Russia on Monday launched a massive rocket barrage across the eastern front in Ukraine, signaling a new phase of the war in the country, Politico reports.
Russia pulled its troops back from western and northern parts of the country around the capital of Kyiv and redeployed troops to the Donbas in the east, where Russian-backed separatists have long held control of some regions while laying claim to others.
The Russian artillery barrage on Monday focused heavily on Kharkiv and Mykolaiv, two key cities in the eastern and southeastern regions of the country.
“Russian forces have started the battle for the Donbas that they have been getting ready for a long time,” said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Oleksiy Danilov, the head of the National Security and Defense Council, announced an “active phase of the Russian offensive set off almost along the entire front line.”
Russia initially sent tens of thousands of troops to take over Kyiv and other cities in the west but were ultimately repelled by Ukrainian forces.
Though Russia redeployed many troops to other regions, the Russian military has lost thousands of troops and hundreds of tanks and heavy equipment. The United States and NATO allies have tried to supply Ukraine with enhanced equipment ahead of the assault.
European allies have talked in recent days about stepping up their weapons deliveries, offering Ukraine more anti-ship missiles, tanks, and other defense systems.
An American defense official told Politico that “it appears as if they are trying to learn from the failed lessons of the north where they didn’t have proper sustainment capabilities.”
The terrain is different in the east, with more flat farmland, suggesting “there will be a reliance on armored capabilities and artillery,” the official said.
The Russian advance in the east has been slowed by its attempted takeover of Mariupol, which has been largely destroyed. Most of the forces in the city have retreated to a steel plant but refuse to surrender. As a result, thousands of Russian troops are bogged down and unable to advance.
But Russia has over 70 battalion tactical groups in the region and plans to bring more troops in from overseas.