Russian forces have made incremental gains in eastern Ukraine, analysis from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) suggests.
They have made some progress around the city of Bakhmut and are pushing around the important logistical target of Kupyansk in the Kharkiv region.
Russian forces have taken the settlement of Paraskoviivka, north of Bakhmut, says ISW, citing geolocated footage posted on February 19 showing Russian forces taking down a Ukrainian flag.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, founder of the Wagner private military company, claimed his forces were in control of Paraskoviivka on February 17. This was refuted by the Russian Ministry of Defense, which said its forces took the settlement on February 20.
The competing claims advance the suggestions leadership of Wagner and the Russian Ministry of Defense are at odds with each other, the ISW analysis says.
Ukrainian forces have not conceded any Russian gains in the area, but have said that Russia has concentrated part of its main offensive efforts around Bakhmut.
Kyiv says that its forces have repelled attacks around the city, as well as around Vasylivka, Novobakhmutivka, Vodiane, Nevelske and Maryinka.
The Ukrainian General Staff also said Russian forces have been pushing around Kupyansk in the Kharkiv region, saying they have repelled attacks “in the vicinities of Hrianykivka and Masiutivka settlements.”
The city was captured by Russian forces on February 27 last year, but was re-taken by Ukraine on September 10.
Over the past few weeks, Russian forces have refocused their efforts in the area as part of a planned spring offensive along the eastern frontline.
According to the ISW, Russian military bloggers say Russian forces have conducted “successful” operations in the area, “despite their slow pace.”