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Ukrainian troops pull back again as Russia's onslaught pushes ahead in eastern Ukraine

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KYIV, Ukraine -

Ukrainian troops have pulled out of a village in the east of the country, an army spokesman said Monday, as Russian forces make their advantages in manpower and ammunition tell on the battlefield at the start of the war's third year.

The latest setback for Kyiv's soldiers was in the village of Lastochkyne, where they fell back to nearby villages in an attempt to hold the line there, Dmytro Lykhovii, a spokesman for one of the Ukrainian troop groupings, said on national television.

Lastochkyne lies to the west of Avdiivka, a suburb of Donetsk city that the Kremlin`s forces captured on Feb. 18 after a four-month battle. The outnumbered defenders were overwhelmed by Moscow's military might, and Ukraine chose to pull out its troops and mount a defence elsewhere.

Russia's Ministry of Defence said its troops had "liberated" Lastochkyne.

Russian state-owned news agency RIA Novosti quoted local commander Andrei Mordvichev as saying troops had pushed Ukrainian forces back by 10 kilometres (6 miles) and were continuing with their offensive. The agency said a key Ukrainian supply route ran through Lastochkyne.

It was not possible to independently verify each side's claims.

Though not in itself a major loss, abandoning the village illustrates the battlefield challenges Ukraine is currently facing. The new phase of the war has brought some bleak developments for Ukraine.

Moscow's troops are driving on, smashing towns and cities with their superior firepower, despite suffering high losses of troops and equipment, Ukraine says.

Western analysts say the Russians are attacking in strength along four parallel axes in the northeast, aiming to press deeper into the Ukraine-held western part of the Donetsk region and also penetrating into the Kharkiv region north of it.

Ukrainian Defence Minister Rustan Umerov complained Sunday that half of promised Western military support to Ukraine fails to arrive on time. That, he said, makes it hard to undertake proper military planning and ultimately costs the lives of soldiers.

Western leaders have sworn to stand by Ukraine as long as they need to defeat Russia's full-scale invasion of Feb. 24 2022, and Bulgarian Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov arrived in Kyiv on Monday to show his support.

More than 20 European heads of state and government and other Western officials were due to meet in Paris on Monday to discuss the war at what French President Emmanuel Macron called a "critical" juncture. He says Kyiv needs more military resources and likely will require them over an extended period of time.

U.S. President Joe Biden was also seeking to remove political roadblocks on providing more aid to Ukraine, convening the top four congressional leaders at the White House on Tuesday.

In other developments, Moscow-installed officials in Ukraine's eastern Donetsk region claimed that Russian troops had destroyed a U.S.-made Abrams tank for the first time since they were deployed in Ukraine last fall, RIA Novosti reported.

A drone strike on the Russian city of Belgorod near the Ukraine border killed three people and wounded three more, regional Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov said Monday evening.

Russia launched seven missiles of various types and 14 Shahed drones over Ukraine early Monday morning. Ukraine's Air Force said it intercepted nine drones and three missiles.

A guided aerial bomb killed a married couple at home in the northeastern Sumy region of Ukraine, regional authorities said.

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