Ukraine’s General Staff on Saturday said that Russian troops were fiercely attacking Bakhmut, a cornerstone of the defence system around the last Ukrainian-held urban area in the eastern Donbas region.
“The enemy is carrying out an attack on Bakhmut; The fighting continues,” the General Staff said in its latest situation report.
The pro-Russian rebels had reported the day before that there was fighting already inside the city area, reports dpa news agency.
The statements from both sides however, could not be independently verified.
Since the capture of the Luhansk region in early July, Russian offensive efforts in eastern Ukraine have concentrated on the neighbouring Donetsk region.
Luhansk and Donetsk make up the Donbas region, a predominantly Russian-speaking area which has been the focus of Moscow’s war aims for months.
Step by step, the Russian invaders have been able to push back the Ukrainian defenders in recent weeks. They now control about 60 per cent of the territory, the situation report said.
The headquarters of the Ukrainian troops in Donbas is located in the built-up urban area of Slovyansk-Kramatorsk, where some half million people lived before the war.
From the east, this area is secured by the Siversk-Soledar-Bakhmut line of defence.
This line is now wavering in several places. Russian troops are also outside Siversk and Soledar. However, the heaviest fighting is currently going on around the Bakhmut traffic junction, which the Russians are shelling with artillery and tanks.
Fighting is also continues directly outside the former regional capital Donetsk, which has been in the hands of pro-Russian separatists since 2014.
The troops loyal to Moscow are trying to push the Ukrainians further back.
In the area of the small town of Avdiivka, north of Donetsk, there were several attempted attacks, which were repelled, the Ukrainian general staff reported. Large areas of the region are being shelled with artillery.
In the south of the country, however, the initiative is going the Ukrainians’ way. There, Russian troops are concentrating on defending their positions in the occupied areas, the situation report said.
The Ukrainian military’s Southern Command had previously reported having destroyed at least six Russian weapons and ammunition depots as well as two command points in the Kherson region.