Russian forces conducted aerial attacks on Thursday in their slow-moving campaign to win control of eastern Ukraine and used smaller attack groups to try to capture the beleaguered town of Avdiivka, the Ukrainian military said.
Russia has ramped up its push in recent weeks to try to encircle Avdiivka, which lies less than a dozen kilometers from the outskirts of the Moscow-held regional capital of Donetsk.
The town has held out so far, but it has been taking sustained fire, while Moscow’s forces have been inching forward on the flanks to try to cut supply lines.
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“For the second day in a row, occupying forces have been actively using kamikaze drones and aviation. And the number of combat clashes has significantly increased,” military spokesperson Oleksandr Shtupun said on television.
Ukraine’s General Staff, in its evening bulletin, said its forces had rebuffed 15 attacks in Avdiivka and nearby villages, in addition to 34 attacks reported in its morning account.
Media outlet Espreso TV said Russian forces were pressing from the north but had not made inroads into the industrial area outside the city center.
A Ukrainian serviceman quoted by Espreso TV said Russia’s new tactic involved sending groups of up to five men into action supported by armored vehicles and air cover, and engaging in intense firefights while trying to flank Kyiv’s positions.
The serviceman, Andriy Shyshuk, echoed President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s call for more fortifications around towns and other defensive points, but said this should be done by engineering units, not assault units.
Official Russian accounts rarely mention Avdiivka. Russian war bloggers said on Thursday that Moscow’s forces had made progress near the village of Stepove, north of the town, and “stabilized” the situation in the industrial zone.
Reuters could not verify accounts from either side.