Russia has stepped up attacks on the shattered eastern Ukrainian frontline town of Avdiivka, its mayor said Thursday.
The industrial town near the Russian-held regional stronghold of Donetsk has faced a fierce onslaught for more than a month.
“It is very hot. Indeed, in the last few days, the enemy has become more active,” Vitaliy Barabash said on national television.
Russian troops are using armoured vehicles, targeting the industrial zone and hitting positions in the town “around the clock” to strike high-rise buildings, Barabash said.
Under fire since 2014, the town has been largely destroyed by shelling.
There are 1,431 people left in the town out of a pre-war population of around 30,000, he said.
General Oleksandr Tarnavskiy, who is leading the Ukrainian counteroffensive in the south, said: “Our soldiers are firmly holding the defence in the direction of Avdiivka”.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky last week described Avdiivka as one of the “hottest” areas on the frontline.
The British defence ministry in an intelligence report Thursday said Russia “is almost certainly attempting a pincer movement to encircle the town”.
It said Russian forces are likely near the town’s huge coke plant in a “key tactical position” close to the main road leading to Avdiivka.
Production in the plant has been suspended for months due to frequent Russian bombardment.
Russian soldiers have recently advanced on the village of Stepove, north of the plant.
Meanwhile, the death toll from a missile strike early Wednesday on a residential building in the town of Selydove — about 40 kilometres (24 miles) east of Avdiivka — has risen to three, the interior ministry said.