Ukraine’s military chief has warned that the battlefield situation in the industrial east has “significantly worsened in recent days”, as warming weather allowed Russian forces to launch a fresh push.

In an update on the Telegram messaging app, General Oleksandr Syrsky said that Moscow had “significantly” ramped up its assaults since President Vladimir Putin extended his nearly quarter-century rule in a preordained election last month that saw anti-war candidates barred from the ballot and independent voices silenced in a Kremlin-backed media blockade.

According to Gen Syrsky, Russian forces have been “actively attacking” Ukrainian positions in three areas of the eastern Donetsk region, near the cities of Lyman, Bakhmut and Pokrovsk, and beginning to launch tank assaults as drier, warmer spring weather has made it easier for heavy vehicles to move across previously muddy terrain.

“Despite significant losses, the enemy is intensifying its efforts by using new units (equipped with) armoured vehicles, thanks to which it periodically achieves tactical success,” Gen Syrsky said.

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Soldiers of Ukraine’s National Guard (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

A Russian Defence Ministry spokesman confirmed the capture of a village that had been the site of fierce fighting for close to 18 months. Analysts from Ukraine’s non-governmental Deep State group, which tracks frontline developments, had reported on Russia’s takeover of Pervomaiske, some 28 miles south east of Pokrovsk, in the early hours of Thursday.

On Saturday, the group said in a Telegram update that Moscow’s forces had also taken Bohdanivka, another eastern village close to the city of Bakhmut, where the war’s bloodiest battle raged for nine months until it fell to Russia last May.

Ukraine’s Defence Ministry shortly afterwards denied that Bohdanivka had been captured, and said “intense fighting” continued there.

With the war in Ukraine entering its third year and a vital US aid package for Kyiv stuck in Congress, Russian troops are ramping up pressure on exhausted Ukrainian forces on the front line to prepare to grab more land this spring and summer.

Russia has relied on its edge in firepower and personnel to step up attacks across eastern Ukraine. It has increasingly used satellite-guided gliding bombs — which allow planes to drop them from a safe distance — to pummel Ukrainian forces beset by a shortage of troops and ammunition.

Also on Saturday, Germany announced that it will deliver an additional Patriot air defence system to Ukraine, days after Russian missiles and drones struck infrastructure and power facilities across several regions, leaving hundreds of thousands of homes without power, in what private energy operator DTEK described as one of the most powerful attacks this year.

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Ready-for-combat ‘Patriot’ anti-aircraft missile systems (Axel Heimken/dpa via AP)

The German Defence Ministry said it would “begin the handover” of the Patriot system immediately, without providing a precise timeline.

In an update on X, formerly known as Twitter, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said he had discussed the “massive” Russian air attacks on civilian energy infrastructure with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday, and declared that Berlin will “stand unbreakably by Ukraine’s side”.

Mr Putin described the strikes as retribution for Ukrainian attacks on Russia’s energy infrastructure, after a slew of Ukrainian drone strikes over the past few months hit oil refineries deep inside Russia.

Moscow last month renewed its assault on Ukrainian energy facilities, unleashing more than 60 exploding drones and 90 missiles across Ukraine in a single day on March 22.

The Trypilska plant, which was the biggest energy supplier for the Kyiv, Cherkasy, and Zhytomyr regions, was completely knocked out and unable to supply electricity.

At least 10 of the strikes damaged energy infrastructure in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said more than 200,000 people in the region were without power and Russia “is trying to destroy Kharkiv’s infrastructure and leave the city in darkness”.

Energy facilities were also hit in the Zaporizhzhia and Lviv regions.

The volume and accuracy of recent attacks have alarmed the country’s defenders, who say Kremlin forces now have better intelligence and fresh tactics in their campaign to annihilate Ukraine’s electrical grid and bring its economy to a halt.

In the winter of 2022-2023, Russia took aim at Ukraine’s power grid in an effort to deny civilians light and heating and chip away at the country’s appetite for war.

In Ukraine’s Russian-occupied south, a local Kremlin-installed official blamed Kyiv for a shelling attack that killed 10 people, including children, in a town in the southern Zaporizhzhia region the previous day.

The Tokmak municipal administration reported on Telegram that the shelling struck three apartment blocks Friday evening. Five people were pulled alive from the rubble and 13 people were taken to hospital, according to the Kremlin-installed regional head Yevhen Balitsky. It was not immediately possible to verify his claims.

Ukrainian officials did not immediately acknowledge or comment on the attack.

Meanwhile, in Ukraine, a Russian drone on Saturday dropped explosives on an ambulance that had been called out to a village near the frontline city of Kupiansk, wounding its 58-year-old driver, local Governor Oleh Syniehubov reported. His claim could not be independently verified.