(Reuters) - Russian forces intensified attacks on Monday on the pulverised town of Avdiivka, Ukrainian officials said, as Moscow's military presses its slow advance through eastern Ukraine.
The town is just 20 km (12 miles) north of the Russian-held city of Donetsk, part of the eastern Donbas region which Russia's military has been fighting to control since failing to take Kyiv at the start of its February 2022 invasion of Ukraine.
Ukrainian officials acknowledge that not a single building remains intact in the town. Fighting has also raged around two other nearby towns, Maryinka and Bakhmut.
"Yesterday and today, we have seen a significant increase in artillery shelling ... and a great many instances of mortar shelling," Vitaliy Barabash, head of Avdiivka's military administration, told national television.
"There has also been an increase in assault actions. They are probably waiting for better weather to use some of their equipment again as they did previously, but on a larger scale."
Avdiivka was seized for a time in 2014 by Russian-financed separatists, but retaken by Ukrainian troops who put major fortifications in place.
Much of the recent fighting has concentrated on the Avdiivka's vast coking plant - which officials say remains in Ukrainian hands - and the "industrial zone" outside the town centre.
While official Russian accounts rarely mention Avdiivka, Ukrianian and Western military analysts say Moscow's offensive there has taken a significant toll in terms of men and armoured vehicles.
Popular Russian war blog Rybar said Russian troops were fighting northwest of Avdiivka and facing Ukrainian troops and armoured equipment near the coking plant.
Reuters could not confirm accounts from either side.
Military analyst Oleksandr Musiyenko told Ukrainian NV Radio that the Ukrainian defence of Avdiivka was working well in that it was obliging Russia to divert resources into the area.
"They have disrupted the pace of the (Russian) advance, destroyed a significant amount of equipment and the Russians are suffering considerable losses," he said. "You can see that they are trying to compensate by bringing in men from other sectors."
Ukraine's general staff said its forces had repelled 15 Russian attacks in the area and nine near Russian-occupied Bakhmut to the north.
The report also said that Ukrainian troops were "continuing to restrain the enemy" near Maryinka, an indication of Kyiv's insistence it was holding that town despite unofficial reports last week that at least part of it was under Moscow's control.
Ukrainian anti-aircraft units also downed 18 Russian drones overnight and officials in northeastern Kharkiv region reported new attacks later on infrastructure, but there were no details of casualties or damage.
(Reporting by Ron Popeski and Oleksandr Kozhukhar; Editing by Stephen Coates)