Ukraine says forces holding on in eastern village


Ukrainian troops are shelling a part of Ocheretyne seized by Russian forces, a spokesman says.
Ukrainian troops are shelling a part of Ocheretyne seized by Russian forces, a spokesman says.

Russia has sent more troops to Ocheretyne in eastern Ukraine to reinforce an offensive there but Ukrainian forces are largely holding the village and expect US arms deliveries to turn the tide in their favour, the Ukrainian arms says.

Russian troops have slowly advanced through at least half a dozen villages on the eastern front since capturing the bastion town of Avdiivka in February as exhausted Ukrainian forces rationed dwindling artillery supplies.

Fierce fighting raged in Ocheretyne on Saturday but Nazar Voloshyn, spokesman for the eastern command, said Ukrainian forces had the situation “under control” and controlled two-thirds of the village.

Ukrainian troops, he said, were able to shell the part of the village seized by Russian forces and that “the enemy is blocked and measures are being taken to kick them out”.

To the north on the eastern front, Russian forces were trying to capture the strategic town of Chasiv Yar at all costs although they had not entered the town, he said.

Chasiv Yar, which lies on high ground, is seen as a gateway to the remaining important cities controlled by Ukraine in the Donbas, which Russia seeks to capture in full following its full-scale invasion in February 2022.

Ukrainian troops are outgunned and outnumbered but received a huge morale boost when the United States finally signed off on a major aid package this week that contains military assistance.

Voloshyn said Ukraine expected foreign military aid, including ammunition, shells and weapons, to help turn around the situation on the Bakhmut and Avdiivka fronts and in other areas.

Volodymyr Zelenskiy
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy says Ukraine needs at least seven defensive systems. (AP PHOTO)

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said Russia may be preparing an offensive in late May or in June.

Reuters could not independently verify Voloshyn’s battlefield assertions.

Zelenskiy said a Russian attack on his country’s energy sector on Saturday had targeted gas facilities important for supply to European countries.

Russia continues to supply gas to Europe via Ukraine under a transit deal with Russia’s Gazprom that is set to expire in December. 

Ukraine’s energy minister said last month that Ukraine had no plans to extend or replace the arrangement with Russia, which pays Ukraine to export its gas to European Union members.

“The main target was the energy sector, various facilities in the industry, both electricity and gas transit facilities, in particular, those gas facilities that are crucial to ensuring safe delivery to the European Union,” Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address.

Zelenskiy said Ukrainian forces had “managed to shoot down some” of the 34 Russian missiles of various types.

He did not say which specific facilities were targeted nor whether missiles hit those targets.

Ukraine’s state-run oil and gas firm Naftogaz said Russia had attacked its facilities but that no one was hurt and supplies to Ukrainian consumers and clients were unaffected.

Maksym Kozytskyi, the governor of Lviv region, which borders Poland, said his region had suffered strikes during an attack by cruise missiles and Kinzhal hypersonic missiles although Ukrainian forces shot down three missiles.

He said two critical energy infrastructure objects in Stryi and Chervonohrad districts were damaged and caught fire but emergency services quickly extinguished the flames.

Zelenskiy repeated his previous plea for defensive missiles, particularly Patriot systems, saying Ukraine needed at least seven defensive systems.

“The trajectories of the missiles and the nature of the strike were calculated by Russian terrorists in a way to make the work of our air defence system as difficult as possible,” he said. 

“Each downed rocket today is a significant result.” 

The Russian Defence Ministry said on Saturday that its forces had carried out 35 strikes in the last week against Ukrainian energy facilities, defence factories, railway infrastructure, air defences, and ammunition stocks.

It said in a statement that the strikes, which spanned April 20-27, were “in response to attempts by the Kyiv regime to damage Russian energy and industrial facilities”.

Ukraine has systematically targeted Russian oil refineries and other facilities in drone attacks in recent weeks, ignoring US requests not to do so.