(Reuters) – Ukrainian troops are engaged in very heavy fighting near the strategically important eastern city of Bakhmut, which Russia is trying to take, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a video address on Saturday.
Although Ukrainian troops have recaptured thousands of square kilometers (miles) of land in recent offensives in the east and south, officials say progress is likely to slow once Kyiv forces encounter more determined resistance.
Russian forces have repeatedly tried to seize Bakhmut, which is on a main road leading to the cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk. Both are situated in the Donbas industrial region, which Moscow has yet to fully capture.
“We are holding our positions in the Donbas, in particular in the direction of Bakhmut, where it is now very, very difficult, the fighting is very hard,” Zelenskiy said.
Zelenskiy reiterated a call for Western allies to provide more anti-aircraft systems.
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Russian forces continue to fire missiles at Ukrainian cities, and Kyiv accuses them of using Iranian suicide drones.
An official in the southern city of Zaporizhzhia said a Russian missile had hit a building on Saturday night.
Separately, authorities said the death toll from a Russian rocket attack on Zaporizhzhia on Thursday had risen to 18.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
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