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Russian forces encircle Ukraine’s Avdiivka and ‘ready to storm city’ after months-long offensive

Russian troops have encircled the eastern Ukrainian town of Avdiivka from "all directions" following a months-long offensive that is yet to see a significant breakthrough on the battlefield.

Vladimir Putin's forces have suffered some of their heaviest losses in the war so far as they escalated land and air-based attacks on Avdiivka in the Donetsk region, but have been facing a strong pushback from Ukrainian forces in recent weeks.

"Things in the Avdiivka sector have become tougher. The intensity of clashes has been increasing for some time," Vitaliy Barabash, head of Avdiivka's military administration, told Espreso TV.

He said the Russians were attacking from two more sectors in the direction of Donetsk and in the "so-called industrial zone", where much of the fighting had been focused.

"The enemy is attempting to storm the city from all directions," he said.

The Ukrainian military previously said Moscow had launched "more than 150" attacks on Ukrainian positions in villages around the town. Ukrainian forces a day earlier claimed they had "repelled" two dozen attacks around Avdiivka.

Fierce fighting has turned the former coal hub into piles of rubble as officials say not a single building remains intact. Fewer than 1,500 residents remain of a population of 32,000 before the war.

Ukrainian and Western military analysts say Russia has incurred heavy losses, although the battle for the town is rarely mentioned in official Russian military dispatches.

Russia is believed to have suffered "some of the highest" casualties of the entire conflict in the past six weeks, mostly due to the fighting in Avdiivka, the UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) said in an intelligence update on Monday.

It cited data from the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces that suggested Russia’s daily losses to be at an average of 931 troops throughout November.

Avdiivka was briefly captured in 2014 by Russian-financed separatists who seized large chunks of eastern Ukraine.

Fortifications were later built around the town – seen as a gateway to the Russian-held regional centre of Donetsk – and it has staunchly resisted attacks since Moscow began its full-fledged invasion in February 2022.

Ukraine launched a counteroffensive in June but has made only marginal gains in both the east and the south. President Volodymyr Zelensky has acknowledged the slow progress but denies suggestions the war is at a "stalemate".