(Reuters) - Russian forces eased attacks on the beleaguered eastern Ukrainian town of Avdiivka on Saturday and unofficial reports from the region suggested they had failed to capture the devastated town of Maryinka to the southwest.
Russia's military has focused on eastern Ukraine since abandoning an advance on Kyiv in the first days after the February 2022 invasion. Since mid-October, the military has set its sights on seizing Avdiivka and its vast coking plant.
Russian reports on Friday suggested Moscow's troops had taken control of Maryinka, 40 km (25 miles) to the southwest, engulfed in fighting for well over a year. But unofficial Ukrainian reports on Saturday said its forces were holding some districts.
Ukrainian military spokesperson Oleksandr Shtupun told national television that Russian attacks on Avdiivka had halved over the past 24 hours, largely as a result of heavy losses.
"The coking plant is controlled by the Ukrainian armed forces," Shtupun said. "Enemy forces are trying to make their way inside, but are suffering losses in infantry and equipment."
Fighting was still intense, he said, in an adjacent area outside the town centre known as the "industrial zone." Russia's popular war blog Rybar said the zone had fallen under Russian control.
Reuters could not verify accounts from either side.
Vitaliy Barabash, head of the town's military administration, told Channel 24 television that Avdiivka was "starting to look like Maryinka, a settlement that basically no longer exists. It has been razed to its foundations."
There were no official Ukrainian reports on Maryinka, but military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said reports of its capture by Russian troops were untrue.
"We acknowledge that there was an advance there of the Russian military," Zhdanov said in an online presentation. "But the southwestern and northwestern parts of the town are under the control of Ukrainian forces."
Deepstate, an unofficial Ukrainian war blog, quoted Ukrainian servicemen as denying any notion that Russian forces had secured full control over what was once a town of 10,000.
Russia's Defence Ministry made no mention of Maryinka.
Russian war blog Rybar referred to photos on social media of Russian flags in the town, but added: "Nevertheless, several buildings remain under the control of the Ukrainian military."
Another Ukrainian spokesperson, Volodymyr Fitio, told national television that Kyiv's forces had repelled 21 Russian attacks in areas surrounding Bakhmut. The town, also shattered by months of fighting, was captured by Russian forces in May, but Ukrainian troops have since taken back nearby villages.
Ukrainian forces have focused on recapturing occupied villages in the east and south in a counteroffensive launched in June, though President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has acknowledged that advances have been slower than Kyiv wanted.
(Reporting by Ron Popeski in Winnipeg, Canada, and Maria Starkova; Editing by Matthew Lewis)