Russia has of late made its intentions clear that its focus of combat operations will remain on liberating the Donbas region in the east. This as the crucial southeast port city of Mariupol reportedly still has a final holdout group of Ukrainian troops fighting as Russia overwhelms the city.
The Wall Street Journal reports, "Russia called on the last Ukrainian troops fighting in Mariupol to lay down arms on Sunday and observe an hourslong cease-fire that it said would allow them to leave the battlefield unscathed, as it closed in on capturing the strategic port city after weeks of heavy bombardment."
In a new weekend interview published Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told CNN that his military will not give up an inch of territory in the east, saying the fight for the Donbas could determine the course of the war. He told Jake Tapper that a strong defense of Donbas would likely mean the Russians would be thwarted in attempting to take Kiev again.
"This is why it is very important for us to not allow them, to stand our ground, because this battle ... it can influence the course of the whole war," Zelensky said.
"Because I don't trust the Russian military and Russian leadership," he added. "That is why we understand that the fact that we fought them off and they left, and they were running away from Kyiv -- from the north, from Chernihiv and from that direction -- it doesn't mean if they are able to capture Donbas, they won't come further towards Kyiv."
This marks somewhat of a reversal from words he issued at the end of March:
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday he is willing to compromise with Russia on the Donbass region — because to try to force Russian forces completely from Ukraine would lead to World War III, according to Reuters.
Commenting on President Joe Biden recently designating Russian attacks on Ukrainian towns and the population "a genocide" - Zelensky stressed, "I have the same opinion as President Biden,"
A map of the approximate situation on the ground in Ukraine as of 00:00 UTC 17/04/22. pic.twitter.com/TxPQbT4JKk— Ukraine War Map (@War_Mapper) April 17, 2022
He described: "Look what happened in Bucha. It's clear that is not even a war, it's a genocide. They just killed people. Not soldiers, people. They just shot people in the streets. People were riding bicycles, taking the bus or just walking down the street. There were corpses lining the streets."
Alarmingly given the severe escalation in rhetoric, Zelensky also over the weekend said that the world should be prepared for Russia to use nuclear weapons. "We shouldn't wait for the moment when Russia decides to use nuclear weapons," he said over the weekend. "We must prepare for that."
Zelensky warns Russia could use tactical nuclear weaponshttps://t.co/B5GxY5yYgi— Axios (@axios) April 15, 2022
However, not even US intelligence believes there's been any shift in Russia's nuclear posture, and there's no evidence that the Kremlin is poised to deploy tactical nukes, as some reports are suggesting.