(Reuters) – Russian shelling in northern Ukraine killed four people in two villages in Sumy region near the Russian border, while a woman died in a fresh assault on the devastated eastern Ukrainian town of Avdiivka, local officials said.

The local administration in Sumy region said three people died in mortar fire in the village of Znov-Novohorodske. A fourth was killed in another village to the southeast.

Reuters could not verify the reports, but officials in Sumy region report daily attacks from Russian forces.

In Avdiivka, a Ukrainian-held town near the front line, public broadcaster Suspilne said a woman died after suffering serious injuries in mid-afternoon shelling.

Avdiivka was seized briefly in 2014 by pro-Russian forces who captured large swathes of territory in eastern Ukraine, but was recaptured by Ukrainian troops who built fortifications.

It has remained in Ukrainian hands in Russia’s slow drive through eastern Ukraine despite fierce onslaughts since mid-October. Virtually none of the town’s buildings remains intact.

The General Staff of Ukraine’s armed forces, in its evening report said Ukrainian forces had repelled 13 Russian attacks in and around Avdiivka in the past 24 hours.

Military officials have spoken in recent days of increased Russian military activity on long stretches of the 1,000-km-long (600-mile) front line through eastern and southern Ukraine.

On the southern front, military spokesperson Natalia Humeniuk told a briefing that Ukrainian forces were extending the foothold they secured late October on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River despite intensified Russian attacks.

Russia forces advanced through Kherson region in the days after the February 2022 invasion, but by the end of the year had abandoned the region’s main town and the Dnipro’s west bank.

(Reporting by Ron Popeski and Nick Starkov; Editing by Michael Perry)

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