Russian shelling destroyed homes and killed one person in the north Ukraine’s Kharkiv province, the region’s governor said on Sunday, as fighting raged in the hotly contested eastern city of Bakhmut.

The town of Kupiansk is about 30 kilometers (18 miles) from the Russian border; the region has come under frequent attacks even though Russian ground forces withdrew from the area almost six months ago. Governor Oleh Syniehubov said at least five homes were destroyed in the latest attack that left a 65-year-old man dead.

Two civilians were killed in the past 24 hours Bakhmut, Donetsk province governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said. Russian forces have spent months trying to capture the city as part of their offensive in eastern Ukraine, and the area has seen some of the bloodiest ground fighting of the war.

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Battle of Bakhmut: Pressure mounts on Ukrainian troops as Russia approaches

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In recent days, Ukrainian units have destroyed two key bridges just outside Bakhmut, including one linking it to the nearby town of Chasiv Yar along the last remaining Ukrainian resupply route, according to British military intelligence officials and other Western analysts.

Associated Press journalists near Bakhmut on Saturday saw a pontoon bridge set up by Ukrainian soldiers to help the few remaining residents reach the nearby village of Khromove. Later, the AP team saw at least five houses burning as a result of attacks in Khromove, a nearby settlement.

The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, assessed last week that Kiev’s actions may point to an imminent withdrawal from parts of the city. It said Ukrainian troops could “make a limited and controlled withdrawal from particularly difficult parts of eastern Bakhmut”, while trying to hamper Russian movement there and limit exit routes to the west.

Click to play video: 'Ukrainian towns of Chasiv Yar and Bakhmut filled with flames and smoke as Russian attack intensifies'

The Ukrainian cities of Chasiv Yar and Bakhmut are filled with flames and smoke as the Russian attack intensifies

Capturing Bakhmut would not only give Russian fighters a rare victory on the battlefield after months of setbacks, but could blow up Ukraine’s supply lines and allow Kremlin forces to push on to other Ukrainian strongholds in Donetsk province.

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In southern Ukraine, a woman and two children were killed in a residential building in the village of Poniativka in the Kherson region, the Ukrainian president’s office reported. A Russian artillery shell hit a car in Burdarky, another village in Kharkiv province, killing a man and his wife, the regional prosecutor’s office said.

The number of victims rose after an attack earlier this week. Ukraine’s emergency services reported Sunday that the death toll from a Russian missile strike that hit a five-story building in southern Ukraine on Thursday rose to 13.

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One of the few areas where Russia and Ukraine have cooperated during the war is grain transport. On that front, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Sunday that his country is engaged in “intensive efforts” to extend an agreement that allowed Ukraine to export grain from its Black Sea ports.

The deal, brokered by the UN and Turkey in July 2022 and extended by four months in November, expires on March 18.

Speaking at the opening of the UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries in Doha, Qatar, Cavusoglu said he had discussed another extension with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

The deal, which also allows Russia to export food and fertilizer, has helped curb rising global food prices. However, Russian officials have complained that shipments of the country’s fertilizer were not facilitated under the agreement, making the agreement’s renewal questionable.

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