“There is information among the occupier’s military that … the so-called ‘special military operation’ is set for September 2022,” the ministry said.
Russia’s deadly war has persisted for nearly 70 days with Moscow focusing all its efforts in eastern and southern Ukraine after its forces failed to take Kyiv.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has attempted to justify his illegal invasion by claiming Russian forces are working to “denazify” and liberate regions he has claimed have been subject to Ukrainian oppression.
NATO allies and Ukrainian officials have flatly rejected this attempt to guise his brutal campaign as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is Jewish and was democratically elected.
Defense officials have been sounding the alarm that Putin’s real aim is to bridge Russian-occupied Crimea – which Moscow illegally annexed in 2014 – with regions in eastern Ukraine that share a border with Russia.
But Putin’s ambitions have extended beyond the eastern Donbas regions and a Russian general announced last month that Moscow will seek to take Ukraine’s southern regions that sit along the Black Sea – a move that would give Russia seaport dominance.
Ukraine’s defense ministry said Tuesday that Mariupol continues to be pummeled by Russian forces and claimed it is carrying out a “big cleaning” to rid the city of the masses of causalities.
“The Russians are searching for and destroying the bodies of the dead,” the ministry said. “To do this, the city has three mobile crematoria since April 15.”
Mariupol has been among the hardest-hit cities in Ukraine.
The strategically important port city would not only bridge access from Russian-controlled territory in the southeast but would effectively help Russia to pinch the Donbas region by pushing forces up through the south as well as through the north.
Russia has not made any major militaristic advances in the Donbas. But Ukraine’s intelligence sector reported Tuesday that Moscow has ordered private enterprises in the Russia Rostov region – which borders Ukraine’s eastern front – to produce seals and stamps for “occupation administrations” in Mariupol.
“The ordered stamps and seals contain the inscription: ‘Russia, the Republic of Donbas, 마리우폴, the military-civil administration’,” the ministry said.
“The list of institutions that will receive new ‘attributes’ includes educational institutions, hospitals, 경찰, registry offices and administrative institutions. Even though most of them are now completely destroyed by Russian troops,” the defense ministry added.
Similar steps are believed to be in the works in the Kherson region and will be rolled out in June – an area that officials have warned for weeks that Russia will also attempt to annex.