Harsh cold hits Ukrainian troops hindering eastern defence

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FILE PHOTO: A view shows a hospital heavily damaged by a Russian missile strike, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in the town of Selydove, Donetsk region, Ukraine November 21, 2023. REUTERS/Alina Smutko/File Photo

Ukrainian troops face “difficult” defensive operations on parts of the eastern front with bitter winter cold setting in, but forces in the south are still conducting offensive actions, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Wednesday.

Russian troops launched offensives on different sections of the front line in Ukraine’s east this autumn, trying to advance on the devastated town of Avdiivka and in the northeast between the towns of Lyman and Kupiansk.

“Difficult weather, difficult defence on the Lyman, Bakhmut, Donetsk and Avdiivka fronts. Offensive actions in the south,” Zelenskiy said on Telegram messenger.

Snow and freezing temperatures that stood at about minus 5 degrees celsius during the day on Wednesday and were expected to drop lower may further complicate operations on the battleground, where fighting is moving to an attritional phase.

Russia, which launched a full-scale invasion in February 2022, controls nearly a fifth of Ukraine. Kyiv launched a counteroffensive to retake occupied territory this summer, but has not forced a major breakthrough.

Since mid-October, Avdiivka, where the front line has changed little since the first war erupted in 2014 between Kyiv and Russian-backed militants, faced waves of attacks followed by temporary lulls, according to the Ukrainian military.

After one such lull the day before, the head of the “Tavria” military command said on Wednesday that Russian troops had “dramatically increased” the number of assaults and airstrikes.

“Our defenders are steadfastly holding the defence in the Avdiivka direction,” Commander Oleksandr Tarnavskyi said on Telegram. Ukrainian forces continued the offensive on the southeastern Melitopol front, he added.

In their morning readout on the battlefield, the General Staff said troops were also holding onto the bridgeheads secured on the eastern side of the River Dnipro that was occupied by Russian forces in the early days of their invasion.

Reuters could not independently verify the frontline reports.

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