Moscow forces are struggling to make a decisive breakthrough months after an offensive aimed at capturing the entire Donbas region, even as Ukrainian authorities said on Saturday that Russian planes, drones and artillery had been attacking eastern Ukraine.
Ukraine repelled 70 Russian attacks in the past 24 hours on its eastern front, the army’s General Staff said in its morning update. The city of Avdiivka, which has been under attack since Moscow launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine more than a year ago, bore the brunt of the attacks. Fighting also continued in Bakhmut, a city where both sides have suffered heavy casualties, and in Marinka.
The fighting has posed a dilemma for the Ukrainian authorities in the towns and cities attacked. For months they have urged civilians to leave, but some residents have remained, often hiding in basements amid relentless shelling, motivated by compromise with their homes, financial insecurity or poor 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, Kyrylenko added.
After Russian forces failed to capture the Ukrainian capital kyiv a year ago, Russia’s President Vladimir V. Putin made the capture of the Donbas his main military objective. In recent weeks, Russian forces have intensified their attacks in eastern Ukraine as part of a new offensive push.
But Britain’s defense intelligence agency said on Saturday that “it is becoming increasingly apparent that this project has failed.”
More than a year into the war, the Russian military has suffered staggering losses: up to 200,000 soldiers killed or wounded, Western officials say, and thousands of tanks and armored vehicles destroyed or captured by Ukraine. Military analysts and Ukrainian officials say Russia is also running low on artillery shells and cruise missiles, and is having trouble replenishing its stocks due to Western sanctions. Many of their most elite, best trained and experienced units have been decimated.
On Saturday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei K. Shoigu met with generals involved in Moscow’s war effort in Ukraine to discuss supplying the troops with weapons, the ministry said. said in a statement. Mr Shoigu said they had established which munitions were in the highest demand and “steps are being taken to increase” the supply, the statement added.
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 late-night speech, on a defiant note.
“We are preparing our next steps, our active actions. We are preparing the approach of our victory, ”he said on Friday night. “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 troop buildups there by both sides, as well as increased shelling.
“The occupiers have taken defensive positions. They are no longer advancing,” Askad Ashurbekov, a deputy of the regional council in Zaporizhzhia, said on Ukrainian television this week. “The fact that the occupiers are shelling the civilian infrastructure of the Zaporizhzhia region,” he added, indicates that Russia fears a possible Ukrainian offensive.