Half of Donetsk under Moscow control: Russian-backed official
More than half of the eastern region is under Russian control, but military advancement in some areas is difficult, occupation official says.
More than half of Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region is under Russian control but heavy fighting has stalled further advances, a Moscow-installed official said.
The so-called Donetsk People’s Republic is one of four areas in Ukraine that Moscow annexed in September in an exercise Ukraine and its allies denounced as a “sham” coercive referendum.
“A little more than 50 percent of the territory of the Donetsk People’s Republic has been liberated,” Denis Pushilin, the Russian-backed administrator, told Russian state-owned news agency RIA on Tuesday.
Fierce battles in the region in recent weeks have left it unclear which parts of Donetsk are under Russian and Ukrainian control.
Russia has claimed to be gradually advancing its positions, with the defence ministry saying on Monday its offensive killed 30 Ukrainian military personnel the day before.
However, Pushilin said the situation was tough along the Lyman line of contact in the region’s north. Ukraine liberated Lyman hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin proclaimed the annexation of Donetsk.
“The situation remains difficult, the enemy is trying to counterattack, but our units are now holding all positions,” said Pushilin. “It is not always possible to move forward.”
Russia’s sustained shelling of the front line in Donetsk has destroyed the city of Bakhmut and heavily damaged the city of Avdiivka, which lies in the region’s centre, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Friday.
On Monday, the general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said Russia kept concentrating its efforts to advance and capture both cities.
“Near Bakhmut, the occupiers rained mortar and artillery fire on nearly 20 settlements,” it said in an evening update. Nine settlements came under shelling near Avdiivka, the military said.
The United Kingdom’s defence ministry said Russia was still likely to be planning deeper advances within Donetsk, but it cast doubt on its ability to do so.
“It is highly unlikely that the Russian military is currently able to generate an effective striking force capable of retaking these areas,” it said.
“Russian ground forces are unlikely to make operationally significant advances within the next several months.”