Moscow’s plans to hold referendum in Donetsk ‘at advanced stage’

As Russia seeks to consolidate its hold on parts of the country seized by its troops, planning to hold referenda in a region of eastern Ukraine.

There,  it was seeking to gain control at an advanced stage, according to an assessment by British defence analysts.

In the Donetsk region, “it is likely that Russia is in the advanced planning stages to hold a referendum.

“Though it is unclear if the final decision to go ahead with a vote has yet been taken,’’ the Defence Ministry in London said in its daily update.

Russia initially said it aimed to take control of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine when it invaded the country in February.

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Together, the two areas made up the Donbas, an area previously controlled by Russian-backed separatists.

However, while Moscow’s troops had so far gained control of Luhansk, they had  not yet taken Donetsk, where battles continued.

“The Kremlin will likely see the military’s failure to occupy the entirety of Donetsk Oblast thus far as a setback for its maximalist objectives in Ukraine,’’ the ministry said.

Meanwhile, as Kiev’s fighters sought  to repel the invasion, New Zealand would send 120 defence staff to Britain to help train Ukrainian soldiers, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

Ardern said two teams would  train Ukrainian infantry with core skills for frontline combat including weapon handling, combat first aid, operational law and more.

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Soldier training was now one of the highest priorities for Ukraine, she said.

“New Zealand is proud to stand in solidarity alongside a number of other countries to answer that call,’’ she said.

Training would only be carried out at four locations in Britain, with New Zealand personnel not entering Ukraine. (dpa/NAN)

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