Situation on eastern front has 'significantly worsened' in recent days, Ukraine's army chief warns

Ukraine's top general warned that the battlefield situation in the east of the country, which is at the epicenter of the fiercest fighting, has deteriorated.

Situation on eastern front has 'significantly worsened' in recent days, Ukraine's army chief warns

Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi, commander-in-chief of Ukraine's armed forces.

Valentyn Ogirenko | Reuters

Ukraine's top military general warned Saturday that the battlefield situation in the east of the country, which continues to be the epicenter of the fiercest fighting in Ukraine, has deteriorated sharply.

"The situation on the eastern front has significantly worsened in recent days," Oleksandr Syrskyi, commander-in-chief of Ukraine's armed forces, said on Telegram.

"This is primarily due to the significant intensification of enemy offensive actions following the presidential elections in the Russian Federation," he added, in comments translated by NBC News.

Syrskyi said warm, dry weather had facilitated Russian forces' attacks on Ukrainian positions in the Lyman and Bakhmut areas of the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine, with Russian "assault groups supported by armored vehicles," including dozens of tanks and infantry fighting vehicles.

"Despite significant losses, the enemy is increasing efforts by deploying new units with armored vehicles, occasionally achieving tactical success," Syrsyki said.

Russia's military objectives, at least in the near term, are to capture the rest of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions in eastern Ukraine, areas that they currently only partially occupy despite Russia claiming them as part of the Russian Federation, having illegally annexed them in Sept. 2022.

Nonetheless, Russian forces have made some notable advances in Luhansk and Donetsk in recent months, aided by their advantage in terms of manpower and supplies of artillery shells. On Saturday, Russia's defense ministry claimed its forces had captured another village, Pervomaisk, in Donetsk. CNBC was unable to verify the claim and Ukraine has not yet commented.

Ukrainian servicemen monitor the situation along the front via drones in the direction of Kreminna, Ukraine as Russia-Ukraine war continues on 31 March 2024.

Anadolu | Anadolu | Getty Images

Ukraine, meanwhile, has been warning of acute shortages of artillery in parts of the eastern front for weeks, repeatedly calling on its international allies to provide it with more artillery and ammunition. Around $60 billion of new military aid for Ukraine remains blocked by Republicans in the U.S.

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned last week that his country could lose the war if Congress does not approve more aid. Defense experts have also warned that the war could quickly deteriorate from a stalemate into Russia having the upper hand over Ukraine this year.

Col. Gen. Syrskyi, who replaced General Valeriy Zaluzhnyi as head of Ukraine's armed forces in February, said in his latest military update that he was "taking all necessary measures to stabilize the situation, increase the effectiveness of our troops' actions, and inflict maximum losses on enemy units" in eastern Ukraine.

He said problematic areas of defense were being shored up with electronic warfare and air defenses, while drone stocks had been replenished. "Anti-tank missiles have been relocated, and additional reserves of forces and means have been moved," he added.

Syrskyi said Ukraine's forces needed to gain a technological advantage over Russia, saying the need for high-tech weapons had arisen again and that "only this will give us the opportunity to defeat an enemy larger in numbers and create conditions for seizing the strategic initiative."

He also called for the quality of training of troops to be improved, particularly that of infantry units, in order for them to "make the most of all the capabilities of combat equipment and Western weaponry."