Russian forces pounded the entire front line in Ukraine's eastern region of Donetsk and Luhansk, the General Staff of the Ukrainian military said on December 9, as U.S. officials said that Washington was preparing to send Ukraine a $275 million military aid package containing new capabilities to defeat drones and strengthen air defenses.
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Ukrainian forces repelled dozens of Russian attacks in the Bilohoryivka area in Luhansk as well as Klishchyivka and Maryinka in the Donetsk region, the General Staff said in its daily update.
"Over the past day, the enemy launched five missile strikes and three air strikes, as well as 54 salvoes from multiple rocket systems," it said, adding that the Russians continued to threaten Ukraine's already badly damaged energy infrastructure system as winter settles in.
The fiercest fighting continued near the towns of Bakhmut and Avdiyivka in Donetsk, regional Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said in a television interview. Artillery slammed into the town of Toretsk southwest of Bakhmut, killing one civilian and damaging 12 buildings, Kyrylenko said.
"The entire front line is being shelled," he said, adding that Russians were also trying to advance near Lyman, which was recaptured by Ukrainian forces last month in one of a number of setbacks suffered by Moscow since invading its neighbor in February.
In Bakhmut and other parts of the Donetsk region, Ukrainian forces countered with barrages from rocket launchers, witnesses said.
The recently liberated city of Kherson sustained another wave of Russian bombardments targeting the energy and civilian infrastructure, according to Yuriy Sobolevskiy, the deputy head of the Kherson regional council.
"The night in Kherson was restless, with the sounds of explosions from enemy aircraft. The orcs were once again hitting civilian infrastructure," Sobolevskiy said on Telegram on December 9.
In Washington, officials said the United States is preparing to send Ukraine an additional $275 million in military aid, including large amounts of ammunition and high-tech systems that can be used to detect and counter drones.
Numerous waves of Russian drone and missile attacks on Ukraine's infrastructure over the past months have caused huge damage and left millions of people without electricity, heating, and water as freezing temperatures kicked in.
The fresh U.S. package, which could be announced as early as December 9, is also expected to include rockets for High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers made by Lockheed Martin Corp, 155-millimeter ammunition, Humvee military vehicles, and generators, according to the officials familiar with the issue.
A National Security Council spokesperson declined to comment on the aid package, which is smaller than most of the recent ones that the United States has delivered, and it comes as some military officials and experts predict a reduction in military hostilities during the winter.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said Russia appears to be slowing its military activities to regroup and launch a new offensive when the weather warms.
But Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed on December 8 to continue the attacks on Ukrainian energy infrastructure.
"There's a lot of noise about our strikes on the energy infrastructure of a neighboring country," Putin said at a military awards ceremony in the Kremlin. "This will not interfere with our combat missions," Putin added.
In yet another sign that Moscow was bent on keeping up the military pressure during the cold months, the Russian Defense Ministry said on December 8 that its soldiers were preparing for fighting in winter conditions by taking part in tactical training exercises in Belarus.
Alyaksandr Lukashenka, the Belarusian strongman who relied on Russian troops to help put down a popular revolt two years ago, has allowed his country to serve as a launch pad for Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February.
With reporting by AP and Reuters