• Russian General Sergei Rudskoi said the "first stage" of attacks on Ukraine had "generally been accomplished."
  • Fighting has slowed in the capital city of Kyiv and is expected to increase in the Donbas region. 
  • Ukrainian President Zelenskyy refuses to recognize Crimea or the Donbas region as Russian territory.

Russian officials signaled this week that the country has moved the goalposts for its invasion of Ukraine, with an official saying the military's "first stage" objectives had been accomplished and that Russia is preparing for further attacks in the Donbas region of Ukraine. 

"The main objectives of the first stage of the operation have generally been accomplished. The combat potential of the Armed Forces of Ukraine has been considerably reduced, which, I emphasize once again, makes it possible to focus on the main efforts to achieve the main goal, liberation of Donbas," Russian General Sergei Rudskoi said in a briefing on Friday, Interfax reported.

The shift in strategy comes after a month of Ukrainian resistance that, per reporting from AP, was unexpected for Russian President Vladamir Putin, who thought the capital city of Kyiv would be captured in a matter of days. 

On February 23, Putin announced a "special operation" that focused attacks on the Ukrainian cities of Kyiv, Mariupol and Odessa, rather than a military operation focused on the Donbas region, which has seen intense fighting since 2014.

Putin initially said the operation was aimed to "demilitarize and de-Nazify Ukraine" and strikes were launched across the country as part of a full-scale invasion. Putin has since demanded Ukrainian President Zelenskyy recognize Moscow's control over Crimea and Donbas — claims Kyiv rejects.

However, the Russian attempt to surround Kyiv has reportedly stalled, and Zelenskyy remains defiant. Ihor Zhovkva, deputy chief of staff to Zelenskyy, told Bloomberg Television on Friday that Ukrainian officials won't agree to a deal on Russia's terms and called for more military aid from the West. 

Bloomberg reported that Zhovkva said Russian negotiators, having failed to achieve the Kremlin's short-term military goals, appeared to be waiting to see what happens next in a bid to strengthen Russia's military position. 

"[Putin's] plan is using Ukraine as an interval to the result he is talking about; of taking the Baltic states, the countries that were part of the Soviet Union, and other countries where there was once a Soviet army, where the Soviet Union had influence," Zelenskyy said in a recent interview.

"I said that if our negotiations with him failed, it would be clear that he did not accidentally set such conditions that Ukraine could not agree to," Zelenskyy continued. "He would effectively set a trap, and then say: they just did not want peace. As soon as he uses - if he uses - all his forces on the borders with European or NATO countries, it will be World War III."

Translations by Nikita Ilyich Angarski.

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