MOSCOW, Russia - Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said Tuesday that Moscow's forces were "progressing with success" near the eastern Ukrainian towns of Bakhmut and Vugledar, warning the West against ramping up arms supplies to Kyiv.
The two towns in the eastern region of Donetsk are the epicentre of hostilities and the scene of some of the heaviest fighting since Russia sent troops to Ukraine on February 24 last year.
"Military operations are at the moment progressing with success in the areas around Vugledar and Artemovsk," Shoigu told a defence meeting using the previous name for Bakhmut.
He listed seven settlements that Russia has recently "liberated", including the salt-mining town of Soledar that came under Russian control in January.
Shoigu also warned that Western military aid could lead to the conflict escalating "unpredictably".
Western countries have recently agreed to supply Kyiv with heavy tanks.
Ukraine has also urged its allies to send fighter jets and long-range missiles to be able to strike targets deeper inside Russian-controlled territory.
"The US and its allies are trying to drag out the conflict as long as possible. To do this, they have begun supplying heavy offensive weapons and are openly calling on Ukraine to seize our territory," Shoigu was quoted as saying in a statement.
"Such steps are drawing NATO countries into the conflict and could see it escalate unpredictably," he added.