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A top Ukrainian defense official on Wednesday warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin is using Ukraine as a “springboard” to launch a greater offensive in Europe.
“There is an assumption that they are destroying civil and social infrastructure because they have no interest in it, because they have plans to use the territory of Ukraine as a springboard to move forward,” Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar told a local news outlet. “Most likely, Ukraine is not the final goal, and if the entire world does not stop Putin now, he will move from Ukraine to the European world.”
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Fighting has intensified in eastern Ukraine as Russian forces attempt to take over the city of Sievierodonetsk in Ukraine’s northeastern Luhansk region.
Western defense officials assessed Wednesday that Russian forces have gained control of more than half of the city as a days-long brutal fight continues.
Moscow, which has said its goal is to gain “full control” over eastern and southern Ukraine, is looking to take Sievierodonetsk as the final resistance holdout in Luhansk.
The city has become strategically important as full occupation of it would allow Russian forces to claim control over the entire region and push west into northern Donetsk and potentially beyond.
Ukrainian officials have long warned they believe that Russian forces will not stop even if they accomplish their alleged goal and will make another attempt for Kyiv.
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Russia has largely relied on heavy artillery to pummel cities and towns across eastern Ukraine, but the fighting in Luhansk has increasingly turned toward ground offense operations.
“Russian troops are following a certain M.O.,” Maliar said in an interview translated by Pravda. “They are trying not to engage in street fighting – although this is already happening in Sievierodonetsk – because they are losing when it comes to street battles.
“They prefer to destroy the city altogether and take over the territory alone without social infrastructure,” he added.
The deputy defense minister said Russia is not sparing its “men or equipment” as it intensifies its fight in Ukraine.
It is unclear how many causalities Ukraine has incurred over the last 14 weeks but Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukraine is losing 60 to 100 service members a day with another 500 reported as injured.
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Russia has not made any recent announcements on its casualty count, but the Ukrainian defense ministry has claimed that some 30,700 Russian soldiers have been killed since Feb. 24 when Putin launched his “special military operation.”
Russian officials have increasingly made threats to neighboring nations like Moldova and Georgia, as well NATO nations like Poland as it escalates its campaign in Ukraine.