Europe 1 with AFP 10:48 a.m., January 28, 2023, modified at 10:50 a.m., January 28, 2023
On the 338th day of the Russian invasion, heavy fighting continues between the Ukrainians and the Russians, who are trying to seize Vougledar, southwest of Donetsk, in eastern Ukraine.
In this context, Poland announced to deliver nearly 60 tanks to kyiv, to help the Ukrainian government in its fight against Russia.
Ukrainian troops are engaged in a "fierce" confrontation with Russian forces trying to seize Vougledar, southwest of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine where fighting has intensified in recent days.
"Soon Vougledar could become a very important new success for us," said Denis Pushilin, head of the Moscow-appointed Donetsk region, on Friday.
Both sides have claimed victory, but the city remains contested according to Kyiv.
The spokesman for the Ukrainian army for the eastern zone, Serguiy Tcherevaty, confirmed "fierce fighting", while ensuring that the Russians had been repelled.
150 km from Bakhmout, this mining city which had 15,000 inhabitants before the Russian invasion, "serious, brutal" clashes took place and the Russian troops were "established in the south-east and east of the city ", said an official of the pro-Russian authorities of the eastern region of Donetsk, Ian Gagin.
Intensification of Russian attacks
"The enemy is indeed trying to achieve success in this sector but they are not achieving it thanks to the efforts of the Defense Forces of Ukraine," he said on television.
"The enemy exaggerates, and this is an understatement, its success", he continued, concluding: "in the face of its losses, the enemy retreats".
"The encirclement and future liberation" of this locality will "change the balance of power on the front" by paving the way for an offensive towards Pokrovsk and Kurakhové, localities located further north, judged the leader of separatists from Donetsk, Denis Pushilin.
Ukraine said this week that outnumbered Russian troops had stepped up their attacks in the east, particularly on Vougledar and Bakhmout, the latter of which had been their target for months.
And a new Russian offensive is in preparation for February 24, a year to the day after Russia invaded Ukraine, assured Oleksii Danilov, secretary of the Council of Defense and National Security of Ukraine.
“They are now preparing for maximum activation (…) and they think they will have some successes by the anniversary date,” he said on Radio Svoboda.
This new offensive wave in preparation for February 24 "is not a secret", he added.
According to the Institute for the Study of War, Russia is seeking to "disperse" Ukrainian forces in order to "create the conditions for a decisive offensive operation".
Russian soldiers and men from the paramilitary group Wagner recently captured Soledar, north of Bakhmout, a first success in many months and a series of setbacks for the Kremlin.
"The Russians are advancing, there is constant shooting, night and day, they are trying to find weak points in our defense," Yuri, a 44-year-old Ukrainian soldier, told AFP in a trench in Bakhmout.
Also in the east, in Chassiv Iar, two people were killed on Friday and at least five injured in Russian artillery fire, local authorities said.
Further north, in the Kharkiv region, the shelling of the village of Dvoritchna left two other dead, announced the Ukrainian presidency.
The southern city of Kherson was also targeted by Russian shells, according to the same source.
Russia has mobilized hundreds of thousands of reservists and convicts to try to break through Ukrainian lines and conquer the rest of Donbass, a vast industrial zone in eastern Ukraine.
60 more Polish tanks
In this context, President Zelensky welcomed the decision announced by Poland to deliver to his country 60 additional tanks, half of which will be a modernized version of the Soviet T-72, after the 14 German-made Leopard 2s already promised.
At the same time, the Belgian government has undertaken to grant Ukraine new funding, in particular for the supply of missiles, machine guns, ammunition and armored vehicles.
As for the Ukrainian Air Force, it judged on Friday that the American-made F16 "could be the best candidate" to "become the only type" of multipurpose aircraft in its fleet, according to its spokesman Yuri Ignat .
The Ukrainian president is calling for fighter planes and long-range missiles, as many weapons as Westerners have so far refused to provide.
For its part, the European Union has decided to extend for six months its sanctions imposed on Russia when it annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014 and is preparing new measures against Moscow.
French President Emmanuel Macron, however, stressed on Friday that he would continue to "talk to Russia".
Volodymyr Zelensky also denounced the "hypocrisy" of the International Olympic Committee, which despite repeated calls from kyiv to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from the 2024 Olympics scheduled for Paris, the IOC said on Wednesday "studying" the possibility of authorizing them to participate under a neutral banner.
He invited his leader, Thomas Bach, to visit Bakhmout, one of the hottest points in the war with Russia "to see with his own eyes that neutrality does not exist".