Russian forces have likely captured most of the city of Lyman in the Donetsk region, in what is likely a precursor for the next stage of Moscow’s Donbas offensive, the UK’s Ministry of Defence says in its daily intelligence update, BBC reported.
Lyman is strategically important because as it gives access to important rail and road bridges over the Siverskyy Donets River.
“In the coming days, Russian units in the area are likely to prioritise forcing a crossing of the river,” the ministry said.
But Moscow’s main focus remains on Severodonetsk in the Luhansk region, it says.
Russian forces are bombarding towns and cities in eastern Ukraine with the declared aim of “liberating” the old industrial heartland known as Donbas, which is made up of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions.
If the city falls into Russian hands, Moscow will then control the Luhansk region, BBC reported.
Many believe Vladimir Putin could hold up taking control of Donbas as victory in the war.
Russia’s defence ministry says the city in the Donetsk region has fallen under the full control of Russian and Russian-backed forces.
It comes a day after pro-Russian separatists from the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic said they had fully captured the town, a railway hub west of Severodonetsk.
“Following the joint actions of the units of the militia of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Russian armed forces, the town of Lyman has been entirely liberated from Ukrainian nationalists,” the defence ministry said in a statement.
On Friday, Ukraine said that Russia had captured most of Lyman but that its forces were blocking an advance to Sloviansk, a city a half-hour drive further southwest, BBC reported.