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Intelligence: Putin orders new commander to seize Donbas by March
Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the new commander of Russia’s war against Ukraine, Valeriy Gerasimov, to seize Donbas, comprised of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, reported the Ukrainian Defense Ministry’s Main Intelligence Directorate spokesperson Andriy Yusov.
Donbas is the priority for Russian forces, Yusov said.
On Jan. 11, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu appointed General Valeriy Gerasimov a commander of the country’s Joint Group of Forces in Ukraine, Russian state-controlled media outlet RBC reported on Jan. 11.
The decision by Russia’s Defense Ministry to replace General Sergei Surovikin with Chief of the General Staff Gerasimov as commander of Russia’s war against Ukraine indicates “systemic challenges” for Moscow, Pentagon Press Secretary Pat Ryder said during a briefing on Jan. 12.
After conducting its full-scale invasion in late February last year, Russian forces seized almost the entire Luhansk Oblast, north and south of Donetsk Oblast, including the port city of Mariupol.
On Oct. 1, Ukraine's military liberated the strategic town of Lyman, north of Donetsk Oblast.
Alongside the lightning liberation of the northeastern Kharkiv Oblast, it has created a platform for Ukraine's advancement into Luhansk Oblast.