Zelensky visits eastern front as Russia ramps up attacks

Zelensky visits eastern front as Russia ramps up attacks

World

Zelensky on Thursday visited a frontline command post in east Ukraine.

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KYIV (Ukraine) (AFP) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday visited a frontline command post in east Ukraine, where Russia has been stepping up attacks aimed at dislodging Kyiv's forces before winter sets in.

Despite the frontlines having barely shifted in over a year, fighting has remained intense, with both sides hurrying to gain ground as temperatures plunge below freezing.

During his visit, Zelensky praised Ukrainian troops deployed around Kupiansk, a town that Russian forces have had in their sights since it was recaptured by Ukraine last September.

"Fighters on the Kupiansk front are protecting the peaceful life of Ukrainians and the people of the Kharkiv region," Zelensky said in a video posted on social media.

"I wish you victory, be strong and don't lose the initiative," he said.

Hours after he announced his visit, Moscow claimed its forces had repelled two Ukrainian assaults near Kupiansk with the help of fighter jets and artillery.

Ukrainian military officials meanwhile said Russian forces had continued trying to wrest control of Avdiivka, a frontline town in the neighbouring Donetsk region.

Russia launched a renewed bid to capture the war-battered town last month and analysts suggest Moscow's forces have made incremental gains, though at an enormous human cost.

"The enemy continues active ground infantry attacks in the operational area of the Tavria operational-strategic group of troops. In some places, they use armoured vehicles," said Oleksandr Tarnavsky, who is responsible for fighting in the east.

FIVE KILLED

He said Ukrainian forces had fended off more than 20 Russian attacks on several towns and villages around Avdiivka and that Ukraine had taken dozens of Russian forces captive in the last month.

AFP was not able to independently verify the claims.

Local officials said five people were killed in Russian attacks across the east and south of Ukraine, with three more still missing.

In the Kherson region, authorities said Russian shelling had killed three people in the village of Sadove.

Two people were killed and three more, including a child, were trapped under rubble in the eastern Donetsk region after simultaneous Russian strikes on three towns, Ukraine's emergency services said.

The industrial region has seen some of the fiercest fighting of Russia's nearly two-year invasion. The Kremlin claimed to have annexed it last year, along with three other regions.

Russian forces fired six S-300 rockets on Pokrovsk, Novogrodivka and Myrnograd, officials in Kyiv said.

Emergency workers on Wednesday recovered the bodies of two men from a residential building in Novogrodivka, Ukraine's emergency services agency said.

As night fell, rescuers were still searching for three people, including a child, suspected to be trapped under the debris, it added.

In Pokrovsk, a six-month-old baby had been wounded, alongside two boys aged 13 and 16, said Interior Minister Igor Klymenko.

"One of the shells exploded in the yard of a house where a family with two children lived. As a result of the shelling, the roof and walls of the house were destroyed, and the family was buried under the rubble," he added.

Russian forces and their proxies have controlled large swathes of the Donetsk region since 2014, when large-scale pro-democracy protests in Ukraine led to a separatist conflict in the east.

Separately, Ukraine's human rights ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets on Thursday said that Moscow had stopped swapping prisoners of war with Kyiv.

The two warring sides have carried out many rounds of prisoner exchanges during Moscow's 21-month long invasion, but in the latter half of this year the process stalled.
 




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