Ukrainian forces dug in as Russia fielded more firepower and hired a decorated general as a wartime commander ahead of a potentially decisive showdown in eastern Ukraine that experts say could begin in days with a large-scale offensive.
Maxar Technologies released satellite images on April 10 showing a Russian military convoy stretching about 13 kilometers heading into southern Ukraine towards the Donbass region as the Kremlin changes its battle strategy.
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The convoy could head for Izyum, a town in Ukraine’s Kharkiv region controlled by Russian forces. Izyum is located near the border with Donetsk and Lugansk regions.
Russia is refocusing its military attack on Donbass, which encompasses Ukraine’s eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, after suffering setbacks in other parts of the country, including kyiv and Sumy.
Before the expected offensive, the The Kremlin tapped Army General Aleksandr Dvornikov, who commands Russian forces in the Southern Military District, to wage the war in Ukraine.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said last week that Russia is preparing for a battle in the Donbass that will resemble the battles of World War II, with thousands of tanks, armored vehicles, planes and of artillery.
Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized the independence of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions – which he called historic Russian lands – just days before launching his unprovoked invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
Putin initially sought to overthrow Ukraine’s democratically elected government as part of a broader strategy to bring Ukraine back into Russia’s sphere of influence.
However, the invasion failed when Ukrainian forces, backed by Western military aid, put up fierce resistance, repelling Russian attacks in some areas.
Putin could now try to concentrate his forces to take control of Donbass by early May, ahead of a national holiday that celebrates victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, US officials say.
His decision to appoint Dvornikov, 60, as the new commander of the Ukraine campaign could be a further indication that Russia is planning a full-scale offensive in the east, analysts said.
The general has a notorious reputation for his leadership of the war in Syria, where Russia has bombed civilian neighborhoods. Putin awarded Dvornikov the Hero of Russia Medal, one of the country’s highest honors, for his work in Syria.
Dvornikov was “the kind of executioner we’ve seen pursuing these kinds of campaigns [in Chechnya and Syria]where there is an awful lot of civilian attack, civilian destruction,” retired US Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling said in an interview with CNN.
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told CNN in an April 10 interview that the United States would continue to deliver weapons to Ukraine to help it fend off Russian forces.
Ukrainian officials reiterated on April 10 that they were willing to negotiate a peace deal with Russia. Ukraine and Russia have held a few rounds of talks since the start of the invasion, but with little progress.
Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer will travel to Moscow to meet Putin on April 11, the Russian leader’s first face-to-face meeting with a European Union counterpart since the start of the invasion.
Putin will meet Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka on April 12. Lukashenka allowed Putin to use Belarus as a launching pad for the invasion of Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has renewed his call for more weapons ahead of an expected upsurge in fighting in the east of the country. Zelenskiy said on Twitter on April 10 that he spoke on the phone with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to discuss new defense and financial support for his country, as well as the possibility of additional sanctions against the Russia.
But the president also said he was determined to press for peace despite Russian attacks on Ukrainian civilians that have sparked outrage around the world.
“We have to fight, but fight for life. You can’t fight for dust when there’s nothing and nobody. That’s why it’s important to stop this war,” Zelenskiy said in an April 9 interview with The Associated Press, a day after at least 52 people were killed in a Russian rocket strike on a train station in the city of Kramatorsk, filled with civilians trying to flee.
Russia has turned some Ukrainian cities, including Mariupol in Donetsk, largely to rubble, dropping bombs on civilian and military targets.
“Nobody wants to negotiate with a person or people who have tortured this nation. Everything is understandable. And as a man, as a father, I understand that very well,” Zelenskiy said. But “we don’t want to lose opportunities, if we have any, for a diplomatic solution.”
Zelenskiy said he was confident Ukrainians would accept peace despite the horrors they witnessed in Russia’s unprovoked war in their country.
These included gruesome images of civilian bodies found in yards and streets and buried in mass graves in the town of Bucha near kyiv after Russian troops withdrew.
Ukrainian and Western leaders have accused Moscow of war crimes. Russia has denied any responsibility.
A Ukrainian official said on April 10 that a mass grave containing dozens of civilian bodies was found in the village of Buzova near kyiv.
WATCH: A Current Time correspondent asked people on the streets of Moscow and Arkhangelsk what Russia has achieved after six weeks of war in Ukraine. Most repeated the Kremlin line as they hear it in Russian media, but a few offered starkly different responses.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said April 10 that Kyiv had agreed to the use of nine humanitarian corridors to help people escape heavy fighting in the east of the country.
“All routes of the humanitarian corridors in the Lugansk region will work as long as there is a ceasefire by the Russian occupation troops,” Vereshchuk said in a statement on his Telegram channel.
Residents of the besieged Luhansk region would have nine trains on April 10 to use for evacuations, region governor Serhiy Hayday announced on Telegram.
On April 9, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrived in Kyiv on a surprise visit to meet Zelenskiy in what Downing Street called a “show of solidarity” as fears grow over a possible renewed Russian offensive in Israel. ‘is.
Standing next to Zelenskiy at a joint press conference, Johnson said Russian President Vladimir Putin had ‘permanently polluted’ his and Russia’s reputation with Moscow’s actions in Ukraine, including attacks murders against civilians in what many call war crimes.
“What Putin did in places like Bucha and Irpin was war crimes that permanently polluted his reputation and that of his government,” Johnson said.
During his meetings, Johnson pledged to provide 120 more armored vehicles and new anti-ship missiles to Ukraine, while praising the performance of kyiv’s military and its civilian defenders.