Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the situation was ‘very difficult’ near Bagmut in the east

The announcement comes days after Russian-backed forces announced they were closing in on the city. “A very serious situation persists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions,” in the Donbass industrial basin, Zelensky said in his daily news.

“The tough part is near Bagmouth like the previous days. We are still holding our positions,” he added.

Russian-backed separatist forces in Ukraine’s Donetsk region said Thursday they had captured two nearby villages, Obidin and Ivangrad.

Russian forces have been on the offensive for weeks, hoping to capture Bagmouth, a city once home to 70,000 people.

In Chasiv Yar, about fifteen kilometers from Bagmouth, AFP journalists spoke to a soldier who had just returned from the front line in the region.

“For days, I didn’t sleep, I didn’t eat, except for coffee, I didn’t drink,” said the 50-year-old soldier from the 93rd Regiment, nicknamed “Polyak.”

“Out of 13 people in my group, we lost two soldiers and five were discharged”, continued this soldier, slightly wounded by shrapnel and showing signs of exhaustion.

“Now we will do everything for our life, our country,” he repeated, almost on the verge of tears.

For weeks, Ukrainian troops have been retaking large swathes of territory in southern and eastern Ukraine.

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