Ukraine war latest: Official says Avdiivka 'being wiped off the face of the earth'
Key developments on March 28:
Avdiivka in Donetsk Oblast "is being wiped off the face of the earth," official says
Ukrainian military repels 24 Russian attacks in the east
Zelensky travels to Okhtyrka in Sumy Oblast, marking the one-year anniversary of its liberation
Portugal delivers Leopard tanks to Ukraine.
Up to 14 rockets hit the eastern Ukrainian city of Avdiivka daily, Donetsk Oblast Police said on March 28.
"For such a small town (the area of Avdiivka is 29 square meters), this is a lot. The city is badly damaged, almost every day someone dies," Ivan Hak, a local police officer, said.
Avdiivka is located near the embattled city of Bakhmut and just north of the Russian-occupied regional capital of Donetsk. It has recently faced an uptick in assaults as Moscow's forces attempt to advance in the area.
"The city is being wiped off the face of the earth," said Vitalii Barabash, head of the Avdiivka military administration.
According to Donetsk Oblast Police, the number of Avdiivka residents who want to evacuate has recently grown. Only five children remain in the city, the police said. As each day passes, evacuations become more challenging, and residents are urged to leave as soon as possible.
Earlier this week, officials reported that about 2,000 civilians remained in Avdiivka, which has no water or electricity supply. On March 27, entry to Avdiivka was banned for journalists and volunteers.
The General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces has reported that Avdiivka, along with Bakhmut, Marinka, and their surrounding areas, remains the epicenter of hostilities.
In its regular evening update on March 28, the General Staff said that the Ukrainian military successfully repelled 24 Russian assaults in the area.
Meanwhile, the U.K. Defense Ministry noted that encircling Avdiivka has become a priority for Russian troops, but they have made "only marginal progress" in the area, suffering losses of numerous armored vehicles.
To reinforce its recent limited advances on the city, Russia's military leadership has likely committed some elements of the Kremlin-backed private mercenary Wagner Group to the Russian offensive, the Institute for the Study of War believes.
Ukraine receives more Western-made battle tanks
As fierce fighting continues in the east, Ukraine receives more modern battle tanks from its allies.
Three German-made Leopard 2A6 main battle tanks sent by Portugal arrived in Ukraine, the Portuguese Defense Ministry reported on March 27.
The commitment to send these modern combat tanks was made in early February after talks between Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa and Germany to obtain the necessary parts for repairing some of Portugal's Leopard inventory.
On the same day of Portugal's delivery, the German Defense Ministry announced that 18 of its Leopard 2 tanks had also arrived in Ukraine, accompanied by ammunition and spare parts.
Zelensky visits early Russian invasion target Okhtyrka, marks one-year liberation
On March 28, President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Okhtyrka in northeastern Sumy Oblast to mark the first anniversary of the city's liberation by Ukrainian forces.
A small city with a pre-war population of 46,000, Okhtyrka is located about 50 kilometers from the Russian-Ukrainian border. It was among the first cities invaded by Russian troops in February of the previous year.
"In Sumy Oblast, in our Okhtyrka, we honor the true Cossack courage and indomitability of our people, our heroes, all Ukrainian men, and women," Zelensky said.
During his visit, Zelensky presented the "Hero City of Ukraine" award to local officials.
He also awarded Ukrainian soldiers who participated in defending the city against the Russian invasion, met with members of Ukraine's State Border Guard Service, surveyed checkpoints, and received a briefing on measures taken to secure the border between Sumy Oblast and Russia.
Over the past week, Zelensky visited the Ukrainian positions near Donetsk Oblast's Bakhmut and in southeastern Zaporizhzhia Oblast, as well traveled to the eastern city of Kharkiv and central Dnipropetrovsk Oblast.
"Ukrainians will live here, on their land, in their cities and villages, which we have to rebuild after the war. And I'm sure it will definitely happen," Zelensky said on March 28.