Russia says it will focus its invasion of Ukraine on “liberating” the east, signalling a possible shift in its strategy.
The defence ministry said that the initial aims of the war were complete, and that Russia had reduced the combat capacity of Ukraine.
Russia’s invasion appeared aimed at swiftly capturing major cities and toppling the government.
But it has stalled in the face of fierce Ukrainian resistance.
“The main tasks of the first stage of the operation have been carried out,” said Sergei Rudskoy, head of the General Staff’s main operations administration.
“The combat capabilities of the Ukrainian armed forces have been substantially reduced, which allows us to concentrate our main efforts on achieving the main goal: the liberation of Donbas,” he added, referring to an area in eastern Ukraine largely in the hands of Russian-backed separatists.
Russia’s military has been bombarding and trying to encircle key Ukrainian cities such as the capital Kyiv, which Gen. Rudskoy characterised as an attempt to tie down Ukraine’s forces elsewhere in the country while Russia focuses on the east.
Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelensky, said his troops had landed “powerful blows” on Russia and called on Moscow to recognise the need for serious peace talks.
“By restraining Russia’s actions, our defenders are leading the Russian leadership to a simple and logical idea: talk is necessary. Meaningful. Urgent. Fair. For the sake of the result, not for the sake of the delay,” he said.
The exact end goal of Russia’s invasion has not been made explicit, but President Vladimir Putin described the aims as the “demilitarisation” and “denazification” of Ukraine, characterising the government’s leaders as a neo-Nazi junta killing millions in a genocide of Russian speakers.
The claims have no basis and Ukraine and its Western allies dismiss them as a pretext to carry out an unprovoked war. -BBC