Russia has once again stepped up attacks on the Ukrainian town of Avdiivka and is “almost certainly attempting a pincer movement to encircle the town,” reports on Thursday said.

Moscow’s forces are using armoured vehicles, targeting the industrial zone and hitting positions in the town “around the clock” to strike high-rise buildings, the town’s mayor,  Vitaliy Barabash said on national television.

“It is very hot. Indeed, in the last few days, the enemy has become more active,” he added.

The British Ministry of Defense in an intelligence report said Russia “is almost certainly attempting a pincer movement to encircle the town.”

It said Russian forces are likely near the town's huge coke plant in a “key tactical position” close to the main road leading to Avdiivka.

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The MoD added: “The plant dominates the main road into Avdiivka and, if Russian forces were to secure it, resupplying the town would become increasingly difficult for Ukraine.

“However, the industrial facility provides Ukraine with a localized defensive advantage and Russian forces will probably suffer significant personnel losses if they attempt to assault the facility.”

The industrial town near the Russian-held regional stronghold of Donetsk has faced a fierce onslaught for more than a month.

Under fire since 2014, the town has been largely destroyed by shelling. There are 1,431 people left in the town out of a pre-war population of around 30,000, he said.

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General Oleksandr Tarnavskiy, who is leading the Ukrainian counteroffensive in the south, said: “Our soldiers are firmly holding the defense in the direction of Avdiivka.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky last week described Avdiivka as one of the "hottest" areas on the front line.

Russian soldiers have recently advanced on the village of Stepove, north of the plant.

Meanwhile, the death toll from a missile strike early Wednesday on a residential building in the town of Selydove – about 40 kilometers (24 miles) east of Avdiivka – has risen to three, the interior ministry said.

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