Bolstered by thousands of reservists drawn up in December, Russia has stepped up attacks in southern and eastern Ukraine in recent weeks, and a major new offensive is widely expected as the first anniversary of its invasion approaches. Is.
“The enemy’s offensive continues with round-the-clock attacks in the east,” said Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar.
“The situation is tense. But our fighters are not allowing the enemy to achieve their objective and are inflicting very serious casualties,” he wrote on the Telegram messaging app on Wednesday.
Earlier, the Russian Defense Ministry said Ukrainian forces had retreated in the face of Russian operations in the Luhansk region, although it gave no details and Reuters was not able to verify this and other battlefield reports.
The ministry said in a telegram, “During the offensive… Ukrainian troops randomly retreated to a distance of 3 km (2 mi) from the previously occupied lines.”
“Even the stronger second line of defense of the enemy could not prevent the success of the Russian army.”
The ministry did not say in which part of Luhansk the attack took place. The Luhansk and Donetsk regions make up the Donbass, Ukraine’s industrial heartland, which is now partially occupied by Russia which seeks full control.
In Kiev, the capital’s military administration said six Russian balloons that may have carried reconnaissance equipment were shot down after air raid sirens sounded.
“The purpose of launching the balloons was probably to detect and eliminate our air defences,” it said on the Telegram messaging app. Russia did not immediately comment.
Russia’s main effort has been an artillery and ground assault on the town of Bakhmut in Donetsk.
Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said that Russian forces have launched attacks on several settlements, including Paraskovivka, on the northern approaches to Bakhmut.
Russian attempts to advance on two other settlements north of Bakhmut were repelled, he added in a YouTube video.
“Things are very difficult for our forces there because Russian troops are being sent into the area on a large scale,” Zhdanov said.
Maxim Zorin, a military analyst and former commander, told Ukrainian Radio NV that the Russians were attacking the villages of Opiten and Klishivka at the southern end of Bakhmut.
Heavy fighting also took place in Krasna Hora, north of Bakhmut, where Ukrainians had suffered losses, he said.
He said, “The city can be supplied and the wounded can be evacuated. We can maintain our defense for a long time now.”
The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said in its evening report that Russian forces had shelled more than 15 towns and villages near Bakhmut, including the town itself.
Donetsk regional governor Pavlo Kirilenko posted pictures and video of a wrecked apartment building in the city of Pokrovsk, southwest of Bakhmut, which left three people dead.
The capture of Bakhmut would give Russia a stepping stone to advance on two major cities, Kramatorsk and Slavyansk further west into Donetsk, reviving Moscow’s momentum ahead of the February 24 anniversary of the invasion.
The coalition said NATO countries are ramping up production of the cannons because Ukraine is burning through shells faster than the allies can make them.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg told reporters after a two-day meeting of the alliance’s defense ministers in Brussels: “Things are happening, but … we need to do more, because Ukraine has a big problem with providing ammunition.” needed.” ,
The United States has committed billions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine since the conflict began, with commitments of more than $27.4 billion in security assistance.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell urged countries to join Germany in sending tanks.
Britain said it and other European nations would provide military equipment, including spare parts for tanks and artillery ammunition, through an international fund with an initial package of more than $241 million.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Ukraine had a very good chance this year to take the initiative on the battlefield and “exploit”.
Russia calls the invasion a “special military operation” against security threats and the delivery of heavy weapons to Ukraine as evidence that the West is escalating the war.
Kiev and its allies call Russia’s actions a land grab.
Senior US officials have previously advised Ukraine to hold off on a major offensive until the latest US arms supplies and training have been provided.
“We have to make sure that this spring it really feels like Ukraine is marching towards victory,” said the President of Ukraine. Volodymyr Zelensky Said in the evening address.