A Russian strike on a city in the eastern region of Donetsk killed at least three people on January 28 as Ukrainian forces engaged Russian troops in ferocious battles in several hot spots in the east, where Moscow has been pressing its offensive with increased urgency amid Western pledges of modern tank deliveries for Kyiv.
President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the frontline situation was “extremely acute,” especially in Donetsk, where he said major battles were under way for Vuhledar and Bakhmut, a town that has been virtually razed by repeated Russian artillery bombardments.
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Zelenskiy, in his nightly video address on January 27, said the intensity of the fighting showed that Ukraine urgently needs more weapons to fight off the growing Russian pressure.
A Russian strike on a residential neighborhood in the Donetsk city of Kostyantynivka killed three people and wounded at least two others, regional Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Telegram.
Kyrylenko said four apartment buildings and a hotel had been damaged and that rescuers and police officials were at the site to “carefully document yet another crime by the Russian occupiers.”
Earlier on January 28 Kyrylenko said four people had been killed and at least seven wounded by Russian strikes in the last 24 hours.
The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said in its daily report early on January 28 that Russian troops continued to press on with a multipronged offensive in the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
“The enemy continues to conduct offensive actions in the Bakhmut, Avdiyivka, and Novopavlyivka directions,” the General Staff said.
“In the Kupyansk, Lyman, Zaporizhzhya, and Kherson directions, the enemy is on the defensive,” it said.
Ukrainian military spokesman Serhiy Cherevatiy told local media that “there is fierce combat” in Vuhledar.
“For many months, the military of the Russian Federation…has been trying to achieve significant success there,” he said.
Vuhledar, a town with a preinvasion population of around 15,000 people, has strategic significance as a communications node in southern Donetsk.
The secretary of Ukraine’s Security Council, Oleksiy Danilov, told RFE/RL that Moscow was preparing for a new offensive on February 24, the first anniversary of the Russian invasion.
“Now they are preparing for maximum activation…and they believe that by the anniversary they should have some achievements,” Danilov said. “There is no secret that they are preparing for a new wave by February 24, as they themselves say.”
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Ukraine’s Western allies continue to pledge military equipment and aid to shore up Kyiv’s defenses.
U.S. national-security spokesman John Kirby said Washington anticipates an “intense period of fighting” in the coming months,” adding that there is “no sign” of the war stopping.
Zelenskiy said on January 27 that Ukraine needs up to 500 tanks.
“We need 300 or 500 tanks now. We need tanks to protect our territory, our land. We need armored vehicles to protect our people, that’s all,” Zelenskiy said in an interview with Sky News.
So far, a total of 321 heavy tanks have been promised to Ukraine by several countries, Ukraine’s ambassador to France, Vadym Omelchenko, said on BFM television on January 27.
Ukraine has also asked for U.S. F16 fighter jets. Kirby said Washington was aware of Ukraine’s request but added, “We don’t have any additional weapons systems to speak to today.”
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen also reassured Ukraine of the bloc’s unconditional support. Speaking in the German city of Duesseldorf on January 28, von der Leyen said, “We stand by Ukraine’s side without any ifs and buts.”
Von der Leyen and her fellow EU commissioners plan an EU-Ukraine summit on February 3.
The Kremlin has reacted with fury to the latest gestures of Western solidarity with Ukraine and said it saw the promised delivery of advanced tanks as evidence of escalating “direct involvement” of the United States and NATO in Russia’s war of aggression, something both deny.
The British Defense Ministry said in its daily intelligence bulletin on January 28 that Russia likely lost some 300 troops in a Ukrainian strike on a troop accommodation facility in Makiyivka on January 1. The ministry estimated that the majority of the casualties were killed or missing rather than wounded.
Russia had claimed that 89 troops were killed in the attack.
“The difference between the number of casualties Russia acknowledged and the likely true total highlights the pervasive presence of disinformation in Russian public announcements,” the British intelligence report concluded.
It added that Russia took the rare step of acknowledging that it had suffered casualties because “officials likely assessed that it was not viable to avoid comment in the face of widespread criticism of Russian commanders over the incident.”
In a separate development, Ukraine said it would summon Hungary’s ambassador to complain about “completely unacceptable” remarks Prime Minister Viktor Orban made about Ukraine, Kyiv said on January 27.
Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleh Nykolenko said Orban had told the media that Ukraine was a no-man’s-land and compared it to Afghanistan.