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What Russia’s shift of military focus means for Ukraine

Russia’s military in Ukraine apparently have shifted their focus from a ground offensive aimed at the capital, Kyiv, to instead prioritising what Moscow calls “liberation” of the contested Donbas region, suggesting a new phase of the war.

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It appears too early to know where this will lead. Has President Vladimir Putin scaled back his ambitions in search of a way out of the war? The dug-in defensive positions taken recently by some Russian forces near Kyiv indicate a recognition of the surprisingly stout Ukrainian resistance.

On the other hand, Russian forces might be aiming to continue the war with a narrower focus, not necessarily as an endgame but as a way of regrouping from early failures and using the Donbas as a new starting point, analysts say.

Putin’s forces are under great strain in many parts of the country, and the United States and other countries are accelerating their transfer of arms and supplies to Ukraine. In recent days, American officials have said they see evidence of Ukrainian defenders going on the offensive in some areas. Earlier this week they managed to attack a large Russian ship in port on the Black Sea coast.

Putting a positive face on it all, the deputy chief of the Russian general staff said his forces had largely achieved the “main objectives” of the first phase of what Moscow calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine.

Colonel-General Sergei Rudskoi said Russian forces had “considerably reduced” the combat power of the Ukrainian military, and as a result Russian troops could “focus on the main efforts to achieve the main goal, liberation of Donbas”.

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In apparent response to Rudskoi, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appealed anew to Russia to negotiate an end to the war but pointedly said Ukraine would not agree to give up any of its territory for the sake of peace.

“The territorial integrity of Ukraine should be guaranteed,” he said in his nighttime video address to the nation. “That is, the conditions must be fair, for the Ukrainian people will not accept them otherwise.”

What does Russia’s shift of military focus mean for Ukraine war?  Al Jazeera English

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