Moscow claimed on Sunday to have captured the city of Lysychansk, the last remaining holdout in Ukraine’s Luhansk province, giving its forces control of the eastern Donbas region.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu informed President Vladimir Putin that Russian troops assisted by members of a separatist militia “have established full control over the city of Lysychansk,” the ministry said in a statement.
The fall of Lysychansk completes “the liberation of the Luhansk People’s Republic,” the statement said.
A spokesman for Ukraine’s defense ministry said the battle for Luhansk will continue, pointing out that “other large cities in the Donbas area, in particular in the Donetsk region” are still under control of Ukrainian forces.
“These are cities that for the last couple of days [have been] targets of severe missile attacks, artillery shelling, but the battle for the Donbas is not over yet,” Yuriy Sak told the BBC on Sunday.
He said military support provided by its Western allies will help turn the tide and “allow us to liberate our lands.”
Luhansk along with Donetsk make up the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, an area that has seen continuous conflict since Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014 and backed separatist militia groups fighting the government.
Russia turned its attention to the area after its troops failed to take over the capital Kyiv in the early days of the invasion that Putin launched on Feb. 24.
Intense fighting was reported around Lysychansk in the past weeks as Ukrainian forces defended the city to prevent it from being overtaken by Russian troops as nearby Severodonetsk did a week ago.
Luhansk’s governor wrote on social media earlier Sunday that the Russian military was advancing on the city.
“The Russians are strengthening their positions in the Lysychansk area, the city is on fire,” Serhiy Haidai said.
“The occupiers threw all their forces on Lysychansk. They attacked the city with incomprehensibly cruel tactics,” Haidai said. “They suffer significant losses, but stubbornly advance. They are gaining a foothold in the city.”
Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky, said late Saturday that Russian forces had crossed a river separating Lysychansk from Severodonetsk, creating a “threatening” situation.
With Post wires