Moscow: Russia said on Wednesday it had broken through two strong Ukrainian defense lines on the eastern front, as Kyiv described conditions there as tough and Western allies announced more military aid, including increased supplies of artillery rounds.
The Russian Defense Ministry said the Ukrainians had retreated in the face of Russian attacks in the Luhansk region, although it gave no details.
“During the offensive … the Ukrainian troops randomly retreated to a distance of up to 3 km (1.9 miles) from the previously occupied lines,” the ministry said on the Telegram messaging app.
“Even the more fortified second line of defense of the enemy could not hold the breakthrough of the Russian military.”
The ministry did not specify in which part of the Luhansk region the attack occurred.
The ministry said that its “Southern Group”, supported by artillery, was launching an offensive in the direction of Donetsk.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s office said Ukrainian forces had repelled some Russian attacks in Luhansk but added: “The situation in the region remains difficult.”
Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Haidai said Russia was pouring heavy equipment and mobilized troops into Luhansk.
“The attacks are coming from different directions in waves,” Haidai said. But he added: “Those who spread the information that allegedly our defense forces have pulled back beyond the line of the administrative border (of Luhansk) – this does not correspond to reality.”
The Kremlin has intensified attacks across a swathe of southern and eastern Ukraine in recent weeks, and a major new offensive has been widely anticipated. Russia’s main effort has been focused on the town of Bakhmut in Donetsk province adjacent to Luhansk.
The Ukrainian military said its units repelled Russian attacks in the areas of more than 20 settlements, including Bakhmut and Vuhledar – a town 150 km (90 miles) southwest of Bakhmut. Zelensky said on Tuesday that Russia was in a hurry to get as much as it could before Ukraine and its allies grew in power.
“That is why speed is of the essence,” he said. “Speed is everything – adopting decisions, carrying out decisions, shipping supplies, training. Speed saves people’s lives.”
Serhiy Cherevtyi, a spokesman for Ukraine’s Eastern Military Command, told Ukrainian television on Wednesday that fierce fighting was being fought in Bakhmut.
The capture of Bakhmut would give Russia a step to advance on two major cities, Kramatorsk in Donetsk and Sloviansk, giving it momentum after months of setbacks ahead of the February 24 first anniversary of the invasion.