Moscow’s forces are pushing towards two towns in Ukraine’s southern Zaporizhia region, where fighting intensified this week after several months of a stagnant front, Russian state media has reported.
Vladimir Rogov, a Russian-installed official in the region, said offensive actions were concentrated around two towns: Orikhiv, around 50km (30 miles) south of Ukrainian-controlled regional capital Zaporizhzhia, and Hulyaipole, further east.
“The front is mobile, especially in two directions: Orikhiv and Hulyaipole,” Rogov was quoted as saying by the RIA Novosti news agency.
He said there was active fighting in those areas, according to the agency.
“The initiative is in our hands.”
The Russian army later claimed for a second day in a row that it had taken “more advantageous lines and positions” after “offensive operations” in the Zaporizhia region.
It claimed to have hit Ukrainian positions in the village of Lezhyno, outside the regional capital of Zaporizhzhia, which has not fallen to Ukrainian forces.
In its daily report on Sunday, the Ukrainian army said “more than 15 settlements were affected by artillery fire” in Zaporizhia.
Earlier this week, Rogov announced a “local offensive” around Orikhiv and said the Russian army had taken control of the village of Lobkove, near the Dnieper River.
He also said this week that fighting has “sharply increased” in the southern region.
The front in southern Ukraine has been considerably quieter recently than in the east, with Moscow withdrawing from the major city of Kherson in November.
Russia claims to have annexed the Zaporizhia region along with three other Ukrainian regions, but does not control it in its entirety.
While Moscow controls large swathes of the southern part of the region, its main city Zaporizhzhia and northern part are held by Kyiv.
The reports come as a Russian official said that governments giving more powerful weapons to Ukraine could cause a “global tragedy that would destroy their countries”.
Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of the lower house of Russia’s parliament, warned that countries’ decision to supply Ukraine would lead to a “global catastrophe”.
“If Washington and NATO supply weapons that would be used for striking peaceful cities and making attempts to seize our territory as they threaten to do, it would trigger a retaliation with more powerful weapons,” he said.