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Russian defense minister underlines focus on Donbas

Photo taken from video provided by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Feb. 16, 2022. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu speaks to officers on a military helicopter during naval exercise in the Mediterranean (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)
Photo taken from video provided by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Feb. 16, 2022. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu speaks to officers on a military helicopter during naval exercise in the Mediterranean (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP)

MOSCOW — Russia’s defense minister says that “liberating” the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine is the main goal of Moscow’s military operation, underlining a possible shift in strategy announced last week by another Russian military official.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, whose few public appearances this month raised questions about his health and whereabouts, held a meeting with top military officials and said that “overall, the main tasks of the first stage of the operation have been completed.”

He says that “the combat potential of the Ukrainian armed forces has been significantly reduced, which makes it possible to focus the main attention and main efforts on achieving the main goal — the liberation of Donbas.”

The minister stresses that the Russian military will continue the operation until “the set goals are achieved.”

Shoigu also offers an assurance that Russia will not send conscripts recruited in the upcoming April draft to Ukraine. Earlier this month, the Russian military admitted that a number of conscripts ended up in Ukraine and were even captured there.

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