Ukraine warns Putin is stepping up assault on Avdiivka as Zelensky reveals where fighting is fiercest

War-time president Volodymyr Zelensky has revealed the areas where Ukraine’s forces are facing a “challenging” time repelling Russian troops as air bombardments intensified over a strategic city in the east.

Ukrainian forces repelled a total of eight attacks on the battered, strategic city of Avdiivka by Vladimir Putin’s troops in the past 24 hours, said Ukraine’s military spokesperson Oleksandr Shtupun.

It was earlier reported that Mr Putin was going to make a third attempt at capturing the city known for its large coking plant after failing twice before.

Fighting is still going on. Over the last two days, the occupiers have increased the number of air strikes using guided bombs from Su-35 aircraft,” said Mr Shtupun.

“The enemy is also bringing in more and more infantry. But when they tried to deploy armoured vehicles the day before yesterday two tanks and 14 other vehicles were burned out,” he said.

Vitaliy Barabash, head of Avdiivka’s military administration, also revealed Russia’s losses in its current drive for Avdiivka.

A minimum 3,000-4,000 Russian troops were killed and a further 7,000-8,000 were wounded, he told state news agency Ukrinform. Russia has not commented on the claims of the casualties made by Kyiv.

“Quite simply, Avdiivka and its strategic position is geographically located on heights and you can see Donetsk... from here,” he said, referring to the Ukrainian area occupied by Russia.

He said Mr Putin’s troops “need” Avdiivka.

“Not a single building” was intact in the city that now has just over 1,500 people remaining from its pre-war population of 32,000, Mr Barabash said.

Some of the remaining civilians in Avdiivka include doctors and nurses. The town still has a shop and functioning hospital operating under every day shelling.

In an evening update on the frontline on Monday, the Ukrainian General Staff of the Armed Forces said its troops repelled 15 Russian attacks near the long-contested town of Maryinka, east of Avdiivka.

Kyiv said its troops also repelled another 11 strikes near Bakhmut to the northeast and six near Kupiansk in the northeast.

Mr Zelensky, in a speech on Monday, said fighting along the frontline has been “challenging”.

He named Avdiivka, Maryinka, Bakhmut front, Lyman front, Kupyansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson as the areas where fighting has been the fiercest.

He said he was grateful “for the fact that Ukraine knows and will know the enemy’s plans and how to respond to them – properly and powerfully”.

“Both on the ground and in the Black Sea,” he said, referring to the area where Russia has concentrated its naval fleet.

This was further corroborated by Ukrainian commander-in-chief, General Valery Zaluzhnyi, who said Avdiivka, Kupiansk, and Maryinka fronts remain the “most intense”.

“The situation is complicated, but remains under control,” he said.

The top commander spoke with his American counterpart, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Charles Brown, on Monday. He discussed Ukraine’s plans for the winter and urgent needs of the Ukrainian troops, such as ammunition, air defence and drones.

In an interview earlier this month, Mr Zaluzhnyi said the war was entering a phase of attrition, leading to Mr Zelensky dismissing any notion that the conflict was headed towards a stalemate.

Russian accounts said Moscow’s forces had repulsed five Ukrainian attempts to advance on villages outside Bakhmut that was captured by Moscow’s troops in May after months of fighting.