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Russian Forces Press Ukrainian Defense in Northeast

Russian armed forces were trying to break through Ukrainian defense lines in Ukraine’s northeast on Wednesday, Ukrainian officials said, a sign of building Russian pressure across the front.

Serhiy Haidai,

governor of Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk province, said the number of Russian attacks around the city of Kreminna, long a target for Ukrainian troops, had soared. Russian forces were also assaulting Bilohorivka, he said, a much-contested village to the south of Kreminna.

“The Russians are trying to break through our defensive line,” Mr. Haidai told Ukrainian television. “All attacks are being repelled. The enemy is having no success.”

Ukrainian military command also noted Russian attacks along the front lines, as Moscow seeks to seize all of the eastern Luhansk and Donetsk provinces, a key war aim of Russian President

Vladimir Putin.

The continued Russian attacks, which are inching forward in some places, demonstrate how Moscow has managed to halt Ukrainian momentum and launch assaults of its own. Russia is seeking to gain an advantage ahead of the arrival of more powerful weapons in Ukraine from the West, including main battle tanks.

Ukraine gained ground after summer with offensives around Kharkiv in the northeast and Kherson in the south, retaking around half the territory that Russia seized at the start of its invasion in February last year.

Russia reinforced its shaky defense lines with some of the 300,000 draftees Moscow mobilized in September. Moscow has also thrown thousands of paramilitaries, many of them convicted criminals, into the fight, in particular around Bakhmut, an eastern city that is Russia’s key target.

On Wednesday, Russian state newswire RIA Novosti quoted local military leaders saying that Russian forces had captured several streets in Bakhmut, having advanced from multiple directions. On Tuesday, Russian Defense Minister

Sergei Shoigu

claimed successful advances in Bakhmut and other areas.

Ukrainian service members load ammunition in Bakhmut.



Ukrainian President

Volodymyr Zelensky

said Ukrainian defenders were holding firm along the front.

“We are working on all enemy scenarios. We are defending the state,” he said in his nightly address Tuesday.

Ukrainian commanders are seeking to grind down Russian troops as they try to press forward, hoping to wear them down before launching counterattacks with the help of Western weapons.

Germany has pledged to send 14 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, and other European nations have promised dozens more. But the drawn-out deliberations that preceded the decision to send them, amid concerns about Moscow’s reaction to the appearance of such powerful offensive weapons, have hamstrung Ukraine’s war efforts.

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said during a visit to Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv Tuesday that the German tanks would be available to Ukraine at the end of March.

A local resident walks through an empty street in Bakhmut.



Mr. Zelensky visited London on Wednesday to meet British Prime Minister

Rishi Sunak

and address Parliament. It is the Ukrainian president’s second trip abroad since the start of the war, following a visit to Washington in December.

The U.K.—one of the West’s staunchest defenders of Ukraine in the conflict—is set to step up training of Ukrainian forces, including training fighter-jet pilots for the first time, as well as increasing delivery of aid.

Kyiv, meanwhile, dispatched nearly 90 rescuers and 10 search dogs to Turkey to assist recovery efforts after the earthquake there, Ukrainian officials said.

Mr. Zelensky said he had spoken with Turkish President Recep

Tayyip Erdogan

to express his condolences and offer assistance.

Turkey has provided weapons to Ukraine, including aerial-attack drones, but has also sought to burnish ties with Russia. Mr. Erdogan regularly speaks with Mr. Putin and has sought out a central role in diplomatic efforts on prisoner exchanges and critical food exports.

A building heavily damaged by Russian attacks on Irpin, a town outside of Kyiv.


Roman Pilipey/Getty Images

Write to James Marson at james.marson@wsj.com

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