Volleys of Russian missiles hit a series of Ukrainian regions early Thursday, including the Black Sea port of Odessa and the second city of Kharkiv, knocking out power in several areas, regional officials said.
Odessa region governor Maksym Marchenko said on Telegram that a massive missile attack hit an energy facility in the port city, knocking out power. Residential areas were also affected, but no casualties were reported.
Kharkiv region governor Oleh Synehubov said the city and region had been hit by 15 strikes, with targets including infrastructure. Other strikes were reported in the central city of Dnipro and in parts of the country.
Late Wednesday, Ukraine’s military said it had successfully repelled intense Russian attacks on the town of Bakhmut despite a Russian claim to control its eastern half.
Ukraine continues Bakhmut fight amid Russian territorial claims
As one of the bloodiest battles of the year-long war unfolds in the ruins of the small town, the Ukrainian defenders – who last week appeared to be preparing for a tactical retreat – remained defiant.
“The enemy continued their attacks and showed no signs of slowing down in the assault on the city of Bakhmut,” the Ukrainian Armed Forces General Staff said on Facebook. “Our defenders repelled attacks on Bakhmut and surrounding communities.”
Ukrainian military and political leaders are now talking about sticking to their positions and inflicting as many casualties as possible on the Russians to reduce their combat capability.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a video address on Wednesday evening that the battle for Bakhmut and the surrounding Donbass region was “our first priority”.
Ukrainian towns Chasiv Yar and Bakhmut fill with flames and smoke as Russian attack intensifies
In a separate interview with CNN, he said: “We believe that in the direction of Donbass, Russia has started its offensive. It’s the offense. This is what it looks like: slow aggression, because they don’t have enough strength and strength.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the Russian mercenary group Wagner, said his fighters had captured the eastern part of Bakhmut. If true, Russian forces would control almost half of the city in a costly pursuit of their first major victory in several months.
“Everything east of the Bakhmutka River is completely under Wagner’s control,” Prigozhin said on the Telegram messaging app.
The river runs through Bakhmut, on the edge of the Ukrainian province of Donetsk which is already largely under Russian occupation. The city center is on the west side of the river.
Ukraine sends more troops to Bakhmut to try to break Russian siege
Prigozhin has already made premature claims of success. Reuters was unable to verify the situation on the ground.
Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said that in addition to Zabakhmutka district on the eastern outskirts of Bakhmut, the Russians captured Ilyinivka district on the northern side.
“The situation is critical,” he said in a video commentary, adding that Russian forces had also made gains near Avdiivka south of Bakhmut as well as north around Svatovo.
Russia was throwing more troops into the battle, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said ahead of a meeting of European Union defense ministers in Stockholm.
“They suffered big losses, but at the same time we can’t rule out Bakhmut possibly going down in the next few days,” Stoltenberg said.
Russian forces close in on Ukrainian town of Bakhmut
It wouldn’t necessarily be a turning point in the war but it showed “not to underestimate Russia”, he said.
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EU defense ministers have agreed to speed up the supply of artillery shells and buy more shells to help the Ukrainian army, which is burning shells faster than its allies can manufacture them .
Under the plan, EU states would receive financial incentives of €1 billion to send more of their artillery shells to Kyiv, while another €1 billion would finance the joint purchase new shells.
Russia has said it has annexed almost 20% of Ukrainian territory and claims that taking Bakhmut would be a step towards seizing the entire Donbass industrial region on its border.
Western analysts say Bakhmut has little strategic value, although his capture would be a boost for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his army after a series of setbacks in what they call their “special military operation”.
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Kiev says Russia’s losses there could determine the course of the war, with Ukraine set to launch a counter-offensive when the weather improves and it receives more Western military aid, including military aid. chariots.
The months of war in the east have been among the deadliest and most destructive since Russia invaded in February last year, adding Bakhmut’s name to a list of devastated cities that includes Mariupol, Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk.
A Ukrainian military drone showed the extent of the destruction in Bakhmut, filming burning buildings and smoke billowing from residential areas.
The impact of the Russian invasion on Ukraine
Iryna Vereshchuk, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister, said fewer than 4,000 civilians – including 38 children – out of a pre-war population of around 70,000 remain in Bakhmut.
US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told a Senate committee that Washington did not expect the Russian military to recover sufficiently this year to make any significant gains.
Russia presents its invasion of Ukraine as a response to threats to its security stemming from its neighbor’s ties to the West.
(Reporting by Reuters bureaus; Writing by Cynthia Osterman and Stephen Coates; Editing by Grant McCool, Robert Birsel)
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