By Natalia Zinets
KIEV (Reuters) – Ukraine said on Thursday it had repelled several Russian attacks on a strategic stronghold in the east of the country, and the head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) western military alliance said Moscow could not be allowed win the war.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy this week described the pressure his armed forces were under in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine as “hell”. He spoke of fierce fighting around the town of Avdiivka and the fortified village of Pisky, where Kiev has acknowledged the “partial success” of its Russian enemy in recent days.
The Ukrainian military said on Thursday that Russian forces mounted at least two attacks on Pisky, but that Ukrainian troops managed to repel them.
Ukraine has spent the past eight years strengthening defensive positions in Pisky, seeing it as a buffer zone against Russian-backed forces that control the city of Donetsk, about 10km to the southeast.
The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed on Thursday that its forces were on the offensive. He said they had inflicted heavy losses on Ukrainian forces around Avdiivka and two other locations in Donetsk province, forcing the withdrawal of mechanized infantry units from Kiev.
Reuters could not immediately verify the claims by either side.
Ukraine said Russia’s offensive in the east looked like an attempt to force it to divert troops from the south, where Kiev’s forces are trying to retake territory and destroy Russian supply lines as a prelude to a broader counter-offensive.
“The idea is to put military pressure on us in Kharkiv, Donetsk and Luhansk in the coming weeks… What is happening in the east is not what will determine the outcome of the war,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said in a YouTube interview. .
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg declared on Thursday that the war is the most dangerous moment for Europe since the Second World War and that Russia cannot win it.
To thwart Moscow’s success, NATO and its member countries may have to support Ukraine with weapons and other assistance for a long time, he said.
“It is in our interest that this kind of aggressive policy does not succeed,” Stoltenberg said in a speech in his native Norway.