The chief of the Russian army has stated that Russia will focus its main war effort on the “complete liberation” of the eastern Ukrainian Donbas region, a change from its previous mission of trying to invade the whole country, decapitate the Kyiv government and change leadership.
On Friday, March 24, the defence ministry said Russia had been considering two options for its “special military operation” – one covering the whole of Ukraine and one focusing on the Donbas.
The comments come as Russian forces have met strong resistance in the north of Ukraine and around Kyiv.
Sergey Rudskoy, head of the main operational department of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, said 93% of Luhansk oblast and 54% of Donetsk oblast was under Russian control.
He said Russia had destroyed the vast majority of Ukraine’s air force and navy, and this marked the successful end of the first phase of the conflict, he added.
However, the defence ministry said Russia would react immediately to any move to close airspace over Ukraine – something Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky has repeatedly urged.