Ukraine conflict: Russia increases intensity of its operations in the Donbas as Zelensky accuses forces of organising a "massacre"

Russian forces have made marginal gains as they intensify their operations in the Donbas region according to the Ministry of Defence (MoD)

Kremlin forces are continuing to be met with stiff resistance from Ukrainian fighters

Russia has increased the intensity of its operations in the Donbas as it seeks to encircle Severodonetsk, Lyschansk, and Rubizhne. At present the northern and southern axes of this operation are separated by approximately 25 km of Ukrainian-held territory.

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"There has been strong Ukrainian resistance with forces occupying well dug-in defensive positions. Ukraine’s long-established Joint Force Operation likely retains effective command and control of this front.

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"Russia has, however, achieved some localised successes, due in part to concentrating artillery units.”

It added: “Russia’s capture of the Severodonetsk pocket would see the whole of Luhansk Oblast placed under Russian occupation. While currently Russia’s main effort, this operation is only one part of Russia’s campaign to seize the Donbas.

"If the Donbas front line moves further west, this will extend Russian lines of communication and likely see its forces face further logistic resupply difficulties.”

Ukrainian servicemen move toward the frontline at a checkpoint near the city of Lysychansk in the eastern Ukranian region of Donbas, on May 23, 2022, amid Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by ARIS MESSINIS / AFP) (Photo by ARIS MESSINIS/AFP via Getty Images)

In a late-night video address Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russian forces have organised a "massacre" in Donbas, trying to destroy "everything living" in the region.

"Nobody destroyed Donbas as much as the Russian army does now," Zelensky said.

Russian forces increased their bombardment of the Donbas, the eastern industrial heartland of coal mines and factories that the Kremlin is bent on capturing.

Cities not under Russian control were constantly shelled, and one Ukrainian official said Moscow's forces were targeting civilians trying to flee.

Only about 320,000 people out of the region's pre-war population of 1.6 million remain.