Russian forces keep up the pressure ahead of Ukraine anniversary

Kyiv, Ukraine — Russian forces are keeping Ukrainian troops tied to fighting in the eastern Donbass region as Moscow assembles additional combat power there for an offensive planned in the coming weeks, Ukrainian officials said Monday.

Weeks of intense fighting continued to rage around the town of Bakhmut and the nearby towns of Soledar and Vuhledar, Ukraine’s presidential office said.

They are located in the Donetsk region which, together with the neighboring region of Lugansk, constitutes the Donbass region, an industrial zone bordering Russia.

“The battles for the region are intensifying,” Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said in televised remarks, adding that “the Russians are throwing new units into the battle and eradicating our towns and villages.”

In Lugansk, Governor Serhii Haidai said shelling had decreased because “the Russians saved ammunition for a full-scale offensive.”

Military analysts say Kremlin forces could probe Ukrainian defenses for weak points or could feint while preparing for a main thrust into southern Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is hungry for battlefield success, particularly securing illegally annexed territory in eastern Ukraine to mark the anniversary of his February 24 invasion.

Russian forces made gains in the early months of the war, although they failed to clinch key objectives and were later pushed back from large areas by a Ukrainian counteroffensive.

Western military aid has been essential for Kyiv. Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand tweeted late Sunday that the first Leopard tank Canada is donating to Ukraine has arrived in Poland. It is part of a large tank engagement by Ukraine’s western allies to help it defeat Russia.

Training of Ukrainian servicemen in the use of the tank was to begin “soon”, Anand said, as allies rush to prepare Ukrainian forces ahead of the impending offensive.

Ukraine’s presidential office said Monday that at least one civilian had been killed and 10 others injured by Russian shelling in the past 24 hours.

Five of the injured were injured in the shelling of the city of Kharkiv, where Russian shells hit residential buildings and a university, the presidential office said.

The Russians again fired at targets across the Dnieper from the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, damaging residential buildings and power lines in Nikopol and Marhanets across the Dnieper, the authorities reported. Ukrainian authorities.

Russian forces occupied Zaporizhzhia, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, early in the war, and regular bombing of the area raised serious security concerns.

The UN nuclear chief is expected to visit Moscow this week to discuss security in Zaporizhzhia, according to a senior Russian diplomat. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov did not reveal the exact date of the visit to Russia of the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, but confirmed that it should take place this week and that nuclear plant safety was “a key issue” on the agenda.

The IAEA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


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