Ukraine is continuing its arduous campaign to regain territory near Bakhmut, inflicting heavy losses on Russian forces on the southern front, senior military officials said.
Ukrainian sources indicate heavy fighting has broken out in many parts of the eastern front, but there has been no further significant progress in the three-month-old counteroffensive.
Despite Ukraine’s gains over the past year, its progress in reclaiming territory in the northeast has slowed.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and other officials rejected Western criticism that the counteroffensive was too slow and hampered by strategic mistakes, such as placing troops in the wrong places.
The Russian Ministry of Defense explained that its forces were able to confront eight attacks in the east, in areas whose control is contested with Ukrainian forces, south of Bakhmut.
Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said that Ukrainian forces are making gains around three villages south of Bakhmut, including Andrievka.
“We have made progress there,” she wrote on Telegram.
Maliar initially reported that Andriivka had come under Ukrainian control, but later clarified that fighting was still taking place around the village, before the army announced control over it.
Russian forces-imposed control over Bakhmut last May after bloody battles that lasted for months, and since then Ukrainian forces have penetrated Russian positions, especially south of Bakhmut.
Maliar didn’t mention the towns of Avdiivka and Marinka, located to the south in the Donetsk region, the day after she said that the two cities were under violent Russian attacks.
On the southern front, where Ukrainian forces focused on controlling groups of villages in their advance towards the Sea of Azov, Maliar said Russian forces suffered heavy losses in attacks on key towns.
She added that Russian casualties weakened their ability to defend themselves.
Going south aims to divide the land bridge established by Russian forces between the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014, and areas it controls in the east, which expanded in area after its comprehensive invasion that began in February last year.
Oleksandr Stubon, spokesman for the forces on the southern front, stressed the severity of Russia’s losses during its attempts to regain the lost positions.
He told Ukrainian television, “The enemy lost 15 tanks and 12 armored vehicles, as a result of his attempts to regain at least some of the lost positions in the direction of Tavria (south) during the past two days.”
He estimated Russian casualties at up to 665 over the two days.