The Sunday Telegraph

Russian assaults put pressure on front line

Kyiv’s commander-in-chief warns of waves of tank attacks as spring warmth dries out muddy fields

- By James Kilner

UKRAINIAN forces’ positions along the front line have “significan­tly worsened” under intensifie­d Russian assaults, its top general has admitted.

General Oleksandr Syrsky said that Russia had increased its attacks since Vladimir Putin won a presidenti­al election in March and as warm spring weather has dried out previously untraversa­ble muddy battlefiel­ds.

“The situation on the Eastern front has significan­tly worsened in recent days,” he said on the Telegram social messaging app on Saturday. “The enemy is increasing its efforts by using new armoured vehicle units which are periodical­ly achieving tactical success.”

Gen Syrsky, who has been the commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s military since February, said Russian forces were trying to break through west of Bakhmut and Avdiivka in the Donbas region using “dozens of tanks”.

Analysts say Russia can soak up the estimated 1,000 casualties that it is taking a day and fire roughly five or six times as many shells and missiles as Ukrainian forces.

Russian military bloggers agreed with Gen Syrsky’s assessment. Rybar, one of the best-read Russian military Telegram channels with 1.2 million subscriber­s, said: “To the west of Avdiivka, Russian troops are advancing on a broad front, building on their success.”

The bulk of the West’s military aid has been held up by politics in the US, where Republican­s are stalling a £47billion package.

One of Kyiv’s top military commanders told The Telegraph this week that Ukraine was now relying on drones donated by volunteers to hold back Moscow’s forces. Yesterday, Germany said it would send another US-built Patriot missile defence system to Ukraine. President Volodymyr Zelensky

‘They’re trying to make people leave the city, leave their buildings, homes, apartments’

said it came “at a critical time for us”.

Analysts say that Russia may be setting up for a major assault later this year that aims to capture a bigger prize, possibly the entire Donbas region or even Kharkiv. The key city in north-east Ukraine lies only 20 miles from Russia’s southern border. Russian forces had tried to capture it during the first few weeks of the war two years ago.

Oleksandr Filchakov, the region’s top prosecutor, said Russia was targeting civilians and that 97 people had already been killed in the Kharkiv region this year. “The attacks are mainly aimed at intimidati­ng the civilian population,” he told Reuters. “They’re trying to make people leave the city, leave their buildings, homes, apartments.”

He said Russia was also using Kharkiv to fine-tune modified bombs and had test-fired a new aircraft-launched guided bomb at least six times.

People living in the city told The Telegraph that missile and bomb attacks have intensifie­d.

“You have to be prepared to leave Kharkiv at any time but we prefer to stay for now. If everybody leaves it means we lose the city to Russia,” said Eugene Ovdiyuk, an IT specialist who manages developers in the city.

Teacher Victoria Sushanova said it was important to show resilience. “The war is continuing. Kids grow up. We cannot stop time,” she said. “Education is very important. We can’t lose time and we cannot lose a generation.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom