Russia announced on Wednesday that its troops had breached two Ukrainian defence lines on the eastern front. At the same time, Kyiv described the situation as precarious and urged rapid military aid in advance of an anticipated Russian attack.
The Russian Defense Ministry claimed the Ukrainians had retreated from the Luhansk region in response to Russian attacks. However, it did not disclose any specifics, and Reuters could not independently confirm the battlefield account.
"During the offensive ... the Ukrainian troops randomly retreated to a distance of up to 3 km (1.9 miles) from the previously occupied lines," the ministry announced via the Telegram messaging app.
"Even the more fortified second line of defence of the enemy could not hold the breakthrough of the Russian military."
The office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy reported that Ukrainian forces had resisted some Russian attacks in Luhansk but added, "The situation in the region remains difficult."
In recent weeks, the Kremlin has expanded attacks throughout a swath of southern and eastern Ukraine, and a significant new onslaught is widely expected.
Russia's primary attention has been on the Donetsk provincial town of Bakhmut, next to Luhansk.
In its daily morning statement, the Ukrainian Armed Forces General Staff did not highlight any severe setbacks in Luhansk. It was reported that Ukrainian soldiers withstood raids in the vicinity of about 20 communities, including Bakhmut and Vuhledar, a town located approximately 150 kilometres (90 miles) southwest of Bakhmut.
Tuesday, Zelenskiy stated that Russia is in a rush to accomplish as much as possible with its next drive before Ukraine and its allies gain power.
"That is why speed is of the essence," he said as NATO defence chiefs continued their Wednesday meeting in Brussels. "Rapidity in all aspects, including the adoption and execution of decisions, the shipment of supplies, and training. Acceleration saves lives."
The capture of Bakhmut would serve as a stepping stone for Russia to march on two more prominent cities in Donetsk, Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, giving it momentum after months of losses ahead of the invasion's first anniversary on February 24.
In his Tuesday evening talk, Zelenskiy described the realities on the eastern frontier as "The battles are literally for every foot of Ukrainian land,"
Oleh Zhdanov, a Ukrainian military analyst, stated that battle was occurring "around every house" in Bakhmut. In a YouTube video, he said, "The situation remains complicated, but under the control of our forces, and the front line has not moved,"
Ukraine claims it requires fighter jets and long-range missiles to stop the Russian attack and reclaim lost territory as it expends shells quicker than the West can produce them.
The United States and NATO have guaranteed that Western assistance will not waver in the face of an impending Russian onslaught.
Representatives of the 27 member states of the European Union met in Brussels on Wednesday to debate a new round of sanctions against Russia, which the head of the bloc's executive said may result in trade losses of 11 billion euros ($11.8 billion).
Boris Pistorius, the German minister of defence, stated that equipping Ukraine with fighter jets would be addressed but that it was not a priority. He added that he supported increasing NATO's military spending target. British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said Western partners might help Ukraine more rapidly by supporting their position on the ground rather than depending on the availability of jets.
Russia, which describes the invasion as a "special military operation" to eliminate security threats, stated that NATO's hatred against Russia was increasing daily and that the alliance was becoming increasingly involved in the fight. According to Kyiv and its allies, the acts of Russia constitute an unprovoked territorial grab.
Russia controls large portions of the southern Ukrainian provinces of Kherson and Zaporizhia, including the country's nuclear reactor, practically all of Luhansk, and more than half of Donetsk. Most United Nations members opposed Russia's unlawful annexation of the four areas, which Moscow announced the previous year.
On Wednesday, the leader of the Russian-installed government in Ukraine's northeastern Kharkiv area stated that Russia aims to reclaim all of the settlements it ceded to Kyiv last year.
According to RIA Novosti, quoting a senior legislator, the upper house of the Russian parliament will hold an emergency meeting on February 22 that will focus on the passage of laws regarding the incorporation of four regions into the Russian Federation.
A report sponsored by the United States and released Tuesday stated that Russia imprisoned at least 6,000 Ukrainian youngsters, likely many more, in political reeducation camps in Crimea and Russia. The Russian embassy in Washington said that Russia received youngsters whose families were forced to flee the shelling in Ukraine.