Russian attacks have intensified in a range of locations in eastern Ukraine including Kharkiv, Luhansk and Donetsk, according to Ukrainian military and regional officials.
Russian forces appear to be heavily shelling areas of all three regions ahead of a planned ground offensive.
Around Slobozhansky, which is an area south of Kharkiv, “the main focus of the Russian enemy is on the regrouping and strengthening of troops,” the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said.
Russian forces aim to block off the city of Kharkiv, which continues to see persistent shelling, and have concentrated up to 22 battalion tactical groups around Izium, the General Staff added. A battalion tactical group normally comprises about 1,000 troops.
“The main efforts of the enemy are focused on maintaining the previously occupied positions,” it said, noting the deployment of additional Russian units.
In Donetsk region, Russian efforts were focused on taking the towns of Popasna and Rubizhne, while also establishing full control over the strategic port city of Mariupol, it added.
The General Staff also spoke of constant fire against Ukrainian positions around Popasna, saying that Russian forces are “trying to improve the tactical situation, to advance deep into the settlement of Popasna,” but were eventually foiled.
It reported intensified shelling around the city of Severodonetsk, “in order to inflict losses, deplete our troops and possibly prepare for offensive operations,” as well as shelling further south in Toretsk.
One person was killed in Kreminna, just to the north-west of Severodonetsk, a local official said.
Efforts are continuing to get residents of the towns of Rubizhne and Kreminna to safety amid heavy fighting in the area, Serhii Haidai, head of Luhansk regional administration said. He added that there is no water or gas in Severodonetsk.
In the last day, 10 Russian enemy attacks were held off in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, the General Staff added.
“The main events that we will talk about in the coming days, or rather weeks, will be events related to the fighting in Ukrainian Donbas,” Vadym Denysenko, an adviser at the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, said on Saturday.
Russian missile attacks have expanded to other areas beyond the Donbas region, Ukrainian officials say.
One person was killed in an attack on a village near the city of Poltava, Dmytro Lunin, the head of the Poltava military administration, said.
The country’s top general said he spoke with the top US military official on Friday.
Valery Zaluzhny said he discussed “heavy fighting on the Kharkiv-Izium border, deterrence of the Russian offensive in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, the critical situation around Mariupol, and rocket fire throughout Ukraine,” with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley.
“I reiterated the urgent needs for the Armed Forces of Ukraine in armaments and ammunition to strengthen our defense capabilities,” Zaluzhny added.
The news comes as Russian preparations continue in eastern Ukraine for an offensive operation.