LONDON (Reuters) – Russia said on Sunday it had pummelled Ukrainian positions in the east with missiles, targeting command centres and arsenals as its forces seek to encircle Ukrainian army units in the battle for Donbas.
Nearly three months since the Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, Russian and Russian-backed forces are still in control of an area of Ukraine about the size of Greece along the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea and in Ukraine’s east bordering Russia.
Russian forces have been driven out of the area around the city of Kharkiv in the northeast in the past two weeks, their most rapid losses since being expelled from areas around Kyiv and the north of Ukraine at the start of April.
Russia, which annexed Crimea in 2014, is trying to capture two eastern provinces known as the Donbas. Its forces have been pushing down from the city of Izium south of Kharkiv in an attempt to surround Ukrainian forces between Izium and Russian-controlled territory around the city of Donetsk.
Russia’s defence ministry said rockets had hit two command points, 11 company positions and four artillery stores in four regions of the eastern Donetsk region, some deep in Ukrainian-controlled territory between Donetsk and Izium.
Russian forces, the defence ministry said, had hit areas near the cities of Baxmut and Kostyantynivka. Russia also destroyed two S-300 missile systems and a radar post in the Sumy region of north-eastern Ukraine, the defence ministry said.
Russia said that since the start of the military operation, its forces had destroyed 165 aircraft, 125 helicopters, 879 unmanned aerial vehicles, 306 anti-aircraft missile systems, and 3,098 tanks and other armoured combat vehicles.
The reports from the Russian defence ministry could not be independently confirmed.
(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Peter Graff)