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KYIV: Ukrainian troops are facing “heavy fire” from Russian forces in the southern Zaporizhzhia region after Moscow made its most significant territorial gain in nine months last week, a Ukrainian army spokesperson said Monday.

Moscow’s forces are back on the offensive across eastern and southern Ukraine, and have forced Kyiv into a hasty withdrawal from the town of Avdiivka in the eastern Donetsk region, securing their first major gain since the capture of Bakhmut in May 2023.

Ukrainian army spokesperson Dmytro Lykhoviy said Monday that Russia was now launching multiple attacks near the village of Robotyne – one of the few places where Ukraine had managed to regain ground during last year’s counter-offensive.

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“The situation is dynamic here, the enemy is inflicting heavy fire,” he said Monday on state TV.

He said Russia had attacked with armoured vehicles on Saturday – “which was repelled” – and was now trying to advance “with small assault groups, supported by armoured vehicles.”

The DeepState Telegram channel, seen as close to Ukraine’s armed forces, reported Sunday evening that Russia had managed to break through Ukrainian defences at Verbove, a few kilometres east of Robotyne.

Another channel close to Russia’s armed forces, Rybar, said Russia had gained a foothold in the southern outskirts of Robotyne.

AFP could not verify the battlefield reports.

Like many settlements across eastern Ukraine, Robotyne has been completely flattened by months of artillery fire.

Ukraine’s defences have been stretched in recent weeks by shortages in ammunition and manpower.

Lykhoviy said the Russians were “regrouping” after Ukraine withdrew from Avdiivka and “will probably transfer units to other sectors.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin hailed the capture of Avdiivka as an “important victory” for his troops, just days before the two-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion on February 24.

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