Russian forces sought to encircle Ukrainian troops in eastern twin towns straddling a river as President Volodymyr Zelenskiy warned Moscow was seeking to destroy the industrial Donbass region where it has focused its attacks.
Russia is trying to seize the two separatist-claimed Donbass provinces, Donetsk and Luhansk, and trap Ukrainian forces in a pocket on the main eastern front.
Musa Magomedov, a Ukrainian MP, said Russian forces were shelling Avdiivka, a town just inside the Ukrainian-controlled part of Donetsk, “in a completely inhumane way”.
“They are killing civilians and destroying the city we built with so much love,” Magomedov, manager of a coking plant in Avdiivka, said on Telegram.
Ukraine’s military staff said Russia had stepped up the use of aircraft to support ground forces as it lacked supplies of high-precision missiles.
Russian forces have taken control of three towns in the Donetsk region, including Svitlodarsk, regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko told a Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty affiliate.
“The situation in Donbass is extremely difficult. All the remaining force of the Russian army is now concentrated in this region,” Zelenskiy said in a speech on Tuesday evening.
“The occupiers want to destroy everything there.”
The Russian Defense Ministry did not immediately respond to an out-of-hours email request for comment.
The easternmost part of Ukraine’s Donbass pocket, the city of Sievierodonetsk on the eastern bank of the Siverskiy Donets River and its twin Lysychansk on the western bank, have become a crucial battleground. Russian forces were advancing from three directions to encircle them.
“The enemy has focused its efforts on carrying out an offensive in order to encircle Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk,” said Serhiy Gaidai, governor of Luhansk province, where the two towns are among the last territories held by Ukraine. .
Ukraine’s military said on Tuesday it repelled nine Russian attacks in Donbass where Moscow troops killed at least 14 civilians, using aircraft, rocket launchers, artillery, tanks, mortars and missiles.
Reuters could not immediately verify the information.
In a sign of Ukrainian success elsewhere, authorities in its second-largest city, Kharkiv, reopened the underground metro, where thousands of civilians had sheltered for months under relentless shelling.
The reopening came after Ukraine pushed Russian forces largely out of artillery range from the northern city, as they did from the capital, Kyiv, in March.
Three months into the invasion, Russia still has limited gains to show for its worst military losses in decades, while much of Ukraine suffered devastation in the greatest attack on a European state since 1945.
More than 6.5 million people have fled abroad, thousands have been killed and cities have been reduced to rubble.
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