Pro-Moscow separatists say they have taken control of Lysychansk, Ukraine’s last bastion in eastern Luhansk province.
Rodion Miroshnik, ambassador to Russia of the pro-Moscow Luhansk People’s Republic, told Russian television: “Lysychansk has been brought under control. Unfortunately, it has not yet been liberated.”
Russian media showed footage of Luhansk militia fighters marching through the streets, waving flags and cheering.
But the spokesman for the Ukrainian National Guard, Ruslan Muzychuk, told Ukrainian television that the city is still under Ukrainian control.
“Now there is heavy fighting near Lysychansk, but fortunately the city is not surrounded and is under the control of the Ukrainian army,” he said.
It comes just days after Russian forces captured Lysychansk’s sister city of Severodonetsk, across the Siverskiy Donets River.
Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, said Russian soldiers had crossed the river and came to Lysychansk from the north.
He said: “This is indeed a threat. We will see.
“I don’t rule out any outcome here.
“In a day or two everything will become much clearer.”
But Mr Arestovych also said that if Russia takes Lysychansk, its forces will be spread very thinly as it tries to maintain control of the six major cities it has taken in the Donbas, a region made up of Luhansk and neighboring Donetsk. .
He added: “The more Western weapons come forward, the more the picture changes in favor of Ukraine.”
• In his late night speech, Mr. Zelenskyy praised those who defended Ukraine and called for spreading the truth about the war
• Eight Ukrainian city and village leaders are held captive in Russia, according to the Association of Cities of Ukraine
• Ukrainian troops repel Russian advances in Novomykhailivka, Bohorodychne and Ivanivka
• A Russian mine explodes, killing one civilian and injuring another in the Odessa region
• Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko claimed that Ukraine attempted to attack military facilities on Belarusian territory three days ago, although he provided no evidence
Meanwhile, Russia said it had hit army command posts in Mykolaiv, near Odessa’s Black Sea port, where powerful explosions were also reported.
At least three people were killed in the early hours of Sunday in Belgorod, a Russian city near the Ukrainian border.
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Vyacheslav Gladkov, the governor of the Belgorod region, said at least 11 apartment buildings and 39 houses were damaged.
Ukraine has not responded to the messages.
It comes after a Russian attack on an apartment building near Odessa on Friday that killed at least 21 people and on a shopping center in the central city of Kremenchuk on Monday that left at least 19 dead.