FILE PHOTO: Commander of the Joint Forces Oleksandr Pavliuk visits combat positions in the Donetsk region

FILE PHOTO: Commander of the Joint Forces Oleksandr Pavliuk visits combat positions in the Donetsk region

Reuters:  The Ukrainian military will stabilize the battlefield situation shortly and aims to form units for counter-offensive actions later this year, a top military commander said on Wednesday.

Ukrainian forces experienced a setback following nine months of mostly stable front lines, when the eastern city of Avdiivka fell into Russian hands earlier in February after months of devastating attacks.

Ukrainian troops were forced to leave several settlements neighboring the city due to Russia's continued offensive amid its own depleting stockpiles of munitions. A vital aid package from the U.S. has been stalled by Republicans in Congress.

"We will stabilize the situation shortly," Oleksandr Pavliuk, appointed as ground force commander during the recent top military reshuffle, said in televised comments, "and do everything possible to prepare the troops for more active actions, and to seize the initiative."

He said current work was aimed at withdrawing military units that lost their potential and restoring them to later form a force for counter-offensive actions this year.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said last month that Russia would try to mount a new offensive this spring or summer, but that Kyiv had a battlefield plan of its own.

Ukrainian military spokesperson Dmytro Lykhoviy told national television on Wednesday that Russian forces were now unable to gain new ground near Avdiivka.

Lykhoviy restated earlier assessments that Russian troops were instead focusing on an area to the south, near the village of Novomykhailivka.

Maksym Zhorin, a Ukrainian commander in the area, also said Russian forces were having difficulty making headway since the capture of Avdiivka and a number of neighbouring villages. Their latest target, he said, was the village of Orlivka.

"They are constantly attempting to advance and make progress wherever possible," Zhorin wrote on Telegram. "Despite significant losses, they persist in launching assaults, both day and night."

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