Russian forces have intensified their attacks on key points of the front line as they go on the offensive in Ukraine.
Ukraine’s general staff reported late on Thursday that its military had repelled Russian assaults across the front earlier in the day, including around the strategic eastern towns of Avdiivka and Bakhmut as Moscow’s forces become more active following Kyiv’s counteroffensive over the summer.
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Ukrainian forces are reported to have repelled 11 attacks near Avdiivka, 15 in the Maryinka sector and 22 to the northeast in Bakhmut. Six attacks were repelled farther north near Kupiansk, the general staff said.
As Moscow ramps up its offensive, President Vladimir Putin paid a surprise visit to Russia’s military headquarters for the campaign in Rostov-on-Don in southern Russia, the Kremlin said on Friday. The president surveyed plans and equipment on his second visit there in under a month.
Russian troops have been bearing down on Avdiivka since mid-October. The industrial town’s position as a gateway to the provincial capital of Donetsk, 20km (12 miles) to the east makes it highly strategic.
A press officer for Ukraine’s 3rd Separate Assault Brigade told the news outlet Espreso TV that Russian forces have been launching major infantry attacks.
“It is not just infantry advancing but also parallel work of artillery, drones, aviation, the same air bombing and more,” he said. However, the officer said Russian forces have been unable to replenish supplies quickly and Ukrainian defensive positions were solid.
The head of Avdiivka’s military administration told Espreso that Russian forces were shelling the town “round the clock” but wet ground from several days of rain was holding them back. “Once the ground dries, they will definitely advance,” he added.
Russia’s Investigative Committee, in an account of the day’s fighting, said Ukrainian forces shelled the town of Skadovsk in a Russian-occupied area of the southern region of Kherson. The report said there were dead and wounded in the attack. Russia’s Ministry of Defence also reported strikes on Ukrainian troops and equipment near Bakhmut.
Elsewhere, Ukraine’s military intelligence agency said on Friday that Ukrainian forces damaged two small Russian landing boats in Crimea during an overnight attack using sea drones.
The statement said the vessels were crewed and loaded with armoured vehicles. The extent of the damage was not immediately clear.
Meanwhile, the news agency RIA quoted Russia’s Defence Ministry as saying its air defences had brought down two Ukrainian drones over Crimea and one over the Tula region south of Moscow.
Reports from both the Russian and Ukrainian sides could not be independently confirmed.
As the fighting continues, Putin assessed the state of his country’s forces in Ukraine during his overnight visit to the Southern Military District headquarters in Rostov-on-Don. Video shared by a Russian state news agency showed him being greeted by Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu and Valery Gerasimov, chief of the general staff, late on Thursday.
Putin was “introduced to new types of military equipment” and was informed about the progress of the war, his spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said, according to the Russian state news agency Tass.
The Russian president made the visit on the way back from a trip to Kazakhstan, where he aimed to cement ties with Russia’s former Soviet neighbour and major economic partner in the midst of tensions with the West over Ukraine.