Ukrainian forces clinging to the eastern city of Bakhmut dug new trenches in an attempt to hold back Russian attackers, as the United States said new military aid for Ukraine would be discussed at a meeting with Germany's leader on Friday.
Russian forces have been attacking Bakhmut in Donetsk province for months, sometimes in waves and the site has become one of the bloodiest battles of the war.
"In the past 24 hours, our forces have repelled more than 170 attacks, an unprecedented number over a 24-hour period for the five principal sectors of the front line," Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said on YouTube on Thursday night.
Zhdanov described Russians trying to encircle Bakhmut from the north, east and south and he said that on western approaches to the city "this is probably the only part of the Bakhmut sector where our forces, rather than the Russian occupiers, have the initiative".
Washington will announce a new $400 million military aid package for the Kyiv government, and is expected to be a major topic between US President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz when they meet at the White House, officials said.
The aid is expected to comprise mainly ammunition including Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) for HIMARS launchers, ammunition for Bradley Fighting Vehicles, as well as armoured vehicle launched bridges, two US officials and a person familiar with the package said.
The United States has provided nearly $32 billion in weaponry to Ukraine to defend itself against Russia, which invaded its pro-Western neighbour on February 24 last year.
The year-long conflict has killed thousands, displaced millions, pulverised Ukrainian cities, shaken the global economy and created a Cold War chill in international relations. Just before Russia's invasion, Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin met to seal a "no limits" partnership between their countries that has caused anxiety in the West.
At the G20 foreign ministers meeting, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to end the war and urged Moscow to reverse its suspension of the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) on nuclear weapons, a senior US official said.
It was the first in-person encounter between the top diplomats since the invasion. The Russian foreign ministry said Lavrov and Blinken spoke "on the move" for less than 10 minutes.
Russia accused the West of blackmail and threats and said it had China's support for its position as the meeting ended without a joint statement.
BATTLE OF BAKHMUT
Russia, which lost territory in the second half of 2022, says taking Bakhmut would be a step towards seizing the rest of the surrounding industrial region known as the Donbas. Ukraine says the city has limited strategic value but wants to exhaust Russian forces.
Ukrainian forces repelled attacks on Bakhmut and on two settlements just to the west - Khromove and Ivanivske, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said in a statement on Thursday night.
Russian shelling hit Bakhmut and several nearby towns - including Chasiv Yar, the biggest town to the west - and two towns south of Bakhmut, it said.
In nearby towns and villages, new trenches had been dug on the roadside 20-40 metres apart, a sign that Ukrainian forces were strengthening defensive positions.
In central Zaporizhzhia region and in Kherson region on the southern front, Russian forces shelled more than 40 towns and villages, the Ukrainian military statement said.
Russia says it is targeting infrastructure as part of what it calls its "special military operation" to degrade the Ukrainian military and remove what it says is a threat to its own security. Ukraine and its allies accuse Moscow of an unprovoked war to grab territory.