Ukraine security chief: Main battles taking place in Donbas

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KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s security chief said Friday that the main battles in Ukraine are taking place in the Donbas, the industrial heartland in the east, with Russians deploying more and more troops every day.

Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, told The Associated Press that over 100,000 soldiers are fighting for Russia in Ukraine, including mercenaries from Syria and Libya. According to him, more troops are coming in.

“We have a difficult situation, but our army is defending our state,” Danilov said.

He called the Donetsk, Luhansk and Kharkiv regions the main hot spots of the fighting. He said that battles are also taking place in the South of Ukraine but with a lesser intensity.

Some 12 to 14 of Russia’s elite military units have left the strategic post city of Mariupol, which was declared “liberated” by the Kremlin on Thursday, and are now moving to the east of the country to participate in the fighting there, Danilov said.

“It will now be difficult for our forces, because our guys in Mariupol were taking (those units) on themselves, it is their courage and feat,” Danilov said.

He said Ukraine was able to deliver weapons to Azovstal, the last stronghold of Ukrainian forces in Mariupol, by helicopters at night.

“They went there at night at great risk,” Danilov said. “When these flights departed and they asked them what to fill the helicopters with … they answered — fully load them with weapons.”

Danilov urged Western nations to speed up the delivery of weapons to his country, because “of course, we can’t be compared to Russia in terms of strength.” He said supplies should be increased so that “we could end this war on our territory as soon as possible.”

If the war continues, Ukraine can mobilize 2.5 million to 3 million people to fight, Danilov said. He said that if necessary, his people would join the army to take up arms.

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