Russia has said its forces remained in control of villages near the shattered city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, denying a Ukrainian claim that their own troops had liberated the front-line village of Andriivka.
On Saturday, Russia dismissed Ukrainian allegations that its forces had been pushed out of Andriivka. This came after the commander of Ukraine’s land forces posted a video purporting to show the capture of Andriivka amid a landscape of scorched territory and devastation.
The video shows Ukrainian soldiers advancing on empty devastated ground marked by the burned remnants of trees and taking cover in the shattered hulks of buildings reduced to rubble. Another video showed trucks driving at high speed down a deserted road.
Andriivka is around 14km (9 miles) south of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region, where Kyiv has been pushing back against Moscow’s forces since June.
But in its daily bulletin, Russia’s defence ministry said that “the enemy… continues to carry out assaults … trying in vain to dislodge Russian troops in the localities of Andriivka and Klishchiivka”.
The statement adds to the confusion surrounding the situation on the ground in the village, which had just a few dozen residents before Russia’s offensive.
The account of fighting by Russia’s defence ministry said its troops were still holding at least two key villages south of Bakhmut, known in Russia by its Soviet-era name, Artyomovsk.
“The enemy did not abandon plans to capture the city of Artyomovsk of the Donetsk People’s Republic and continued to conduct assault operations … unsuccessfully trying to oust Russian troops from the population centres of Klishchiivka and Andriivka,” the ministry said in its daily briefing.
The report said Russian forces had, in the past week, repelled 16 Ukrainian attacks, with enemy losses at more than 1,700 dead and wounded, along with 16 tanks.
On Thursday, Ukraine’s Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Mailar had to backtrack on an announcement earlier that day that Kyiv had retaken Andriivka, after troops there said fighting was still going on.
Then on Ukrainian television Friday, a spokesperson for a brigade fighting in the area said the village had been “completely destroyed”, adding that “Andriivka no longer exists”.
In the east and the south, Ukraine has been reporting minimal territorial gains after months of intense fighting and heavy losses.
Despite being bolstered by NATO-standard weapons worth billions of dollars, Ukrainian military officials have said there are no quick solutions to puncture Russian defensive lines — only slow, grinding battles.
Ukraine’s strategy appears to be to spread Russian forces thin across multiple directions along the front line, from vast agricultural tracts in the east to the Dnipro River, which marks the line of contact in the south, in hopes that Ukrainian troops can exploit their opponents’ vulnerabilities.
The wet weather of fall and winter will likely slow Ukrainian advances. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is expected to visit Washington next week as Congress debates approving more aid.