Large numbers of Russian troops are attacking Avdiivka in east Ukraine from all directions, and the situation is increasingly difficult for Ukrainian troops defending the town, its mayor has said.
Russian forces have taken the initiative on the eastern front in the industrial Donbas region of Ukraine and have been trying to cut supply lines and encircle Ukrainian forces dug in at Avdiivka since October.
“The enemy is pressuring from all directions. They are storming with very numerous forces,” Avdiivka mayor Vitaliy Barabash said in televised comments, describing the situation as “very difficult and hot”.
Pounded by fighting in the region since 2014 that surged in February 2022 when Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Avdiivka has sustained heavy damage.
There are now only 941 residents in the town that was once home to 32,000 people and has a large coking plant, Mr Barabash said.
Avdiivka’s fall would be hailed by Russian authorities as a hard-fought victory before an election next month in which President Vladimir Putin widely expected to be re-elected.
In its daily readout of the situation in Avdiivka, the Ukrainian military said Kyiv’s troops were holding back Russian forces.
“Our soldiers firmly hold the defence, inflicting significant losses on the invaders,” it said.
Ukraine’s ground forces said the situation was tense across the east of the country.
“The enemy is trying to break through our defence in the area of Chasiv Yar (in the Donetsk region) and resorting to local actions by small storm groups under the cover of drones and artillery,” they said on the Telegram messaging app.
Avdiivka is located in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region, which the Kremlin claims is part of Russia, along with four other Ukrainian territories that Moscow says it has annexed.
President Vladimir Putin last month was the first Russian official to claim that his forces had gained a foothold in the city.
Further east in Donetsk region, emergency services said that one person had been killed and seven more injured during Russian shelling of the village of Selidove.
The last major victory on the front came from Russian forces last May with the capture of Bakhmut after months of costly fighting on both sides.
Ukraine’s army commander in charge of the region, Oleksandr Syrsky, visited Ukrainian troops holding back Russian forces on Bakhmut’s outskirts and warned of mounting Russian attacks.
“The situation is tense, requiring constant monitoring of the situation and prompt decision-making directly on the ground,” he was cited as saying by the military on social media.
He said Russian forces were using kamikaze drones and electronic warfare alongside assault groups with artillery cover to break through Ukrainian defence lines outside Bakhmut.
Kyiv also said that Russia had launched another barrage of Iranian-designed attack drones at Ukraine overnight, and that its air defence systems had downed 11 of 17 drones.
Officials in the Black Sea region of Odesa said the attack had damaged a school and left two police officers injured, while in the Vinnytsia region, authorities said debris from downed drones had led to a fire at an infrastructure facility.