According to Ukrainian military and regional officials, Russian attacks have intensified in several locations in eastern Ukraine, including Kharkiv, Luhansk and Donetsk.
Russian forces appear to be heavily shelled in areas of all three regions ahead of a planned ground offensive.
Near Slobozhansky, an area south of Kharkov, “the main focus of the Russian enemy is regrouping and reinforcing troops,” the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said.
Russian forces want to blockade the city of Kharkiv, which continues to face ongoing shelling, and have concentrated up to 22 tactical battalion groups around Izyum, the general staff added. A tactical battalion group normally consists of about 1,000 troops.
“The main efforts of the enemy are aimed at preserving the previously occupied positions,” it said, pointing to the deployment of additional Russian units.
In the Donetsk region, Russian efforts were aimed at capturing the cities of Popasna and Rubizhne, while also establishing full control of the strategic port city of Mariupol, it added.
The General Staff also spoke of constant fire on Ukrainian positions around Popasna, saying Russian troops are “trying to improve the tactical situation, to advance deep into the Popasna settlement”, but were ultimately thwarted.
It reported intense shelling around the city of Severodonetsk, “to inflict losses, exhaust our troops and possibly prepare for offensive operations,” as well as shelling further south in Toretsk.
One person was killed in Kreminna, just northwest of Severodonetsk, a local official said.
Efforts continue to bring residents of the cities of Rubizhne and Kreminna to safety amid fierce fighting in the area, said Serhii Haidai, head of Luhansk’s regional government. He added that there is no water or gas in Severodonetsk.
In the past day, 10 Russian enemy attacks in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions were repulsed, 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 Ukraine’s Donbas,” Vadym Denysenko, an adviser at Ukraine’s interior ministry, said on Saturday.
Russian missile strikes have expanded to other areas outside the Donbas region, Ukrainian officials say.
One person has been killed in an attack on a village near the city of Poltava, said Dmytro Lunin, the head of Poltava’s military administration.
The country’s top general said he met with the top US military official on Friday.
Valery Zaluzhny said he discussed “heavy fighting on the Kharkov-Izyum border, deterrence of the Russian offensive in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, the critical situation around Mariupol and rocket fire across Ukraine” with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley.
“I reiterated the urgent need for armaments and ammunition for Ukraine’s armed forces to strengthen our defense capabilities,” Zaluzhny added.
The news comes as Russian preparations continue in eastern Ukraine for an offensive operation.