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Article: Russia claims battlefield gains as Ukraine urges faster military aid

Russia claims battlefield gains as Ukraine urges faster military aid

Russia claims battlefield gains as Ukraine urges faster military aid

KYIV (Reuters) -Russia said on Wednesday it had broken through two fortified Ukrainian defence lines on the eastern front, as Kyiv described conditions there as difficult and Western allies announced more military aid, including increased supplies of artillery rounds.

The Russian Defence Ministry said the Ukrainians 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 3 km (1.9 miles) 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."

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

The ministry added that its "Southern group", backed by artillery, was waging an offensive in the direction of Donetsk.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's office said Ukrainian forces had repelled some Russian attacks in Luhansk but added: "The situation in the region remains difficult."

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

"The attacks are coming from different directions in waves," Haidai said. But he added: "Those who spread the information that allegedly our defence forces have pulled back beyond the line of the administrative border (of Luhansk) - this does not correspond to reality."

The Kremlin has intensified attacks across a swathe of southern and eastern Ukraine in recent weeks, and a major new offensive has been widely anticipated.

Russia's main effort has been focused on the town of Bakhmut in Donetsk province adjacent to Luhansk.

The Ukrainian military said its units repelled Russian attacks in the areas of more than 20 settlements, including Bakhmut and Vuhledar - a town 150 km (90 miles) southwest of Bakhmut.

Zelenskiy on Tuesday said Russia was in a hurry to achieve as much as it can with its latest push before Ukraine and its allies gather strength.

"That is why speed is of the essence," he said. "Speed in everything - adopting decisions, carrying out decisions, shipping supplies, training. Speed saves people's lives."

Serhiy Cherevatyi, spokesperson for Ukraine's eastern military command, told Ukrainian television on Wednesday that fierce battles were being fought in Bakhmut.

Bakhmut's capture would give Russia a stepping stone to advance on two bigger cities, Kramatorsk and Sloviansk in Donetsk, giving it momentum after months of setbacks ahead of the Feb. 24 first anniversary of the invasion.


NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters the alliance's members were increasing production of 155 mm artillery rounds and needed to ramp that up even further to help Ukraine. It was "obvious" NATO states had to spend more on defence, he added.

"So yes, things are happening but we need to continue, we need to step up even more. This is now becoming a grinding war of attrition and a war of attrition is a war of logistics," he said following a meeting of NATO defence ministers in Brussels.

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell urged countries to join Germany in sending "as many tanks as possible, and as quickly as possible" to Ukraine after media reports that Denmark and the Netherlands said they would not deliver Leopard 2 battle tanks like Berlin.

"It would be very disappointing if, after so long of pointing the finger at Germany for not doing anything, these countries now don't follow suit," Borrell told Germany's Phoenix broadcaster.

Britain said it and other European nations will provide military equipment including spare parts for tanks and artillery ammunition to Ukraine via an international fund, with an initial package worth more than $241 million.

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.

The United States and NATO have pledged that Western support will not falter in the face of a looming Russian offensive.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Tuesday he expected Ukraine to launch its own offensive in the spring. He added: "Ukraine has urgent requirements to help it meet this crucial moment in the course of the war. We believe there'll be a window of opportunity for them to exercise initiative."

On Jan. 20 a senior U.S. administration official said Washington was advising Ukraine to hold off with a major offensive until the latest supply of U.S. weaponry is in place and training has been provided.

Representatives of the 27 EU countries meet in Brussels on Wednesday to discuss new sanctions against Russia, which the head of the bloc's executive said could amount to 11 billion euros ($11.8 bln) in lost trade.

Russia calls the invasion a "special military operation" against security threats, and says NATO shows hostility to Russia daily and is growing more involved in the conflict. Kyiv and its allies call Russia's actions an unprovoked land grab.

Russia holds swathes of Ukraine's southern regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, including its nuclear plant, nearly all of Luhansk and over half of Donetsk. Last year, Russia declared it had annexed the four regions in a move condemned by most United Nations members as illegal.

Russia plans to retake the settlements in the northeastern Kharkiv region that it surrendered to Kyiv last year, the head of the Russian-installed administration there said on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Caleb Davis, Sabine Siebold, Pavel Polityuk, Ron Popeski, Lydia Kelly, Aleksandar Vasovic, Tassilo Hummel, Steve Holland, Doina Chiacu, Ron Popeski and David Ljunggren; Writing by Stephen Coate and William Maclean; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Tomasz Janowski)



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