‘Fierce battles’ raging in eastern Ukraine

Fighting intensifies across cities is Kharkiv and Luhansk regions as Russia presses its offensive into the east.

Fierce fighting is raging in two eastern Ukrainian regions, local authorities have said, as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine presses deep into the country’s east.

Kharkiv’s regional governor Oleg Sinegubov said on Saturday that Ukrainians soldiers retook three villages near the Russian border after “fierce battles”.

“Our units kicked Russian troops out of the settlements of Bezruki, Slatine, Prudyanka,” he said, adding that Ukrainian forces “secured their positions”.

The villages lie north of Ukraine’s second city Kharkiv and close to Russian territory.

Prudyanka is about 40km (25 miles) southwest of the border.

Sinegubov claimed Russian forces also attacked residential infrastructure, killing two people. He added that there would be “no night services” in churches on Saturday, the eve before Orthodox Easter, which both Russia and Ukraine celebrate.

“We can’t allow crowds. Security comes first,” he said.

A Ukrainian soldier gestures towards a destroyed Russian helicopter in the outskirts of the village of Mala Rohan in Kharkiv region [Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters]

‘Round-the-clock shelling’

Further south, the governor of the neighbouring Luhansk region, Sergiy Gaiday, said in a video on Telegram that fighting also raged there.

“There is round-the-clock shelling,” Gaiday said, adding that Russian forces “continue to attack” the cities of Rubizhne and Severodonetsk.

He called on people to “evacuate if you have the chance”, saying volunteers are helping people leave the area.

Ukrainian forces were pulling back and re-positioning in new defensive lines to preserve units, Gaiday added.

Ukraine’s presidential advisor Oleksiy Arestovich claimed on Saturday that Russian forces were not making any major breakthrough in their eastern offensive.

At a briefing, he said Russian forces are trying “to develop an offensive on the city of Hulyaipole”, in the north of the Donetsk region.

“They do not manage to do so already for six days,” he said.

Arestovich said Russian forces are “focusing efforts on the area between Kramatorsk and Sloviansk”, two cities in the eastern Donetsk region.

Intensifying battles come as Russia has ramped up its offensive in the east of the country with a Russian general saying on Friday that Moscow wanted full control of Donbas and also southern Ukraine, suggesting wider Russian aims than previously acknowledged.

A local resident stands next to debris of an open market destroyed by a military strike, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Sievierodonetsk, Luhansk region, Ukraine
A local resident stands next to debris of an open market destroyed by a military strike, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Sievierodonetsk, Luhansk region, Ukraine [Serhii Nuzhnenko/Reuters]

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