It was not possible to independently verify Moscow’s claim. Ukrainian officials made no immediate comment.
Russian artillery, drones and missiles have been relentlessly pounding Ukrainian-held eastern areas for months, indiscriminately hitting civilian targets and wreaking destruction, as the war largely slowed to a grinding stalemate in the winter. Moscow is hungry for some progress after months of setbacks.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said his country’s forces would need “a few months” to learn how to use new Western weapons before they can try and push the Russians out of Ukraine.
The Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which together make up the industrial Donbas region bordering Russia, continue to bear the brunt of Russia’s bombardments as Moscow reportedly moves more troops into the area.
In Luhansk, the number of Russian ground and air attacks is “growing every day,” Gov. Serhii Haidai said on Ukrainian TV.
“The Russians were able to transfer new forces for the offensive and now they are trying to overwhelm us with sheer human mass,” Haidai said.
Donetsk Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said Wednesday that one town had come under “nonstop” fire from multiple rocket launchers for over three hours the previous day, damaging at least 12 residential buildings.
At least 12 civilians were wounded when Russian forces struck a five-story apartment block in the city of Pokrovsk, Kyrylenko said. At least two others remained under the rubble.
With the one-year anniversary of Russia’s war approaching, followed by improved spring weather, Western officials and analysts say the fighting could be nearing a critical phase when both sides look to launch offensives.
The Kremlin is striving to secure eastern areas it illegally annexed last September — the Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions — and where it claims its rule is welcomed. Pro-Moscow separatists have controlled part of Donetsk and neighboring Luhansk province since 2014.
“The enemy, trying to take full control of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, continues to focus his main efforts on conducting offensive operations in the Kupiansk, Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Shakhtarsk areas,” the Ukrainian military reported, referencing towns in the two provinces as well as on the eastern edge of the neighboring Kharkiv region.
Kyiv’s continued defense of Bakhmut, a mining town that for months has been a key target of Russia’s campaign in the east, has been “strategically sound” because it sapped Moscow’s momentum, a U.S. think tank said.
Kyiv’s defense has “degraded significant Russian forces,” including units from the Wagner Group, a Russian private military contractor, the Institute for the Study of War said late Tuesday.
Some analysts had doubted the wisdom of Ukraine holding out in Bakhmut because it could hurt the chances of its expected spring offensive.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Wednesday claimed that Western support for Kyiv’s war effort was prearranged, telling the lower house of Russian parliament that “the U.S. and its satellites are waging a comprehensive hybrid war following years of preparation.”
Lavrov said a revised Russian foreign policy doctrine to be published soon will emphasize the need to “end the Western monopoly on shaping frameworks of international life.”
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