Ukrainian forces pull back from part of strategic eastern town

FILE PHOTO: Servicemen prepare a howitzer to fire towards Russian troops at a frontline near the town of Chasiv Yar

By Anastasiia Malenko

KYIV (Reuters) - Ukraine's military said on Thursday its troops had pulled back from part of Chasiv Yar in the eastern Donetsk region, a day after Russia said its forces had taken control of a district in the strategic town.

Chasiv Yar stands on high ground. If Russian forces establish full control over the town, they could potentially use it as a staging post to advance westwards towards the Ukrainian cities of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.

Russia's Defence Ministry said on Wednesday its forces had taken control of the "Novyi" district, which lies to the west of Siverskyi Donets-Donbas canal that runs through the eastern part of the town.

"It became impractical to hold the canal neighbourhood after the enemy entered it, because it threatened the lives and health of our servicemen and the positions of our defenders were destroyed," military spokesman Nazar Voloshyn told Ukrainian television.

"The command decided to pull back to more protected and prepared positions, but even there the enemy does not stop its active combat actions," he said.

Russia's forces, which launched their full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, have been slowly advancing in the Donetsk region for several weeks and tried to open a new front near the northeastern city of Kharkiv.

The advance in the Kharkiv region was halted, but Ukrainian military analysts acknowledge that 2024 has been a tough year for Ukraine on the battlefield and that delays in receiving U.S. military aid have had an impact.

"We have 14 under-equipped brigades that do not have appropriate weapons," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in an interview with Bloomberg published on his social media on Thursday. "The packages should be coming, but they are coming slowly, unfortunately."

As the country awaits the weapons critical for its fight, Zelenskiy said Ukraine needs to defend what it has before talking about counter-offensive action.

The Ukrainian military said in a daily update that there had been more than 161 combat clashes in the last 24 hours, most of them in the Donetsk region.

It said its troops had prevented Russian forces breaking through Ukrainian defences on the Kramatorsk front, which includes areas near Chasiv Yar.

In the past week, the Ukrainian military have also reported intensifying fighting on Toretsk front in the Donetsk region. Voloshyn said Russian forces had attacked 114 times there in the past week compared to 31 attacks during the week before that.

(Reporting by Anastasiia Malenko and Olena Harmash; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Timothy Heritage and Christina Fincher)