Russian and Ukrainian forces traded attacks in the critical eastern and southern regions of Ukraine on Thursday as the two countries fought over territory that Moscow has tried to annex in its 10-month war.
Fighting raged along the entire line of demarcation in the Donetsk region, with a Ukrainian official saying the front-line town of Avdiivka was shelled by Russian tanks on Thursday morning.
Ukraine’s governor of the Luhansk region, Serhiy Haidai, said that Russia deployed more troops near the city of Lysychansk to try to capture the village of Bilohorivka and described an intensifying Russian air offensive.
“They are bringing in more and more reserves” around Bilohorivka, Haidai told Ukrainian television. “There are constant attacks.”
In the settlement of Bakhmut and other parts of the Donetsk region that neighbors Luhansk, an assault killed nine civilians, a Ukrainian official said. Ukrainian forces countered with barrages from rocket launchers.
In the Russian-controlled Ukrainian city of Melitopol in the Zaporizhzhia region, a supply route into Crimea, Russian-installed authorities summoned men of fighting age to mobilize, Ukraine’s military general staff said in a statement.
Russia has launched dozens of attacks from multiple rocket launchers since Wednesday, the Ukrainian general staff said, along with 16 airstrikes and seven missile attacks.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has given conflicting statements on the goals of the war since his February 24 invasion, but it is now clear that his aims include some expansion of Russia’s borders.
Putin said Wednesday that the war will be a “long process” but asserted that Russia had already become geographically bigger by annexing Ukrainian territory, a reference to internationally disputed claims he made in September that four Ukrainian provinces are now part of Russia.
“This is a significant result,” Putin said, although Russia does not control all of the Ukrainian land it claims. He described the Sea of Azov as its “internal sea,” now bounded by Russia and Russian-controlled territory in southern Ukraine, including Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, which Russia seized in 2014.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says his troops will eventually drive Russia from all the captured territory, including Crimea.
Some material in this report came from Reuters.