Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Saturday the situation on the front lines in the east of the country was getting tougher and Russia was throwing more and more troops into battle.
The Kremlin has been pushing for a significant battlefield victory after months of setbacks, with Russian forces trying to close grip on the town of Bakhmut and fighting for control of a nearby major supply route for Ukrainian forces.
Russian troops are also trying to capture the coal mining city of Vuhledar, about 120km (75 miles) southwest of Bakhmut, in the eastern region of Donetsk.
“I’ve often had to say the situation at the front is tough, and is getting tougher, and it’s that time again ... the invader is putting more and more of his forces into breaking down our defences,” Mr Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address.
“It is very difficult now in Bakhmut, Vuhledar, Lyman and other directions,” he said
Earlier in the day, the deputy defence minister, Hanna Malyar, wrote on Telegram that Russian efforts to break the defences in Bakhmut and Lyman had failed.
Lyman, which lies just to the north of Bakhmut, was liberated by Ukrainian forces in October.
On Friday, Mr Zelenskiy vowed that his forces will fight for Bakhmut “for as long as we can”, but the situation there is becoming increasingly dire for Ukrainian forces.
Ukrainian defence minister Oleksii Reznikov is likely to be dismissed from his ministerial post next week, Ukrainian news outlet Ukrainska Pravda reported on Sunday, citing government and military sources.
His likely replacement is understood to be Kyrylo Budanov, head of Ukraine’s military intelligence agency HUR, sources reportedly said.
“I have not had any conversations about my resignation from this position,” Mr Reznikov reportedly told Ukrainska Pravda in a soon-to-be-published interview. Mr Reznikov could be appointed to a new post as justice minister, as “no one in the Presidential Office has any doubt” that he should stay in the government, according to the Ukrainska Pravda article.
Elsewhere, the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, said Mr Zelenskiy has agreed that weapons supplied by the West will not be used to attack Russian territory. “There is a consensus on this point,” Mr Scholz told Bild am Sonntag.
The German leader also rejected Vladimir Putin’s comparison of the intervention of the West with Russia’s struggle during the second World War as “absurd”.
Two Russian missiles hit the centre of Kharkiv in Ukraine’s northeast, with one of the missiles striking a residential building, Reuters reported the city’s mayor saying on Sunday.
“At this time, it’s known that there is a fire in one of the residential buildings and one injured person,” Ihor Terekhov said on the Telegram messaging platform. Reuters was not able to independently verify the report. – Guardian