KIEV, April 15. /TASS/. The Ukrainian combat group in Donbass numbers 44,000 troops and the region has turned into a key area of battles that will influence the course of the armed conflict in the country, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky said in an interview with the BBC on Friday.
"I believe that this [Donbass] is the center of today’s escalation that will influence the course of this war," Zelensky said, adding that the Ukrainian combat group in Donbass numbered 44,000 troops.
The situation at the line of engagement in Donbass escalated on February 17. The Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics (DPR and LPR) reported the most massive bombardments by the Ukrainian military in recent months, which damaged civilian infrastructure and caused civilian casualties.
On February 21, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced recognizing the sovereignty of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics. Russia recognized the Donbass republics in accordance with the DPR and LPR constitutions within the boundaries of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions as of the beginning of 2014.
Russian President Putin said in a televised address on February 24 that in response to a request by the heads of the Donbass republics he had made a decision to carry out a special military operation in Ukraine in order to protect people "who have been suffering from abuse and genocide by the Kiev regime for eight years." The Russian leader stressed that Moscow had no plans of occupying Ukrainian territories, noting that the operation was aimed at the denazification and demilitarization of Ukraine.
The DPR and the LPR launched an operation to liberate their territories under Kiev’s control.