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KYIV: Ukraine said on Thursday it had been forced to cede some territory in the east of the country in the face of a Russian offensive, and the head of the NATO military alliance said Moscow must not be allowed to win the war.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy this week described the pressure his armed forces were under in the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine as “Hell”. He spoke of fierce fighting around the town of Avdiivka and the fortified village of Pisky, where Kyiv has acknowledged its Russian foe’s “partial success” in recent days.

The Ukrainian military said on Thursday Russian forces had mounted at least two assaults on Pisky but that its troops had managed to repel them.

Ukraine has spent the last eight years fortifying defensive positions in Pisky, viewing it as a buffer zone against Russian-backed forces who control the city of Donetsk about 10 km (6 miles) to the southeast.

General Oleksiy Gromov told a news conference that Ukrainian forces had recaptured two villages around the eastern city of Sloviansk, but had been pushed back to the town of Avdiivka’s outskirts after being forced to abandon a coal mine regarded as a key defensive position.

The Russian defence ministry confirmed its offensive.

It said its forces had inflicted heavy losses on Ukrainian forces around Avdiivka and two other locations in Donetsk province, forcing Kyiv’s mechanised and mechanised infantry units to withdraw. Reuters could not immediately verify either side’s assertions.

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