The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Russia begins ‘battle for Donbas,’ gives Mariupol holdouts new deadline to surrender

At least one person was killed in Kramatorsk, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, on April 19, as fighting intensified in the east. (Video: Associated Press, Photo: Petros Giannakouris/Associated Press)
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Russia declared Tuesday that the “next phase” of the war in Ukraine was underway, kicking off a major assault on key areas in the east in what senior Defense Department officials said was probably a “prelude” to a larger offensive. As Russia pounded the east with artillery and airstrikes, it gave Ukrainian holdouts in Mariupol a new deadline to surrender.

The commander of Ukraine’s troops there told The Washington Post that his soldiers would not lay down their arms and would continue to “complete our military tasks as long as we receive them.” The southern port city is key to Moscow’s strategy in eastern Ukraine, and capturing it would give Russia a coveted land corridor linking the annexed Crimean Peninsula to the Donbas region.

Early Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov announced that Moscow would seek the “complete liberation” of Donetsk and Luhansk in the east. Luhansk’s regional governor said that the eastern city of Kreminna is now “under the control” of Russian forces, which could allow them to advance toward Kramatorsk, capital of the Donbas region.

Here’s what to know

6:57 p.m.
Headshot of Lateshia Beachum
General assignment reporter
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the situation in the battered southeastern city of Mariupol is still rather severe, alleging that Russian forces have been blocking efforts to organize humanitarian corridors and that Mariupol residents have been relocated.“The occupiers are trying to carry out deportation or even mobilization of the local residents who have fallen into their hands,” he said during his nightly address. “The fate of at least tens of thousands of Mariupol residents who were previously relocated to Russian-controlled territory is unknown.”