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Fierce Fighting Under Way In East As U.S. Kicks Off Expanded Training For Ukrainian Troops

Ukrainian soldiers fire an anti-aircraft gun toward Russian positions on the front line near Bakhmut on January 15.

Ukrainian soldiers fire an anti-aircraft gun toward Russian positions on the front line near Bakhmut on January 15.

Ukrainian forces repelled fresh Russian attacks in the east, the Ukrainian military said on January 16, as the United States announced the start of an expanded combat training program for Ukrainian forces in Germany.

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Ukrainian emergency services, meanwhile, said the death toll from a Russian missile strike on an apartment building in the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro has risen to 30.

The attack on Dnipro was part of a widespread wave of Russian missile strikes that included Ukraine's largest cities -- the capital, Kyiv, and Kharkiv.

Russian forces targeted Ukrainian positions and civilian settlements in Luhansk and Donetsk, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said in its daily report on January 16, as uncertainty continued over which side controls Soledar -- which has been shelled into mostly ruins by Russian forces.

The Russian military has said it is in control of Soledar, a claim denied by Kyiv, which said that heavy fighting is continuing in and around the strategic salt-mining town in Donetsk.

A Russian victory in Soledar would allow Moscow's forces to inch closer to the bigger city of Bakhmut to the south, where pitched battles have been raging for months.

The British Defense Ministry said that, as of January 15, Ukrainian forces "almost certainly maintained positions" in Soledar, where intense fighting continued over the weekend.

The Ukrainian military said that Russian forces also continued to target energy and civilian infrastructure in the Zaporizhzhya, Dnipropetrovsk, and Kherson regions.

U.S. General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said an expanded and more complex combat-training program of Ukrainian forces began in Germany on January 15.

Milley said the program, which is focused on large-scale combat, aims to get a battalion of about 500 Ukrainian troops back on the battlefield to fight the Russians in the next five or six weeks.

Milley plans to visit the Grafenwoehr Training Area, where the program is under way, on January 16.

“This support is really important for Ukraine to be able to defend itself,” Milley told the Associated Press. “And we’re hoping to be able to pull this together here in short order.”

The United States has already trained more than 3,100 Ukrainian troops on how to use and maintain certain weapons systems, including howitzers, armored vehicles, and the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS). Other Western allies are also conducting training on the weapons they provide.

WATCH: Firefighters continued to clear the rubble and extricate survivors in the Ukrainian city of Dnipro on January 15, a day after a Russian missile strike hit a nine-story apartment building.

In Dnipro, the search for survivors continues after the Russian strike on January 14 that killed at least 30.
“Search-and-rescue operations and the dismantling of dangerous structural elements continues around the clock,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said. “We are fighting [to save] every life.”

Zelenskiy spoke directly to the Russian people in his nightly video address.

"Your cowardly silence, your attempt to 'wait out' what is happening, will end only with the fact that one day these same terrorists will come for you," he said, speaking in Russian.

Earlier, the city council declared three days of mourning for what it described as the worst “terrorist attack on Dnipro” since the launch of Russia’s full invasion last February.

With reporting by AP and Reuters

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