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Russia Declares Battlefield Gains As Ukraine Urges Faster Military Aid

Bolstered by tens of thousands of reservists drafted in December after months of humiliating battlefield reverses, Russia has intensified attacks across southern and eastern Ukraine in recent weeks, and a major new offensive is widely anticipated as the first anniversary of its invasion nears.

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(DEFENCE SECURITY ASIA) — Russia said on Wednesday (Feb 15) it had broken through two of Ukraine’s fortified defence lines in the east and Kyiv spoke of relentless Russian attacks making it “difficult for us”, as Western allies announced more military aid for Kyiv including artillery rounds.

Bolstered by tens of thousands of reservists drafted in December after months of humiliating battlefield reverses, Russia has intensified attacks across southern and eastern Ukraine in recent weeks, and a major new offensive is widely anticipated as the first anniversary of its invasion nears.

The Russian Defence Ministry said Ukrainian forces had retreated in the face of Russian attacks in the Luhansk region, although it gave no details and Reuters was not able to independently verify this and other battlefield reports.

“During the offensive … the Ukrainian troops randomly retreated to a distance of up to 3km from the previously occupied lines,” the ministry said on the Telegram messaging app.

“Even the more fortified second line of defence of the enemy could not hold the breakthrough of the Russian military.”

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The ministry did not specify in which part of the Luhansk region the offensive took place.

Later in the day, Ukrainian deputy defence minister Hanna Malyar said Russian forces were mounting “round-the-clock” assaults on government positions, without specifying where.

“The situation is tense. Yes, it is difficult for us. But our fighters are not allowing the enemy to achieve their goals and are inflicting very serious losses,” Maltyar wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Haidai said Russia was pouring heavy equipment and mobilised troops into Luhansk.

“The attacks are coming in waves from different directions. (But) those who spread the information that allegedly our defence forces have pulled back beyond the line of the administrative boundary (of Luhansk) – this does not correspond to reality.”

In Kyiv, the capital’s military administration said six Russian balloons that may have contained reconnaissance equipment were shot down over the city on Wednesday after air raid sirens blared.

“The purpose of launching the balloons was possibly to detect and exhaust our air defences,” it said on the Telegram messaging app. Russia did not immediately comment.

Russia is also waging an artillery and ground onslaught on the city of Bakhmut in Donetsk province adjacent to Luhansk.

Serhiy Cherevatyi, spokesperson for Ukraine’s eastern military command, told Ukrainian TV on Wednesday that fierce battles were being fought in Bakhmut, widely flattened by months of bombardment that has turned it into a virtual ghost town.

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Bakhmut’s capture would give Russia a stepping stone to advance on two bigger cities, Kramatorsk and Sloviansk further west in Donetsk, which would revive Moscow’s momentum ahead of the Feb. 24 first anniversary of the invasion.

Zelenskyy said on Tuesday Russia was in a hurry to achieve as much as it could with its latest push before Ukraine, armed with heavier and longer-range firepower from the West, gathers strength for what many expect to be a spring counter-offensive.

Ukraine is using shells faster than the West can make them and says it needs fighter jets and long-range missiles to counter the Russian offensive and recapture lost territory.

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