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Russia Pounds Eastern Ukraine but Hasn’t Secured Decisive Breakthrough in Offensive


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Russian jets, drones and artillery had pounded eastern Ukraine in deadly attacks over the past day, the Ukrainian authorities said on Saturday, but months into an offensive aimed at capturing all of the Donbas region, Moscow’s forces were still struggling to achieve a decisive breakthrough.

Ukraine repelled 70 Russian attacks over the past 24 hours on its eastern front, the military’s General Staff said in its morning update. The town of Avdiivka, which has been under assault since Moscow launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine more than a year ago, bore the brunt of the attacks. Fighting also continued to rage in Bakhmut, a city where both sides have sustained heavy casualties, and in Marinka.

The fighting has posed a dilemma for Ukrainian authorities in the towns and cities under attack. They have for months urged civilians to leave, but some residents have remained, often hiding in basements amid relentless shelling, motivated by a commitment to their homes, by economic insecurity, or by ill health and other factors.

A deadly attack in Avdiivka on Friday underscored the painful toll.

“A 5-month-old boy and his grandmother were killed, while the child’s mother and father were injured,” the head of the regional military administration, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said in a post on the Telegram messaging app. The family had refused to evacuate before the attack, Mr. Kyrylenko added.

After Russian forces failed to capture the Ukrainian capital Kyiv a year ago, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia made the capture of the Donbas his military’s primary objective. In recent weeks, Russian forces have stepped up their attacks in eastern Ukraine as part of a new offensive push.

But Britain’s defense intelligence agency said on Saturday that “it is increasingly apparent that this project has failed.”

More than a year into the war, the Russian military has suffered staggering losses — as many as 200,000 troops killed or wounded, Western officials say, and thousands of tanks and armored vehicles destroyed or captured by Ukraine. Military analysts and Ukrainian officials say that Russia is also running low on artillery shells and cruise missiles, and is having trouble replenishing its stocks because of Western sanctions. Many of its most elite, best-trained and experienced units have been decimated.

On Saturday, Russia’s defense minister, Sergei K. Shoigu, met with commanders to discuss the supply of weapons to troops, the ministry said in a statement.

Ukraine is expected to launch its own counteroffensive in the coming weeks, bolstered by new weapons supplied by the United States and other allies. President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine hinted at what was to come in his overnight address, sounding a defiant note.

“We are preparing our next steps, our active actions. We are preparing the approach of our victory,” he said late Friday. “We will not leave a single trace of Russia on our land.”

Military analysts have said that Ukraine’s counteroffensive could involve the Zaporizhzhia region in the south of the country. In recent days, there have been multiple reports of a troop buildup there by both sides as well as increased shelling.

“The occupiers have taken up defensive positions. They are no longer advancing,” Askad Ashurbekov, a deputy on the regional council in Zaporizhzhia, said on Ukrainian television this week. “The fact that the occupiers are shelling the civilian infrastructure of Zaporizhzhia region,” he added, indicates that Russia fears a possible Ukrainian offensive.


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