Ukraine military says Russian troops pushed out of part of key eastern town

FILE PHOTO: A view shows a heavily damaged building in the frontline town of Chasiv Yar

(Reuters) - Ukraine's military said on Thursday its forces had forced Russian troops out of a district in the town of Chasiv Yar on the war's eastern front seen as Moscow's next target in its slow advance through the area.

But a Russian report said Moscow's forces had destroyed a communications tower near the town and made further headway.

Russian forces are slowly pushing their way across parts of eastern Ukraine, capturing several villages since seizing the key city of Avdiivka in February.

Chasiv Yar stands on high ground 20 km (12 miles) to the west of Bakhmut, a town Russian forces captured a year ago after months of battles. Both sides see Chasiv Yar as a potential staging point for Russia to advance on the key cities of the eastern Donetsk region, including Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.

Nazar Voloshyn, a spokesman for Ukraine's southern group of forces, told the Ukrinform news agency that Russian forces had moved out of Chasiv Yar's "Kanal" district along the Siverskyi Donets-Donbas canal that runs along the town's eastern edge.

"Ukrainian defenders have indeed squeezed Russian forces out of the Kanal district in Chasiv Yar in Donetsk region," Ukrinform quoted Voloshyn as saying. "The enemy army is no longer there."

Voloshyn told other Ukrainian media outlets that Russian troops were shelling Kyiv's forces in more than 200 incidents over 24 hours, mostly on the town's southern approaches.

The Ukrainian military's General Staff, in a late evening report on Thursday, said Russian troops had tried to push back Ukrainian forces six times near Chasiv Yar. Three attacks were repelled and fighting still gripped the area.

Ukraine's embassy in Washington posted a plea on social media platform X to stop Russia's advance on Chasiv Yar, saying Russia was "desperately trying to wipe out the town targeting even damaged churches and civilian residential blocks of flats.

"We must prevent Russia from turning it into a ghost city before it's too late."

A dispatch by Russia's Tass news agency quoted the commander of a Russian brigade, Stanislav Orlov, as saying his forces had destroyed a communications tower on the town's highest point.

"This allowed for a breakthrough to be made without losses," the dispatch quoted him as saying.

Ukraine has long anticipated a Russian advance on the town.

Its top commander, Oleksandr Syrskyi, said last month that Moscow's forces had hoped to capture Chasiv Yar in time for May 9 ceremonies marking the anniversary of the Soviet victory in World War Two.

(Reporting by Ron Popeski and Bogdan Kochubey; Editing by Jamie Freed)