Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Sunday that Russian forces have made gains in their offensive in Ukraine, including in Avdiivka, a symbolic industrial hub where fighting has raged.
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“Our forces are improving their positions in almost all of this area, which is a very vast area,” he said in an interview with Russian television, an excerpt of which was published on social media on Sunday.
“This concerns the Kubyansk, Zaporizhia and Avdiivka regions,” Putin said, praising the army’s “active defense strategy.”
Kiev on Saturday reported “very heated” fighting around Avdiivka on Saturday, saying Russian forces “did not stop attacking it” for several days as they tried to encircle it.
Ukraine said last week that Russia had intensified its attacks on the frontline city, which is located just 15 kilometers from Moscow-controlled Donetsk.
Avdiivka has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance since 2014, after it briefly fell into the hands of Russian-backed separatists.
Since then, it has served as a frontline and was regularly bombed even before the offensive began in February 2022.
It would be a symbolic victory more than a strategic one if Russia captured Avdiivka, which was built around a huge coke factory, since the city has long represented Ukrainian resistance to Russian aggression.
Russian forces now control the territory to the east, north and south of Avdiivka, and are gradually tightening the noose in an attempt to push Ukrainian forces away from Donetsk.
It is believed that about 1,600 civilians are present in the city, which had a pre-war population of 31,000 people.
“Encircle the city”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had said that Kiev was holding on to its positions in Avdiivka, but Moscow had previously claimed that its positions had improved there.
The city’s Ukrainian mayor, Vitaly Barabakh, on Saturday described the situation on the ground as “very tense,” with the Russians trying to “encircle the city” with “more and more forces.”
According to Barabakh, there are still just over 1,600 civilians in Avdiivka, where evacuation is difficult due to constant bombing.
The Ukrainian army said on Sunday that Russian attacks in the region had been “repelled.”
He added, “The enemy continues to attempt to penetrate our defenses, but to no avail.”
Several analysts, using open source images of the attack on Avdiivka posted on social media, noted that the Russians appear to be suffering significant losses in military hardware.
The massive Russian attack on Avdiivka came four months after the Ukrainian counterattack, which was slower than expected.
Putin reiterated on Sunday that the counterattack “completely failed.”
He added, “We know that the enemy is preparing new offensive operations in some combat areas.”
“We see it and we know it. As a result we react.”
Local authorities said that Russian strikes left four dead and three wounded since Saturday in the eastern Kharkiv region and Kherson in the south.
In the Moscow-occupied area of the Kherson region, three civilians were killed and another wounded on Saturday, according to local official Vladimir Saldo.
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