Advancing Ukrainian troops are facing "desperate resistance" from Russian forces around the eastern city of Bakhmut, a senior Ukrainian commander said on Friday.
Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi, who is in charge of Ukrainian ground forces, said the situation in the east was tense and Russia was bringing its best divisions into the Bakhmut sector with backup from artillery and aircraft.
"We continue to conduct offensive actions in separate directions, occupying dominant heights, and strips of forest with the aim of forcing the enemy gradually out of the outskirts of Bakhmut. Realizing this, the enemy units put up desperate resistance," Syrskyi said on the Telegram messaging app.
The small, ruined city of Bakhmut in Ukraine's Donetsk region has seen some of the fiercest and bloodiest fighting since Russia's full-scale invasion in February 2022.
The Ukrainian military said last week it had started to push Russian forces back in and around Bakhmut.
Ukraine regains land in counteroffensive
Syrskyi reiterated that the Ukrainian forces were also advancing in the south. Kyiv said on Thursday it had regained control of about 100 square km (38 square miles) of territory in just over a week of its counteroffensive against Russian forces.
Military analysts have said that tougher battles lie ahead.
Reuters could not verify the battlefield situation. Russia has not officially acknowledged the Ukrainian advances and says Ukrainian troops have suffered heavy casualties, but Reuters has confirmed the liberation of at least two villages in the east.