Russian forces launch big push on key eastern Ukraine city

(Reuters) – Russian forces were pressing on with a major push on the key eastern Ukrainian town of Avdiivka on Wednesday after many months of besieging it, Ukrainian military officials said.

The Ukrainian officials said Russian forces had redirected large numbers of troops and equipment to Avdiivka in their largest attack on the town since launching the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Major assaults have been under way since Tuesday.

Russian accounts also indicated the fighting had intensified, saying Moscow’s forces had “improved their position in the immediate outskirts around Avdiivka”.”It is not quite as heated as yesterday, but the battles are continuing,” Vitaliy Barabash, head of the town’s administration, told national television, noting about two dozen hits in the town’s old district and others in the city centre.

“This is the largest-scale offensive action in our sector since the full-fledged war began.”

The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed forces said 10 enemy attacks on the town had been repelled.

Oleksandr Shtupun, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s southern group of forces, told the television that Russian forces were pressing their attacks “sometimes using infantry and in some areas deploying quite a lot of vehicles into battle”.

Most attention in the Russian military’s push through the eastern Donbas region has focused for many months on the city of Bakhmut, captured by Moscow troops in May.

But Avdiivka, home to a large coking plant to the southwest in Donetsk region, has been under attack for virtually the same length of time. Much of the town has been reduced to rubble.

Ukraine launched a major counteroffensive in June focusing on two theatres. The aims include securing areas around Bakhmut in order to retake the town and recapturing villages in the south on a drive towards the Sea of Azov to sever a Russian land bridge between positions Moscow holds in the south and east.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy and other officials acknowledge that the advances, undertaken with the help of Western equipment, have been slower than hoped.

But they dismiss suggestions by Western critics that the counteroffensive is too sluggish and hampered by strategic errors.

(Reporting by Ron Popeski and Oleksandr Kozhukhar; Editing by Sonali Paul)