Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy praised the work of his troops in the eastern Donbas region and said Russia had not expected to meet much resistance, while Russia claimed to have assumed control of almost all of one of the provinces that makes up the Donbas.
After weeks of focusing its attacks on eastern Ukraine, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Tuesday Russian forces now control 97% of Luhansk province.
Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address Tuesday that “the absolutely heroic defense of the Donbas continues.” He added that Russia had made no significant advances in the region during the past day.
Britain’s defense ministry gave a similar assessment Wednesday morning, saying neither side had achieved significant gains over the course of 24 hours with Russia attacking from multiple sides but Ukraine’s defenses holding.
The Donbas region also includes Donetsk province and has been the key objective for Russia since it turned away from efforts to advance on the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, two months ago.
Fighting has been particularly intense in the key Luhansk city of Sievierodonetsk, where Russian and Ukrainian forces have been engaging in street-to-street battles.
Shoigu said Tuesday that Russian forces seized the residential areas of the city, while Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said Russia controlled the industrial outskirts.
The battle for Sievierodonetsk is crucial to Moscow’s attempt to assume full domination over Luhansk province. A week ago, Russian forces had captured 70% of the city, but a Ukrainian counteroffensive pushed back Moscow’s troops before Russia mounted another advance.
Both Russia and Ukraine claim to have inflicted huge casualties on each other.
Shoigu said Russian troops were also advancing toward the town of Popasna, and he said they have taken control of Lyman and Sviatohirsk and 15 other towns in the region.
He said 6,489 Ukrainian troops have been taken prisoner since the start of the military action in Ukraine on February 24, including 126 over the past five days.
A spokesman for the U.S. Defense Department said Tuesday the United States had started training Ukrainian soldiers on the use of advanced rocket systems being sent to Ukraine as part of a $700 million aid package approved last week.
Marine Lt. Col. Anton Semelroth said the training was taking place in Germany and elsewhere in Europe for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS. The truck-mounted system can carry six rockets with a range of about 70 kilometers.
Norway said it trained Ukrainian soldiers in Germany on the use of M109 self-propelled howitzers as part of its shipment of 22 of the weapons to Ukraine.
Norwegian Defense Minister Bjorn Arild Gram said the donation, which includes spare parts and ammunition, is a substantial contribution very much in demand by Ukraine.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters