Updated Apr 17, 2022 - World

Zelensky: "The battle for Donbas is very important"

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stressed the importance of the forthcoming fight for Donbas during an interview on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday, saying the battle could "influence the course of the whole war."

Driving the news: In recent weeks Russian forces have turned their focus on sending troops and materials to eastern Ukraine in preparation.

  • In the first phase of the war, Russian troops attacked across three broad fronts hoping to quickly take cities, but they became overstretched and suffered heavy losses. Moscow is now pulling tens of thousands of those troops back and preparing them for a narrower and potentially decisive fight for the Donbas, Axios' Dave Lawler writes.

What they're saying: "For us, the battle for Donbas is very important. It is important for different reasons, for the reason of safety, first of all. Our grouping located in Donbas is one of the best military we have. It's a large grouping and Russia wants to encircle them and destroy them," Zelensky said.

  • "It is 44,000 professional military men who survived a great war from the beginning of 2014. This is why it is very important for us to preserve that part of our army, that is one of the most powerful," he added.
  • "This battle — and it can happen, so there will be several battles and we don't know how long it is going to take — can influence the course of the whole war."
  • Zelensky added that though Ukrainian forces have fought off Russian assaults on cities like Kyiv and Chernihiv, if the Russians win in Donbas, they could "come further towards Kyiv."

Worth noting: Asked by host Jake Tapper about the possibility of Russia using nuclear weapons, Zelensky said "all of the world" needs to be worried about the possibility.

Go deeper: Russia and Ukraine race to prepare for decisive battle in Donbas

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