Russian forces have used ground and air-fired missiles, rocket launchers and drones to bombard the provinces of Ukraine it has illegally annexed but does not fully control, causing casualties, building damage and power outages.
The Ukrainian military said Russian forces launched 18 air strikes, five missile strikes and 53 attacks from multiple rocket launchers between Thursday and Friday mornings.
According to the General Staff statement, Russia was concentrating the bulk of its offensive operations in Ukraine’s industrial east, focusing on the cities and towns of Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Marinka in Donetsk province.
Most of Friday’s battlefield reports concerned the four Ukrainian provinces Russia annexed in September: Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.
Russian president Vladimir Putin has ordered his military to gain complete control of the provinces, while Kyiv has indicated it will soon launch a counter-offensive to take back more territory.
Russia also annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine in 2014, a move that most of the world also regarded as illegal.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has vowed to regain all Russian-occupied areas.
In the latest fighting, the Ukrainian military said it downed a Russian Su-25 ground attack jet near Marinka.
A video showed a big explosion as the plane slammed into the ground, with its pilot descending on a parachute. The Russian military did not confirm the downing.
British military officials said in their latest daily analysis that Russian forces are likely to have advanced into the centre of Bakhmut and captured the western bank of the Bakhmutka River.
Russia’s eight-month campaign to take Bakhmut and Ukraine’s determination to defend the city have produced the longest and potentially bloodiest battle of the war that Mr Putin started on February 24 last year.
The UK Ministry of Defence said Russia’s progress, which had largely stalled since the end of March, had regained momentum.
According to British intelligence, Ukraine’s key supply route to the west of Bakhmut was under threat, with Russia using artillery more effectively and benefitting from reinforcements by regular forces that are likely to include airborne troops.
British military officials also noted that regular military commanders and those from the Wagner Group, a private Russian military company, had probably improved co-operation and put on hold their “feud”.
Latest Defence Intelligence update on the situation in Ukraine – 7 April 2023.
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The Wagner Group, which has appeared to take the lead in the Bakhmut fighting, has frequently complained about the regular Russian military’s strategy as well as its failure to provide sufficient ammunition and other support.
The Wagner Group’s owner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, said Ukrainians continued to put up fierce resistance in Bakhmut.
“The enemy is not going anywhere,” he wrote on Thursday. “They organised defence inside the city, first by rail, then in the area of high-rise buildings in the western quarter of the city.”
Also in Donetsk province, Russia launched a missile attack on the city of Sloviansk, destroying residential buildings, while one civilian was wounded during fighting in Bakhmut.
Donetsk regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said on Friday morning that 15 cities and villages on the front line had been shelled in the region.
The Moscow-installed mayor of Donetsk city, Aleksei Kulemzin, said Ukrainian shelling had killed one person and wounded six.
In partially occupied southern Kherson province, seven people were wounded over the previous 24 hours, regional governor Oleksandr Prokudin said on Friday.
He wrote that Russia had carried out 46 attacks on the province, including seven on the regional capital, also called Kherson, with heavy artillery and aircraft fire.
A 10-year-old girl, a three-year-old boy and 30-year-old woman were wounded in Russian shelling of the village of Stanislav in the Kherson region, said the head of Ukraine’s presidential office Andriy Yermak.
Earlier, debris from Russian ammunition killed a 36-year-old resident of the city of Beryslav in Kherson province. Residential areas of the city of Kherson were shelled seven times, damaging energy facilities and residential buildings, and a drone attack on the village of Zmiyivka wounded six people.
Shells hit Nikopol and Marhanets – across the Dnieper River from the occupied and shut-down Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant – in Ukraine’s eastern Dnipropetrovsk province, damaging power lines.
Further north, shelling in the Novhorod-Siverskyi district of the Chernihiv region left four towns and villages without electricity, authorities reported.
Mortar fire damaged residential buildings in the town of Vovchansk in Kharkiv province, near the border with Russia. A 39-year-old man was killed in Russian shelling in the border village of Borysivka, Kharkiv governor Oleh Syniehubov said.