Ukraine was preparing on Monday for a new Russian push in the eastern Donbas region, as Kyiv said its army’s counterattack around Kharkiv had gained momentum.
Since failing to take the capital at the beginning of the offensive in late February, control of Donbas has become one of Moscow’s primary objectives, but Western intelligence has predicted its campaign will stall amid heavy losses and fierce resistance.
“We are preparing for new attempts by Russia to attack in Donbas, to somehow intensify its movement in the south of Ukraine,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly address.
“The occupiers still do not want to admit that they are in a dead end and their so-called ‘special operation’ has already gone bankrupt,” he added.
Presidential advisor Oleksiy Arestovich told local television that Russian troops were being transferred in the direction of Donbas after withdrawing from Kharkiv following the Ukrainian counteroffensive.
Kyiv’s troops have made so much progress in the northern region that they have almost reached the border with Russia, according to interior ministry advisor Vadim Denisenko.
The Ukrainian army said on Monday that some Russian forces remained to try and block the advance, and air sirens sounded in Kharkiv city in the early hours.
Arestovich said the Russian troops that had been pulled out were being sent towards Luhansk.
“Their task is to take Severodonetsk,” he said. “Well, something is not working for them.”
Severodonetsk is the easternmost city still held by Ukraine, and its fall would grant the Kremlin de facto control of Luhansk, one of two regions – along with Donetsk – that comprise Donbas.
Russia’s attempt to cross a river to encircle it has been repelled with heavy losses of equipment, according to Luhansk Governor Sergiy Gaiday.
To further deter the attack, Russian-occupied railway bridges leading to Severodonetsk were blown up, the Ukrainian military said on Facebook late on Sunday, posting a video of a huge explosion taken from above.
Gaiday said fighting in the region “continues almost around the clock”.
Meanwhile, Russia’s defense ministry claimed it had struck four artillery munitions depots in neighboring Donetsk.
Air strikes had also destroyed two missile-launching systems and radar, while 15 Ukrainian drones were downed around Donetsk and Lugansk, it added.