Russian forces are concentrating their efforts on encircling the city of Lysychansk, the general staff of the Ukrainian army said early Thursday.
Russian forces already control the southern and eastern approaches to Lysychansk, and fighting continues close to the main road southwest of the city, where a large oil refinery is located.
The Russians are also trying to enclose the town of Bakhmut, some 50 kilometers west of Lysychansk, and have made some gains south of the city, the general staff said Thursday.
If successful, they could potentially trap Ukrainian forces still defending lines in an area in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions.
“The enemy is partially successful, entrenching in the northern part of Klynove and near the E-40 highway,” the General Staff said. “To maintain the pace of the offensive in this direction, the occupiers reinforced the group with one tactical battalion group.”
Some Ukrainian officials have called the E-40 “the highway of life” because of its importance in supplying troops and evacuating civilians, which would be hugely complicated if the Russians banned the highway.
Elsewhere in Donetsk — near Sloviansk — the General Staff said the Russians were still targeting strike operations north of the city and had moved more weapons and military equipment into the area.
Local Ukrainian officials have previously said that the Russians are strengthening northern Sloviansk, one of several major cities in Donetsk that remain in Ukrainian hands.
The General Staff said the Russians continued to shell Ukraine’s northeastern Sumy region from across the border and also launched a multiple-missile missile system.
Dmytro Zhyvytskyy, head of the military administration of the Sumy region, said three people had been killed.
The Russians had also launched airstrikes, he said, with helicopters firing missiles from across the border. The town of Krasnopillya was “covered” with fire, he said.
In southern Ukraine, the Ukrainian army says the Russians have added a tactical battalion group to troops south of Kryvyi Rih.
Yevhen Sytnychenko, chief of the military administration of the Kryvyi Rih district, said the city’s thermal power plant had been shelled but was still in operation.
“The aim of the Russians is to intimidate the civilian population,” he said, adding that a man was injured in the shelling of a village south of the city.
In the city of Dnipro, the bodies of two people were recovered on Tuesday under the rubble of a transport depot, according to local authorities.