Russian forces have seized the city of Kreminna in eastern Ukraine and Ukrainian troops have withdrawn from the city, the regional governor has said.
Kreminna, which had a population of more than 18,000 before the war with Russia, appears to be the first city confirmed to have been taken by Russian forces since they launched a new offensive in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.
“Kreminna is under the control of the ‘Orcs’ [Russians]. They have entered the city,” Serhiy Gaidai, the governor of the Luhansk region, told a briefing on Tuesday.
“Our defenders had to withdraw. They have entrenched themselves in new positions and continue to fight the Russian army.”
He did not say when the Russian forces established control over Kreminna but said they had attacked “from all sides”.
“It is impossible to calculate the number of dead among the civilian population. We have official statistics – about 200 dead – but in reality there are many more, ” he said, without making clear what period the estimated death toll covered.
Russia, which launched what it calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine on February 24, denies targeting civilians. It ratcheted up its battle for control of Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland on Tuesday, assaulting cities and towns along a boomerang-shaped front hundreds of miles long in what both sides described as a new phase of the war.
Russian Defence Ministry Spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said that air-launched missiles destroyed 13 Ukrainian troop and weapons locations, while the air force struck 60 other Ukrainian military facilities, including missile warhead storage depots.
The assaults began Monday along a front that stretches more than 480km (300 miles) from northeastern Ukraine to the country’s southeast.
Russia said it struck several areas with missiles, including the northeastern city of Kharkiv as well as areas around Zaporizhzhia and Dnipro west of the Donbas.