Russia Didn't Start Hostilities, Is Ending Them After 8 Years of War Against Donbass Civilians: MoD
12:48 GMT 28.02.2022 (Updated: 17:26 GMT 28.02.2022)
The Russian military and its Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republic allies began an operation in Ukraine on Thursday amid unceasing attacks by the Ukrainian military and nationalist units of the Ukrainian National Guard targeting the Donbass with artillery, mortar and sniper fire. The conflict is the culmination of a crisis which began in 2014.
Russia didn't start the years-old conflict in Ukraine, but is seeking to bring it to a conclusion, Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov has said.
"Hostilities by the regime in Kiev and the systematic extermination of the inhabitants of the Donbass went on for eight years. In the course of this war, over 14,000 people, including hundreds of children, were killed. This had to be stopped. It was necessary to put an end to the endless threats from the regime in Kiev against Russia. And Russia will do so," Konashenkov said in a briefing on Monday.
Commenting on the situation at the front, the officer reported that Donetsk People's Republic forces were completing the encirclement of the city of Mariupol, while Lugansk People's Republic forces have advanced 23 km with fire support assistance from Russia, taking control of the settlements of Novaya Astrakhan and Borovenki.
Situated in southeastern Ukraine on the north coast of the Sea of Azov, Mariupol served as a major Ukrainian military and volunteer battalion outpost during the war in the Donbass. Today, the city is feared to contain a major concentration of forces from the Azov Regiment - an openly neo-Nazi volunteer unit of the Ukrainian National Guard. The city is also home to more than 400,000 civilians, and the Russian military has expressed concerns about their fate, citing indiscriminate Azov artillery attacks using Grad launchers against areas which their forces have fallen back from.
28 February 2022, 07:24 GMT
Konashenkov clarified during Monday's briefing that Russian conscripts are not involved in the military operation in Ukraine, and that only officers and contract servicemen from the ranks of private to sergeant are taking part.
He said further that "all settlements which have come under the control of the Russian military are continuing life as normal," with critical infrastructure and transport operational, and most city and town administrations, after consultations with the Russian command, agreeing to joint law enforcement in their jurisdictions to maintain order.
On Sunday, the MoD issued footage
of a joint effort by Russian and Ukrainian forces to ensure security around the mothballed Chernobyl nuclear plant north of Kiev.
The Zaporozhye nuclear power plant, which remains operational, has also been taken by Russian forces without incident. North of Crimea, the canal providing the peninsula with freshwater has been unblocked, with water supplies to the region finally restored after years of being blockaded by nationalist forces.
The Russian military admitted Sunday that it had suffered dead and wounded during the course of the operation in Ukraine, but has not provided details, except to say that casualties on the Russian side have been substantially below those of Ukrainian army and nationalist battalion units.
The MoD has also reported on instances of mass surrender by Ukrainian forces, with the Russian side guaranteeing their safety and promising to allow them to return home to their families.
The situation in Ukraine today is the culmination of a security crisis which began in February 2014, when the country's government was overthrown in a Western-backed coup d'etat and replaced by pro-EU and pro-NATO forces seeking to break off political, economic and cultural ties with Russia which had been forged over centuries. The coup prompted authorities in Crimea to organize a referendum on the peninsula's status, with a majority of residents voting to break off from the new Ukraine and rejoin Russia. The installation of the new regime in Kiev also sparked large-scale protests in the country's east and south, with dozens of activists and high profile political figures intimidated, jailed, murdered or quietly disappeared over their opposition to the government and desire to maintain close links with Russia.
Nowhere was opposition stronger than the Donbass, a major industrial and coal-mining region whose electorate consistently supported pro-Russian political forces, and violently opposed efforts to drag Ukraine westward. In the spring of 2014, when Kiev sent troops to try to crush a fledgling independence movement, local residents, ex-military and volunteers organized into militias, sparking a civil conflict which would continue for nearly eight years. In 2015, the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France met in the Belarusian capital to hammer out the Minsk Agreements - a ceasefire and peace deal aimed at putting an end to the conflict in the Donbass by reintegrating the region back into Ukraine in exchange for constitutionally-guaranteed autonomy. In the 7+ years that followed, successive Ukrainian governments have failed to make the necessary reforms, notwithstanding political pressure from both Russia and their European allies to do so.
Last Monday, amid a Ukrainian military buildup near Donbass and reports of hundreds of violations of the Minsk ceasefire, Russia took the unprecedented step of recognising the Donbass breakaways as independent states. Days later, on the night of 23 February, pointing to continued Ukrainian attacks, the new nations asked Moscow for assistance. On the morning of 24 February, Moscow launched what President Putin said was a "special military operation" aimed at "demilitarizing and denazifying" the country.
27 February 2022, 19:55 GMT