The latest developments from the Ukraine war.
Russia ramps up attacks on key cities in eastern Ukraine
Russian forces have ramped up attacks in eastern Ukraine in an attempt to gain ground near two key front line cities, Ukrainian military officials have announced.
Moscow's troops have begun a push to regain territory near Bakhmut, the eastern mining city that was the site of the war’s bloodiest battle before falling into Russian hands in May, the head of Ukraine’s ground forces wrote on the Telegram messaging app.
Ukrainian troops had recaptured the heights over Bakhmut and made some advances to the city’s west, north and south since Kyiv launched its summer counteroffensive.
“Toward Bakhmut, the Russians have become more active and are trying to recapture previously lost positions... Enemy attacks are being repelled,” Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrskyi wrote in a Telegram update..
Ukraine's long-awaited counteroffensive has so far resulted in only incremental gains and heavy losses, with Ukrainian troops struggling to punch through Russian lines in the south. Meanwhile, Moscow's forces have attempted to press forward in the northeast, likely with a view to distract Kyiv and minimise the number of troops it is able to send to key southern and eastern battles.
The Ukrainian ground forces’ spokesperson similarly reported that Russian troops had “switched from defence to active defence” near Bakhmut, “putting pressure” on Ukrainian troops south of the city. Vladimir Fityo made the remarks on Ukrainian TV, adding that Russian troops were searching for weak points in Ukrainian defences and ramping up artillery strikes on Ukrainian positions.
Ukraine’s General Staff said that Russian troops were also continuing their weeks-long push to encircle Avdiivka, an Ukrainian stronghold south of Bakhmut and a key target since the beginning of the war. It's considered the gateway to parts of the eastern Donetsk region under Kyiv's control. The General Staff said the air force was playing a key part in the latest Russian assault.
Gen. Oleksandr Tarnavskyi, who leads Ukrainian troops fighting in and near Avdiivka, said that the attacking Russian forces were ramping up airstrikes, particularly those using guided bombs. He wrote on Telegram that Russian troops over the previous day had launched 30 airstrikes and 712 artillery barrages at the city and surrounding areas, and clashed almost 50 times with Ukrainian units.
Prokudin said that Russian forces shelled Kherson and the surrounding region 62 times over the previous 24 hours, wounding four civilians and damaging one of the city’s libraries. The city has come under near-daily attacks since Ukraine recaptured it a year ago.
Ukraine says it shot down a missile targeting Kyiv, after a period of calm for the capital
Ukraine said it shot down a missile targeting Kiev late on Saturday, ending nearly two months of relative calm for the capital.
The missile reportedly caused no injuries, but areas close to the front were targeted by a wave of Russian attacks.
This round of strikes occurred on the first anniversary of the liberation of Kherson by the Ukrainian army.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised the "heroism" of the southern city "synonymous with hope.”
He confirmed that, from Friday evening to Saturday morning, “nearly 40 drones and missiles” were fired towards Ukraine.
One of these missiles, which aimed at Kyiv, was shot down on Saturday morning, according to local authorities.
“After a long break of 52 days, the enemy has resumed its missile attacks on Kiev,” the head of the military administration of the Ukrainian capital Sergii Popko wrote on Telegram.
Ukraine fears an increase in attacks with the arrival of cold weather. Last winter, Russia shelled Ukraine's energy grid, leaving thousands of people without heat or electricity.
AFP journalists in the centre of the capital heard two loud explosions and saw traces in the sky at dawn. Air warning sirens sounded shortly afterwards.
No casualties or material damage were reported, but two other missiles hit a field between two residential areas in the Kiev region, head of the regional military administration Ruslan Kravchenko said.
Five apartment buildings were damaged, with broken roofs and windows, he added.
Latvia's president says West must arm Ukraine to keep Russia from future global adventures
Latvia’s president has said that Russia is planning for a long war in Ukraine and asked for countries wavering on continuing military support to Kyiv to keep supplying arms.
Edgars Rinkēvičs has warned that, without western support, the Ukrainians will lose and Russia will have a green light for threatening others in the future.
“It is important to actually fight for international peace, and peace in Europe, because if we stop Russia in Ukraine, then Russia is not going to be able to challenge other countries,” he told the AP.
Rinkēvičs added that the EU and NATO need to prepare for a long war in Ukraine.
“The EU has realised that we need more defence and military,” he said. “And at this point, I would love to see that this is going to be a bit faster process. But still, those things are now finally moving.”
Many experts and officials have said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s hope is to outlast Western support for Ukraine in a long war.
“I think it is very important that he fails,” Rinkēvičs said.