Published:  01:58 AM, 29 January 2023

Fighting intensifies in east Ukraine

Fighting intensifies in east Ukraine
Russia has stepped up attempts to break through Ukraine's defences with heavy fighting in the north and east of the country, underlining Kyiv's need for more Western weapons, Ukrainian officials said on Friday.

The Ukrainian military said fierce battles were under way, a day after Russian missiles and drones killed at least 11 people in what appeared to be a response to promises by Western nations to supply Ukraine with tanks, Reuters reports.

After weeks of wrangling, Germany and the United States have promised Ukraine dozens of modern tanks to help push back Russian forces.
It opened the way for Canada, Poland, Finland, Norway and others to follow suit.

Russia accused the United States of "pumping weapons into Ukraine" and chided President Joe Biden.

Moscow said Mr Biden held the key to ending the conflict in Ukraine - which Russia says does Washington's bidding - but had not used it.
The Kremlin added that it saw the promised delivery of Western tanks as evidence of growing "direct involvement" of the US and Europe in the war, something both deny. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked allies for their support but renewed calls for tougher sanctions on Moscow and more weapons to repel the invaders in the twelfth month of the war.

"This evil, this Russian aggression can and should be stopped only with adequate weapons. The terrorist state will not understand anything else," Mr Zelensky said in his nightly television address on Thursday.

Local officials on Friday reported heavy shelling in the north, north-east and east of Ukraine, scene of some of the heaviest combat since Russia's invasion on Feb 24 last year."Fierce fighting continues along the front lines. Our defenders are firmly holding their positions and inflicting losses to the enemy," said Oleh Synehubov, governor of the north-eastern region of Kharkiv.

Reuters could not verify battlefield reports.
Front lines have been largely frozen over the past two months, with Russia trying to gain ground in the east after occupying swathes of territory there and protect a corridor of land it has seized in southern Ukraine.

Both sides are widely expected to launch a spring offensive.
The US has publicly advised Ukraine against doing so until the latest weapons are in place and training has been provided - a process expected to take several months.

Oleskandr Musiyenko, head of the Military and Strategic Research Centre of Ukraine, said Russia was sending in more reinforcements, mainly conscripts, to block Ukrainian advances.

"But they do not have the level of artillery and tank support they had on Feb 24," Mr Musiyenko told Ukrainian television.
Britain said in an intelligence update that Russian forces had probably conducted probing attacks near Orikhiv in south-eastern Ukraine and in Vuhledar in the east, but were unlikely to have achieved "substantive advances".

Russian forces are intensifying the fight along the eastern front line. They are using their recent capture of the town of Soledar to build pressure on the besieged city of Bakhmut nearby where Ukrainians have held back an onslaught for months.

"Where will the main (Russian) strike occur? For now, we have no idea," said Mykola Sunhurovskiy, director of military programmes at Ukraine's Razumkov Centre think tank, warning of possible "diversionary strikes" to confuse Ukraine's military.

Russia's invasion has killed thousands of civilians, uprooted millions and reduced cities to rubble.
Thursday's missile and drone strikes were the latest in a series of Russian attacks on energy facilities that have depriving millions of people of heating, light and water.

Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), who visited Ukraine last week, said IAEA monitors reported powerful explosions near Ukraine's Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station and renewed calls for a security zone around the plant.
But Renat Karchaa, an adviser to the head of Rosenergoatom, the company operating Russia's nuclear plants, said the comments were unfounded and called it a "provocation".

Russia has in the past reacted to Ukrainian successes with massed air strikes that left millions without light, heat or water.
On Thursday, it appeared to follow that pattern. Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said Russia's attacks targeted energy plants.
"Repair teams are working in those sites," Mr Zelensky said.

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