By Olena Harmash and Yuliia Dysa
KYIV (Reuters) – President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Friday Ukrainian forces had repelled a new Russian onslaught on the eastern town of Avdiivka and were holding their ground in heavy fighting.
Zelenskiy and top military commanders visited the southern region of Kherson, where they discussed the situation there and around Avdiivka and Kupiansk, a town north of Avdiivka where Russian forces have also intensified attacks.
“Thanks to all our boys, who powerfully hold the defence and destroy the occupier day after day,” Zelenskiy said in a video posted on the Telegram messaging app.
“These days, the Russian losses are really staggering, and it is precisely losses by the occupier that Ukraine needs.”
Zelenskiy’s office said Russia’s assault on Avdiivka had resulted in “record losses” of personnel and equipment, but gave no further details of the extent of the losses.
Reuters was unable to verify the battlefield situation. Moscow has presented the situation around Avdiivka as more favourable for its forces, and each side has exaggerated the other’s losses since Russia’s invasion in February 2022.
The Ukrainian military said fighting was raging along the front line, with about 90 combat clashes in the past 24 hours. That compares with an average of about 60 daily clashes a week ago.
“The new wave (of attacks) is as powerful as the one before on October 10 and 11,” said Vitaliy Barabash, head of the Avdiivka military administration.
“It is very difficult. But the boys are holding out and repelled everything,” he told Ukrainian television.
Avdiivka, home to a big coking plant, has long been under attack and has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance and is seen as a gateway to the nearby Russian-held city of Donetsk.
SITUATION IN KHERSON
Kyiv has been making slow progress through vast Russian minefields in a counteroffensive that it began in the east and south in early June, but Russia has hit back hard around Avdiivka and Kupiansk.
Kyiv says the aim of the Russian attacks is to draw in Ukrainian troops from other fronts and to try to gain ground before winter sets in.
The Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. research group, said Ukrainian forces appeared to have broken through on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River in Kherson.
Kyiv has not commented on the report and Zelenskiy, who also visited the southern region of Mylokaiv, gave no details of the situation in Kherson.
Ukraine recaptured parts of the Kherson region late last year after months of Russian occupation. But Russian forces who left Kherson, the region’s biggest city, retreated only as far as the other side of the Dnipro and shell the city from there.
Kupiansk, in the northeast, was also recaptured by Ukrainian troops late last year in a lighting advance.
(Reporting by Yulia Dysa and Olena Harmash, Editing by Timothy Heritage)