KYIV: Russia said its forces were in full control of the Ukrainian town of Lyman, a railway hub in the Donetsk region, on Saturday in a gain that would help set the stage for the next phase of the Kremlin’s offensive in the eastern Donbas.
Ukrainian and Russian forces had been fighting for Lyman for several days. The town lies 40 km (30 miles) west of Sievierodonetsk, the largest Donbas city still held by Ukraine but now under heavy assault from Russian forces.
The governor of Luhansk region, which along with Donetsk makes up the Donbas, said on Friday Russian troops had entered Sievierodonetsk, focus of the main Russian offensive.
The Russian gains indicate a shift in momentum in the war.
Although the forces that invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 failed to capture the capital Kyiv in the conflict’s early stage, they are making slow but steady advances in the Donbas, large parts of which were already controlled by Moscow-backed separatists before the war.
The tactics involve mass artillery bombardments and air strikes that have laid waste to towns and cities.
Russia also said on Saturday it had used missile strikes to destroy Ukrainian command posts in Bakhmut and Soledar. Both towns lie on an important road running southwest from Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk.
Lyman is a railway junction and also the gateway to rail and road bridges over the Siverskyy Donets River.
The British briefing said a bridgehead near Lyman would give Russia an advantage in the potential next phase of the Donbas offensive. Russian forces were likely to attempt to cross the river in the coming days, it said.
The General Staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said on Saturday Ukrainian forces had repelled eight assaults in Donetsk and Luhansk in the previous 24 hours. Russia’s attacks included artillery assaults in the Sievierodonetsk area “with no success”, it said.