Russian forces are launching a series of attacks on Bakhmut and other towns in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region, but Ukrainian troops are managing to hold back their advance, officials in Kyiv said on Monday.
In a daily report, the general staff of Ukraine's armed forces said Moscow's troops had carried out seven missile strikes, 31 airstrikes and 73 attacks from salvo rocket launchers in the past day.
It said Ukraine's forces had succeeded in holding out against attacks on 14 settlements, including Bakhmut, which has become a focus of heavy fighting in past weeks.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has also said that Bakhmut was "holding on despite everything."
"And even though most of the town has been destroyed by Russian strikes, our soldiers are repelling constant Russian attempts to advance," he said in a nightly video address on Sunday.
Zelenskyy added that Ukrainian forces were also successfully defending the nearby town of Soledar, "even though there is even greater destruction and things are very difficult."
Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar also described the situation of Ukrainian soldiers near Soledar, which is some 14 kilometers (8.7 miles) from Bakhmut, as "difficult" on her Telegram channel on Sunday.
She said Russian attacks were being carried out not only by the regular army but by troops from the mercenary Wagner Group.
Ukraine must hold on to both the towns to protect Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, two major Donbas cities that are still under Kyiv's control. The fall of these cities would mean Russia had virtually captured the entire Donbas region, one of the goals Moscow publicly set itself at the beginning of its invasion last February.
Here are other related developments concerning the war in Ukraine on January 9:
Zelenskyy says Ukraine resisting 'tougher assaults' in Soledar
In his nightly address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukrainian troops were withstanding "new and even tougher assaults" on Soledar, near the eastern city of Bakhmut that Moscow has been trying to capture for months.
"I thank all our soldiers who protect our Bakhmut," Zelenskyy said, noting, "All the fighters in Soledar, who are withstanding the new and even tougher assaults from the invaders!"
Soledar is located in the Donetsk region, around 15 kilometers (nine miles) from Bakhmut, a city with a pre-war population of 70,000 that is now an epicentre of fighting.
"Thanks to the resilience of our soldiers there, in Soledar, we won additional time and forces for Ukraine," Zelenskyy added.
"Everything is completely destroyed," Zelenskyy said. "The whole land in Soledar is covered with corpses of the invaders and is scarred from the explosions."
Earlier on Monday, the Ukrainian armed forces said they repelled an attempt to seize Soledar, but that fighting resumed.
More tanks would prolong war and not change the outcome, says Russia
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said sending tanks to Ukraine would only prolong the suffering of the Ukrainian people and would not change the war's outcome, the Russia's Interfax news agency reported.
"In principle, these deliveries cannot and will not change anything in Ukraine," Peskov said.
It was not just about the French AMX-10 RC light tanks but about all Western arms supplies, the Russian spokesman said.
Peskov was referring to France's decision last week to send the light combat tanks to Ukraine. Following France's announcement, Germany and the US said they would send armored vehicles, albeit different kinds, to Ukraine too.
Germany has no current plans to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine
The German government has no plans at the moment to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, a government spokesperson said.
German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck said over the weekend that decisions about sending more tanks to Ukraine would still have to be taken.
Government spokesperson Steffen Hebestreit said on Monday he was not aware about any requests to send Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine from any NATO partners, but said sending them was not "impossible."
Berlin said last week it would provide Marder infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine, but has repeatedly emphasized that it would not act alone when it came to sending armored vehicles.
Poland floats possible coalition for supplying tanks to Ukraine
Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski told Polish national radio that he was discussing forming a broad coalition of countries to supply tanks to Ukraine.
A security adviser to Polish President Andrzej Duda also told Radio Zet that the matter was "in flux" and the first thing would be to find out "what our allies in Western countries will do."
Jakub Kumoch told Radio Zet that Poland could be a part of the coalition but could not act on its own.
He dismissed reports about Warsaw getting ready to hand overLeopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, labeling them as "disinformation."
Doubts grow about alleged Russian hit on Ukrainian troops
Russian claims to have killed 600 Ukrainian soldiers in a missile strike in Kramatorsk have been increasingly called into question by a number of officials.
Moscow said on Sunday it had targeted the soldiers as revenge for a New Year's attack by Ukraine that killed scores of Russian soldiers and caused an outcry in Russia.
But a Ukrainian military spokesperson for the eastern region, Serhii Cherevatyi, said the Russian claims were a bid to show that Moscow was capable of responding in kind to the Ukrainian attack.
Even pro-Kremlin military bloggers have cast doubt on Moscow's claims.
Reuters news agency has said that its reporters had found no obvious signs of casualties at the two college dormitories where Moscow said the killed Ukrainian personnel had been temporarily accommodated.
Both Russia and Ukrainian militaries have often overstated enemy losses, while minimizing their own. The Kremlin on Monday reiterated its belief in the truth of Defense Ministry's claims about the Kramatorsk attack.
rm, tj/rs (Reuters, AP, dpa)