RUSSIA CLAIMS GAINS IN EAST UKRAINE AS WAR ANNIVERSARY APPROACHES

Russia claimed on Thursday its forces had advanced further in east Ukraine, putting Kyiv on the defensive days before the two-year anniversary of the war.

Ukraine has faced intense pressure on its eastern front in recent months as it grapples with ammunition shortages and hold-ups to much-needed Western military aid.

The Russian defence ministry said Thursday it captured Pobeda, a small village about five kilometres (three miles) west of Donetsk city on the front line.

"On the Donetsk front, units of the 'Southern' group of troops liberated the village of Pobeda and improved their position along the front line," it said.

The capture, if confirmed, would mark another step westwards for Moscow, which last week seized the former Ukrainian stronghold of Avdiivka after months of battle.

Ukraine said in a briefing later Thursday that it was "holding back enemy forces" in Pobeda, but did not explicitly refute Moscow's claim.

"Russians are concentrating their main activity on the Donetsk region," Ukraine's senior commander in the area Oleksandr Tarnavsky said, without elaborating.

The capture of Avdiivka last week, weeks after the nearby town of Marinka fell to Russian forces in December, marked a turning point for Moscow after months of deadlocked fighting.

Russia has for months been ramping up arms production and driving massive human resources into its offensive, at what Kyiv says is an enormous human toll.

- Kherson bridgehead -

As Russia claimed advances in the east, Ukraine said its forces had struck a Russian training ground in the south, on the Moscow-controlled eastern bank of the Dnipro river.

Kyiv has managed to hold a thin bridgehead on the eastern bank of the river in the southern Kherson region since last year, but its forces have not claimed substantial progress since.

Ukraine struck Wednesday, hitting a range where Russian storm troops were training, military spokeswoman Nataliya Gumenyuk said.

She told AFP that around 60 Russian troops were "killed or seriously wounded" when three strikes hit the training ground near the village of Podo-Kalynivka.

The Telegram channel of the southern defence forces posted aerial video footage showing explosions and soldiers lying on the ground.

The training ground Ukraine targeted was being used by soldiers deployed to attack the bridgehead, Gumenyuk said.

Ukraine reportedly carried out a similar strike on a training ground near the Russian-controlled eastern town of Volnovakha in the Donetsk region on Tuesday, with numerous casualties.

Neither side officially confirmed this.

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2024-02-22T13:03:39Z dg43tfdfdgfd