© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: An aerial view shows destructions in the frontline city of Bakhmut, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Donetsk region, Ukraine, in this handout picture released on May 21, 2023. Press Service of the 93rd Kholodnyi Yar Separate Machanized Brig
KYIV (Reuters) – Ukrainian troops have advanced up to 1,100 metres near the eastern city of Bakhmut in the past 24 hours, Kyiv said on Wednesday, the first gains it has reported since Russia said Ukraine had started a counter-offensive.
Moscow said this week Kyiv had launched a series of assaults in its partially occupied region of Donetsk, which it said it thwarted, and described them as the start of the planned Ukrainian counter-offensive.
Ukrainian officials have said little directly in response to the Russian assertions although a senior security official on Wednesday denied the broad counter-offensive had begun.
“We have made advances of from 200 to 1,100 metres (220-1,200 yards) on various sections (of the front line) in the Bakhmut direction over the past day,” Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar wrote on Telegram messenger, without providing further details.
Ukrainian troops, she said, had been on the offensive in the area for several days and Russian troops were on a defensive footing, aiming to hold on to their positions.
“Our troops have switched from the defensive to the offensive in the direction of Bakhmut,” Maliar said.
Russia said last month its forces had captured Bakhmut, site of the longest and bloodiest battle since its February 2022 invasion, though Kyiv said it retained a small presence in the ruined city and was advancing on the flanks.
The Russian defence ministry said on Wednesday Ukraine had mounted attacks near Bakhmut, but that they had been unsuccessful.
Reuters was unable to independently verify the situation on the battlefield.
Maliar said in separate, televised comments that Russia lacked forces in Bakhmut and was bringing in troops from other positions.
Kyiv hopes its counter-offensive will be a turning point in the war but has portrayed assaults under way as localised.
“When we start the counter-offensive, everyone will know about it, they will see it,” Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, told Reuters.