Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday Russian troops have succeeded in their main stated task of “protecting civilians” in the separatist-controlled areas in eastern Ukraine.
He added that Russian forces have “liberated” parts of Ukraine and “this work will continue until all the goals of the special military operation are achieved.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Thursday that Russian forces occupy about 20% of Ukrainian territory. Friday marks the 100th day of fighting which continues on several fronts.
“Just imagine! Constant fighting, which stretched along the front line for more than a thousand kilometers,” Zelenskyy told the Luxembourg parliament in a virtual speech Thursday. He said the Ukrainian area controlled by Moscow’s forces is comparable to the entirety of the Netherlands.
Zelenskyy did not say how much territory Russia has captured since the start of its invasion, Feb. 24. Moscow seized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and Russia-backed separatists had also captured parts of the eastern Donbas region, where fighting is the most intense now, prior to the invasion.
Ukraine said Thursday its forces have recaptured 20 small towns and villages in the Kherson region in the southern part of the country. Meanwhile, Russian forces continued their assault on Sievierodonetsk, the last major city nominally held by Ukraine in the Luhansk region in the eastern part of the country.
Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said Russia controlled about 70% of the city as fierce street battles took place.
Britain’s Defense Ministry said Russia has taken control of most of the city. The ministry said Ukrainian forces control the main road into Sievierodonetsk, with Russia making “steady local gains, enabled by a heavy concentration of artillery.”
A Ukrainian official said Kyiv’s forces were hoping to recapture territory lost earlier in the war in southern Ukraine in part to tie up some Russian forces more focused on fighting in the Donbas region.
The Ukrainian leader’s assessment of the war came a day after U.S. President Joe Biden said the United States is providing Ukraine with a $700 million package of “more advanced rocket systems and munitions” to help fight off Russia’s invasion, now in its fourth month. White House officials say Ukraine has vowed not to fire those rockets into Russian territory.
“This new package will arm them with new capabilities and advanced weaponry, including HIMARS with battlefield munitions, to defend their territory from Russian advances,” Biden said in a statement. “We will continue to lead the world in providing historic assistance to support Ukraine’s fight for freedom.” Biden used the acronym for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System.
Zelenskyy said in his daily address that the HIMARS package is one item in a list of “three important pieces of news” for Ukraine.
The two other items are the European Union’s moves “towards the implementation of the sixth sanctions package” against Russia, which Zelenskyy said is “primarily about oil,” and also the fact that “more and more embassies” are resuming “their full-fledged activities in Kyiv.”
“The world is giving up Russian oil,” Zelenskyy said. “Moreover, other countries, which produce much better and lighter oil, are preparing to replace Russian supplies. Therefore, huge revenues are lost for the aggressor state in this sphere.” He said, Russia “has to get used to the fact that a very painful reduction in income is an inevitable consequence of the war.”
The return of embassy activity to Ukraine’s capital, Zelenskyy said is “a testament to the faith in our victory.”