Russian forces pound Avdiivka for fourth straight day

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Russian forces pounded the eastern Ukrainian city of Avdiivka for the fourth day in a row on Friday, with both Moscow and Washington deeming the intensified fighting a new offensive in Russia’s 19-month-old invasion of its neighbor.

In attacks elsewhere in Ukraine, a Russian missile strike killed one person in the city of Pokrovsk, also in the east, while a drone attack in the south killed a women and seriously injured her husband.

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In Avdiivka, known for its large coking plant in Ukraine’s Donbas industrial heartland, officials said the Russian assaults had left the already-gutted city in flames.

“The fighting has been going on for four consecutive days,” Vitaliy Barabash, head of the city’s military administration, told Ukrainian national television.

“They have substantial reserves of personnel and equipment. Avdiivka is completely ablaze. They shoot, using everything they have. The hospital is again under fire, as are administrative buildings and our volunteer centre.”

Russia has focused its campaign along the 1,000-km (600-mile) front on the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.

A Ukrainian counteroffensive launched in June has made some progress in both the east, near Bakhmut, and in the south, where Kyiv hopes to sever a land bridge joining Russian positions in the south and east.

But the gains have not yet matched rapid gains made by advances last year in the northeast and south.

Russia’s representative to the United Nations, Vasily Nebenzia, said the intensified battles in the east signified a new stage in its campaign.

“Russian troops have, for several days now, switched over to active combat action practically throughout the entire front line,” Nebenzia told a session of the U.N. Security Council.

“The so-called Ukrainian counteroffensive can therefore be considered finished.”

In Washington, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said the Russian action amounted to a “new offensive”, showing that Russia was in no way ready to give up its campaign.

But the United States, he said, was confident that the Ukrainian military would beat back Russian forces.

Military analyst Serhiy Zgurets, writing on the Espreso TV website, said Avdiivka had withstood Russian attacks in 2014, when Russian-financed separatists had seized large chunks of Ukrainian territory. The area had since been fortified.

“All Russian attacks have resulted in significant losses for them,” he wrote.

In Pokrovsk, northwest of Avdiivka, one person died and 24 were injured in the morning missile attack, while in Beryslav, in the southern region of Kherson, a drone attack killed a 34-year-old woman and seriously injured her 36-year-old husband.

Russian forces abandoned the western bank of the Dnipro River in the Kherson region late last year, but continue to shell towns there from positions on the eastern bank.

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