Ukraine says eastern town of Avdiivka could become 'second Bakhmut'

FILE PHOTO: A general view shows a car damaged by debris, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Avdiivka, Donetsk Region, Ukraine, March 15, 2023, in this screen grab obtained from a video. Donetsk Region Police/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

KYIV (Reuters) - Ukraine said on Monday the eastern town of Avdiivka could soon become a "second Bakhmut", a small city where its forces have held out against Russian invaders for eight months but risk being fully encircled.

The battle for Bakhmut in the industrial Donbas has been one of the fiercest of the nearly 13-month-old war in Ukraine, drawing comparisons with World War One trench warfare.

The commander of Ukraine's ground forces said last week Moscow's forces were now trying to fully encircle Bakhmut in an offensive that has made no major breakthroughs.

On Monday, the spokesperson for Ukraine's Tavria military command said he agreed with an assessment by British Defence Intelligence that Russia was mounting pressure on supply lines to Avdiivka, as it has done around Bakhmut.

"The enemy is constantly trying to encircle the town of Avdiivka. I very much agree with my colleagues from the UK that Avdiivka may soon become the second Bakhmut," spokesman Oleksiy Dmytrashkivskyi said.

"However, I would like to say that all is not well with the Russian units attacking in this direction," he added in televised comments.

Ukraine has said Russian forces are taking heavy losses in their offensive in eastern Ukraine.

Avdiivka had a peacetime population of more than 30,000. Unlike Bakhmut, it has been a frontline town for many years.

Ukrainian forces were dug in there long before Russia's full-scale invasion last year, holding the line against Russian-backed militants who took control of swathes of territory in east Ukraine in 2014 after Russian forces seized Crimea.

Avdiivka lies just to the north of the Russian-held city of Donetsk, of which Ukraine lost control in 2014.

British Defence Intelligence tweeted on Monday that Russian forces had made "creeping gains" around Avdiivka and said the sprawling Avdiivka Coke Plant was "likely to be seen as particularly defendable key terrain as the battle progresses".

(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk; Writing by Tom Balmforth; Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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