Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited front-line command posts in eastern and southern Ukraine on Thursdaywhile local officials reported six dead in a series of Russian air, rocket and artillery strikes.
Even though the front lines have barely moved in more than a year, fighting remains intense, with both sides racing to gain ground as temperatures drop below zero.
Zelensky said he held talks with military commanders in the northeastern Kharkiv region and the southern Zaporizhzhia region on Thursday.
Upon meeting the soldiers, praised the Ukrainian troops deployed around Kupianska city that Russian forces have had in their sights since it was recaptured by Ukraine last September.
“Fighters on the Kupiansk front are protecting the peaceful life of Ukrainians and the people of the Kharkiv region,” Zelensky said in a video posted on social media.
“I wish you victory, be strong and do not lose the initiative,” he said.
Hours after announcing his visit, Moscow claimed its forces had repelled two Ukrainian attacks near Kupiansk with the help of fighter planes and artillery.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials said Russian forces had continued to try to wrest control of Avdiivka, a frontline town in the neighboring Donetsk region.
In his evening speech on Thursday, Zelensky said that it was “necessary to promote and accelerate the construction” of fortifications in Avdiivkaas well as near other front line cities.
Russia launched a new attempt to capture the war-torn city last month and analysts suggest Moscow’s forces have made incremental gains, albeit at enormous human cost.
“The enemy continues active ground infantry attacks in operational mode,” Oleksandr Tarnavsky, responsible for fighting in the east, said Thursday.
He added that Ukrainian forces had repelled more than 20 Russian attacks on several towns and villages around Avdiivka and that Ukraine had taken dozens of Russian forces captive in the past month.
The AFP was unable to independently verify these claims.
Throughout eastern and southern Ukraine, Six people were killed in a series of Russian attacks and three more are still missinglocal officials said Thursday.
In the Kherson region, authorities said Russian bombing had killed three people in the village of Sadove.
Two people were killed and three more, including a child, were trapped under rubble in the eastern Donetsk region after simultaneous Russian attacks on three cities, Ukrainian emergency services said.
The industrial region has seen some of the fiercest fighting during the nearly two-year Russian invasion. The Kremlin claimed to have annexed it last year, along with three other regions.
Russian forces fired six S-300 rockets at Pokrovsk, Novogrodivka and Myrnograd, officials in kyiv said.
emergency workers The bodies of two men were recovered from a residential building in Novogrodivka on WednesdayUkraine’s emergency services agency said.
As night fell, rescuers were still searching for three people, including a child, suspected to be trapped under the rubble, he added.
An overnight attack on the town of Toretsk in the eastern Donetsk region also killed one person and wounded two, the local prosecutor’s office said, raising to six the death toll Kiev says were killed in Russian strikes during the day.
“The occupiers attacked the city of Toretsk for the second time in one day. Preliminarily, the enemy dropped two KAB-250 aerial bombs on the city. They targeted the private sector, a 49-year-old local resident died,” he reads. she said in a statement.
In another attack in Pokrovsk, a six-month-old baby was injured, along with two children aged 13 and 16said Interior Minister Igor Klymenko.
“One of the projectiles exploded in the patio of a house where a family with two children lived. As a result of the bombing, the roof and walls of the house were destroyed and the family was buried under the rubble,” Klymenko added.
Russian forces and their proxies have controlled large swaths of the Donetsk region since 2014when large-scale pro-democracy protests in Ukraine led to a separatist conflict in the east.
Separately, Ukraine’s human rights ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets said on Thursday that Moscow had stopped exchanging prisoners of war with kyiv.
The two warring sides have carried out many rounds of prisoner exchanges during the 21-month invasion of Moscow, but in the second half of this year the process stalled.
(With information from AFP)