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The Epoch Times
The Epoch Times
25 Mar 2023

NextImg:Russia Presses Along Ukraine Front After Reports of Bakhmut Slowdown

NEAR KREMINNA, Ukraine—Russian forces attacked northern and southern stretches of the front in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region on Friday, even as Kyiv claimed Moscow’s assault was flagging near the city of Bakhmut.

Ukrainian military reports described heavy fighting along a line running from Lyman to Kupiansk, as well as in the south at Avdiivka on the outskirts of the Russian-held city of Donetsk.

Both areas have been major Russian targets in a winter campaign to fully capture Ukraine’s industrialized Donbass region.

At a Ukrainian artillery position in lush pine forests behind the northern stretch of the front, troops fired 155 mm rounds from a French TRF-1 howitzer towards a highway used to supply Russian-held Kreminna.

“Luckily we are holding the same position,” a soldier told Reuters. “Because we are facing a very strong enemy with very good arms. And it’s a professional army: airborne troops.”

The front lines have barely budged since November, despite intense fighting. Ukraine recaptured swathes of territory in the second half of 2022, but has since kept mostly to the defensive, while Russia has attacked with hundreds of thousands of freshly called-up reservists.

As winter turns to spring, the main question in Ukraine is how much longer Russia can sustain its offensive, and when or whether Ukraine can reverse the momentum with a counterassault.

On Thursday, the commander of Ukrainian ground forces claimed Russia’s assault on Bakhmut, a small city that has been the focus of the biggest battle of the war, appeared to be losing steam and Kyiv could go on the offensive “very soon.”

For now, Ukrainian forces are still focused on preventing a Russian advance along more than 300 km (185 miles) of Donbass front, from Kupiansk in the north to Vuhledar in the south.

Serhiy Cherevatyi, spokesperson for the east command defending the front farther north, said Russia’s main focus was on a stretch from Kupiansk to Lyman recaptured by Ukrainian forces last year.

In Bakhmut itself, Ukrainian troops, who weeks ago appeared likely to pull back, have instead dug in, a strategy some Western military experts say is risky given the need to conserve forces for a counterattack.

Russia said its forces had destroyed a hangar housing Ukrainian drones in the Odesa region in the south.

Dmitry Medvedev said Moscow wants to create demilitarized zones around Ukrainian territory it claims to have annexed, and would otherwise battle deep into Ukraine.