KYIV: Fighting along the northern portion of Ukraine’s eastern front has “significantly worsened” in recent days, the commander of Kyiv’s ground forces said on Saturday.
Oleksandr Syrskyi, who was visiting Ukrainian troops in the area, said Russian forces had regrouped after suffering losses and were attacking around the village of Makiivka and towards the city of Kupiansk.
“The main objective of the enemy is the defeat of a grouping of our troops, the encirclement of Kupiansk and to reach the Oskil River,” he said in comments carried by an official military platform.
Syrskyi added that Russian forces were carrying out “dozens” of assaults each day, but that Ukrainian troops had been ready and were holding their ground.
A four-month-old Ukrainian counteroffensive has made some progress in both the east, near Bakhmut, and in the south, where Kyiv hopes to reach the Sea of Azov, but gains have been incremental.
Kyiv reported “heated” fighting around its eastern city of Avdiivka, saying Russian forces had “not stopped assaulting” the symbolic industrial hub for days in their attempt to surround it.
‘Heated’ fighting in Avdiivka as Russia tries to ‘surround’ city
Ukraine last week said Russia had stepped up assaults on the frontline city, which lies just 15 kilometres from Moscow-held Donetsk.
Avdiivka has been a symbol of Ukrainian resistance since 2014, after it briefly fell to Russian-backed separatists.
Russian forces now control territory to the east, north and south of Avdiivka.
“For the fifth day already, the enemy has not stopped either assaulting or shelling positions around the city,” Vitaliy Barabash, the head of the city, said on Ukrainian television. “It is very heated, very heated,” he said of the fighting.
“They are trying to surround the city,” Barabash added, claiming that Moscow was deploying “more new forces” to the area. He described intense battles: “There is certainly no silence there at all. Shooting battles continue, both from the north and from the south of the city.”
Kyiv’s interior ministry said Russian shelling had “destroyed” a five-storey building in the city, saying it believed a man in his sixties was under the rubble but that it was “impossible to retrieve the body.” It urged residents still in Avdiivka to evacuate.
Some 1,600 civilians are believed to be in the city, which had a pre-war population of 31,000. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said Kyiv was holding its ground in Avdiivka, but Moscow claimed it had improved its positions there.
Ukraine also said that a Russian attack killed an 11-year-old boy in the eastern village of Bagatyr, also in the Donetsk region, some 80 kilometres west of Avdiivka.
“The boy turned 11 just two days ago,” Ukrainian police said in a statement.
Published in Dawn, October 15th, 2023