Russia’s military on Thursday pressed on with unrelenting attacks on the smashed eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut and also shelled the southern city of Kherson, officials in Kyiv said.
The Kremlin sees Bakhmut as pivotal in its slow-moving advance through eastern Ukraine more than a year after it invaded its neighbour.
Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar, writing on Telegram, said heavy fighting gripped all parts of the eastern front. She said pro-Kyiv forces repelled attacks in most areas.
“Most of the enemy’s offensive efforts are occurring in the Bakhmut sector,” she wrote, adding that Russian commanders had redirected troops there from other areas.
“The enemy is using its most professional units there and resorting to a significant amount of artillery and aviation. Every day, the enemy carries out in Bakhmut from 40 to 50 storming operations and 500 shelling episodes.”
The head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group said this week that his forces held 80% of Bakhmut, but the Ukrainian military said that figure was exaggerated.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and other senior officials are pressing allies for more weapons that Kyiv hopes will enable it to launch a major counter-offensive later this year.
“We are readying our boys,” Zelenskiy said in a video address late on Thursday. “We look forward to the delivery of weapons promised by our partners. We are bringing victory closer as much as possible.”
Officials said two people had died in Russian shelling of the southern city of Kherson.
Away from the battlefield, Ukrainian officials are focusing on the massive rebuilding effort that will be needed as well as pressure from allies to show progress in tackling corruption.
Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, holding talks in Washington, promised to account for every dollar of U.S. aid and said reconstruction work should start this year.