Early on Thursday morning, Ukrainian soldiers defended their positions in the devastated city of Bakhmut, located in the country's eastern region, despite repeated Russian attacks and indications that time was running out.
Moscow asserts that conquering Bakhmut would pave the door for complete control of the vital Donbas industrial region bordering Russia, one of the primary goals of its February 24, 2014 invasion.
Ukraine asserts that Bakhmut has low strategic relevance but has nonetheless developed a robust defence. Not all Ukrainians believe that the security of Bakhmut can continue indefinitely.
Serhiy Rakhmanin, a member of the Ukrainian parliament, stated on Ukrainian NV radio on Wednesday evening, "I would not go as far as to say the situation is critical, but it is threatening,"
"From my standpoint, it is not logical to defend Bakhmut at any cost," Rakhmanin remarked. "But for the moment, Bakhmut will be defended with several aims - firstly, to inflict as many Russian losses as possible and make Russia use its ammunition and resources."
No lines of defence should be allowed to collapse, Rakhmanin stated, and "there are two ways to handle this - a planned retreat or simple flight. In addition, we cannot permit flight under any circumstances."
According to a statement issued by the Ukrainian Armed Forces General Staff on Wednesday night, the Russians attempted to advance "without interruption" on Bakhmut. At the same time, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy stated that his forces "are keeping each sector of the front under control."
According to the military statement, Russian forces were preparing for further attacks in the central Zaporizhia region and the southern front in the Kherson region. More than 40 towns and villages were shelled, including the regional centre of Kherson and other settlements on the west bank of the Dnipro River, abandoned by Russian forces in November.
Reuters was unable to confirm the most recent accounts from the battlefield immediately.
Thousands of inhabitants remain inside the devastated city of Bakhmut from a pre-war population of roughly 70,000.
Foreign ministers conference
The battle took the stage on the eve of a G20 foreign ministers' conference in New Delhi, with the EU foreign policy leader stating its success will be assessed by what it could do to help stop the fighting.
Ukrainians and Russians observe March 1 as the beginning of spring. Already, the frozen ground has melted at the front, ushering in the season of sucking black mud - "bezdorizhzhia" in Ukrainian, "rasputitsa" in Russian - that has been legendary in military history for crushing attacking forces.
"Winter is over. It was a very difficult one, and every Ukrainian, without exaggeration, felt the hardships," Zelenskiy said in his nightly video message, delivered following a conference focused on energy issues.
"Yet, we were able to supply Ukraine with electricity and heat. The threat to the energy infrastructure persists. And work continues to maintain the functioning of the energy system, "Zelenskiy stated.
According to Ukraine, Russia's regular missile attacks on power installations were part of a deliberate strategy to demoralize citizens.
Ukraine and its Western allies view Russia's conflict as unprovoked and aimed at crushing its European-leaning neighbour, which, like Russia, was a member of the Moscow-dominated Soviet Union until its dissolution in 1991. Russia accuses the West of inciting its "special military operation" to eliminate security threats and extending the conflict by arming the Ukrainian government.