Intense Russian attacks threaten Avdiivka’s supply route, advance on Kupiansk

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Russian forces on Monday pressed their attacks on two frontline areas of eastern Ukraine, seeking to sever the sole supply route into the devastated city of Avdiivka and advance on the key town of Kupiansk farther north.

The General Staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said its troops had repelled about 10 Russian attacks on Avdiivka. Vitaly Barabash, head of Avdiivka’s military administration, said there were round-the-clocks strikes on Avdiivka’s town centre and on the sole road used to bring in supplies.

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“A very difficult situation with supplies, with 22 km (15 miles) of road constantly under fire, day and night,” Barabash told US-funded Radio Liberty.

“This complicates evacuation and delivery of aid. The enemy is trying to cut it off. Any movement is a signal to open fire.”

Barabash said roughly 1,600 residents remained in the town, down from a pre-war population of about 30,000. Most of those remaining had no wish to leave, he said.

Avdiivka has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance after months of attacks. It was briefly captured in 2014 by Russian-backed separatists who overran large stretches of territory in the east, and Ukrainian forces have erected solid fortifications in the intervening nine years.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy paid tribute to those defending the town in his nightly video message, saying: “Their resilience is the strength for all Ukraine now.”

General Oleksandr Syrskyi, commander of Ukrainian ground forces, described conditions along the entire 1,000-km (600-mile) front as “challenging”. He singled out Bakhmut, seized by Russia in May after months of battles, and Kupiansk, both northeast of Avdiivka, for facing the greatest difficulties.

“The enemy is sustaining significant losses, primarily in terms of personnel, but is constantly replenishing its forces by bringing in reserves, including from Russia,” Syrskyi told the UNIAN news agency.

Local officials also said Russian forces had again shelled areas in the southern Kherson region that are under Kyiv’s control. Mandatory evacuation orders have been issued for more than 800 children, they said.

Russia has focused on gaining control of the eastern Donbas region, made up of Donetsk and Luhansk cities and surrounding areas, since failing to move on Kyiv in the early days of its February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. Moscow calls the war in Ukraine a “special military operation”.

Ukraine launched a counteroffensive in June this year in both the east and south, making much slower progress however than a lightning advance through the northeast a year ago.

Russian accounts of the fighting on Monday made no mention of Avdiivka for the third straight day. It said Russian forces had repelled three attacks outside Kupiansk and a further 10 near Bakhmut.

Reuters could not independently confirm the battle reports from either side.

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