Ukrainian forces are constantly pushing back Russian attacks over Bakhmut and other towns in the eastern Donbass region, Ukrainian authorities said on Monday, after denying Kremlin claims that 600 soldiers were killed in a missile strike.
Russia launched seven missile strikes, 31 airstrikes and 73 salvo rocket attacks over the past day, the Ukrainian Armed Forces General Staff said in a daily report.
Ukrainian forces repelled attacks on 14 settlements, including Bakhmut, he added.
“Bakhmut is holding on despite everything,” President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in late-night video remarks on Sunday.
“And even though most of the city has been destroyed by Russian strikes, our soldiers are repelling constant Russian attempts to advance.”
The nearby town of Soledar was holding firm, “even though there is still more destruction and things are very difficult”, he added.
Reuters was unable to independently verify the battlefield reports.
Zelenskiy again denounced what he called Russia’s failure to honor a truce it had declared for Orthodox Christmas by staging attacks on Ukrainian towns.
“The Russians were bombing Kherson with incendiary munitions immediately after Christmas,” he said, referring to the southern town abandoned by Russian forces in November.
“Hit on Kramatorsk and other cities in Donbass – on civilian targets and just as Moscow was signaling a supposed ‘silence’ for its army.”
On Sunday, Russia said a missile attack on Kramatorsk, northwest of Bakhmut, killed 600 Ukrainian soldiers, but a Reuters reporter at the scene found no obvious signs of casualties.
A Reuters team visited two university dormitories which Moscow said were temporarily housing Ukrainian staff and which it had targeted in revenge for a New Year’s Eve attack that killed dozens of Russian soldiers and caused outcry in Russia.
But none of the dormitories in the eastern town of Kramatorsk appear to have been directly hit or seriously damaged. There were no obvious signs that soldiers had lived there and no signs of bodies or traces of blood.
Serhiy Cherevatya Ukrainian military spokesman for the eastern region, described the allegation of mass casualties as an attempt by the Russian Defense Ministry to show that it had responded forcefully to Ukraine’s recent strikes against Russian soldiers.
“This is an information operation by the Russian Defense Ministry,” Cherevatyi told Ukrainian television channel Suspilne News.
As Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine approaches a year, the Russian military is under pressure from within to achieve battlefield success.
Warmongering voices called for an escalation of the war effort after setbacks such as the loss of captured territories and high death and injury rates.
Some prominent Russian military bloggers have criticized the Russian Defense Ministry’s claims.
“Let’s talk about ‘fraud’,” a prominent pro-war military blogger wrote on the Telegram messaging app, which publishes as Military Informant and has more than half a million subscribers.
“We don’t know who, and for what reason, decided that 600 Ukrainian soldiers died inside, all of a sudden, if the building was not actually hit (even the light remained on).
“Instead of the actual destruction of enemy personnel, which would have been a dignified response, a media-only retaliatory operation was invented.”
The armies of Russia and Ukraine often overestimated enemy losses, while understating their own.
Senior Ukrainian military officials said last week that some 760 Russian soldiers were killed or injured in two attacks on Moscow-controlled parts of Kherson and Zaporizhia Regions. These reports could not be independently verified.

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