by David Ljungren
(Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Saturday that Ukrainian forces are still in control of the strategic eastern town of Bakhmut despite repeated Russian attacks, while the situation in the Donbass region remains extremely difficult.
In his evening speech, Zelensky said that Russian missiles and drones continued to bombard Ukrainian cities, causing destruction and casualties.
Although Ukrainian forces have regained control of thousands of square kilometers of land in recent attacks in the east and south, officials say the advance is likely to slow once Kyiv’s forces meet more determined resistance.
Fighting intensified especially in the eastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk, bordering Russia. Together they make up the larger Donbass industrial region, which Moscow has not yet fully captured.
Russian troops have repeatedly tried to capture the city of Pakhmut, located on the main road to Slovensk and Kramatorsk. Both are located in the Donetsk region.
“Active fighting continues in different areas of the front. The situation is still very difficult in the Donetsk region and Luhansk region,” Zelensky said.
“It is more difficult (the situation) in the direction of Bakhmut, as in the previous days, and we are keeping our positions,” he added.
Separately, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said in a Facebook post that on Saturday the forces repelled a total of 11 separate Russian attacks near Kramatorsk, Bakhmut and the town of Avdiivka, north of Donetsk.
Zelensky said that Russian forces, which rained cruise missiles on several Ukrainian cities on Monday, have hit targets in seven regions over the past two days.
He added, “Some of the missiles and drones were shot down, but unfortunately not all of them were shot down. Unfortunately, there is destruction and casualties.” Kyiv said on Friday it expected the United States and Germany to provide advanced anti-aircraft systems this month.
Zelensky also said nearly 65,000 Russians have been killed so far since the invasion on February 24, much higher than Moscow’s official estimate on September 21 of 5,937 dead. The Pentagon said in August that Russia had suffered between 70,000 and 80,000 deaths or injuries.
(Reporting by David Leungren; Editing by Grant McCall)
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