defend ourselves," he added.
Una mujer de Mariúpol cuenta cómo los ucranianos dispararon contra edificios residenciales desde tanques. Dijo que los militares del ejército ucraniano enviaban a la gente a los centros comerciales saqueados, donde la población buscaba restos de comida para atacarlos. pic.twitter.com/9gJ6kmeoVh— Donbass Media (@DonbassMedia) April 12, 2022
In addition to Zelensky, the Ukrainian governor of the Lugansk region, Sergei Gaidai, said the area had become "an inferno (...) there is fighting in Rubizhne and Popasna, incessant fighting in other peaceful localities" that has already claimed the lives of eight civilians, according to the authorities. Russia has also already denounced a Ukrainian attack in the border region of Belgogrod, reportedly resulting in one injury.
Thus, the clashes are beginning to take place in the face of the failure of negotiations. The absence of humanitarian corridors is proof of this. The two sides are unable to agree on the establishment of escape routes through which the civilian population can leave. Thus, Ukraine is going through its third day without humanitarian corridors at a time when the country is at the beginning of an intense and accelerated Russian offensive.
As Moscow launched its new offensive, new weapons from the United States arrived at Ukraine's borders to be delivered to the Ukrainian army. According to a US official, 'four flights arrived from the United States to the region with various equipment (...) a fifth flight will arrive in the next 24 hours'.
Along with this new support, US military personnel reportedly deployed on NATO's eastern front will "in the coming days" train Ukrainian military personnel to learn how to operate weapons such as the M777 Howitzer, one of the latest generation of US artillery.
With this new arms delivery, sent with "unprecedented speed", the Ukrainian army will proceed to use guns that employ 155 mm shells, used by the Treaty countries, which are superior to its current 152 mm shells, which have the particularity of being manufactured in Russia.
Meanwhile, in the midst of this situation, Russian President Vladimir Putin has awarded the honorary title of "Guard" to the 64th Independent Motorised Brigade of the Russian Army, the brigade that allegedly participated in the Bucha massacre. The presidential decree praises the crimes committed by its soldiers, praising them for "their heroism and courage, for the integrity and courage shown by the brigade in the fighting to defend the Motherland and the interests of the State in conditions of armed conflict, I decree (...) to award the honorary title of Guard to the 64th Independent Motorised Brigade".
Bucha has been one of the cruelest scenes of the Russian invasion. Images of the crimes committed have been shown around the world to show cruelty at its peak. Hundreds of civilians, bound, burned and with clear signs of torture, were found in the city. This indiscriminate attack on the civilian population has already had its first consequences, with Russia being accused of committing war crimes and the consequent legal repercussions and sanctions it faces in response to these abuses.
These events have led to Russia's international isolation, with the exception of China. Even the Bucha massacre has not prompted Beijing to condemn Moscow's moves; indeed, it has stepped up its support. In the last few hours, China has confirmed to Russia that it will continue to expand "its strategic coordination". This was stated by the Chinese Foreign Ministry and reiterated by Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine is now in its 55th day. In these almost two months the attacks have caused the death of 2,072 people, a figure that reports only civilian casualties. The UN confirms that 169 people out of this total were minors. In addition to these deaths, they reiterate that there are 2,818 wounded.