Russian forces have seized the city of Kreminna in eastern Ukraine and Ukrainian troops have withdrawn from the city, the regional governor said.
Kreminna, which had a population of more than 18,000 before Russia's invasion of Ukraine, 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.
The governor of the Luhansk region, Serhiy Gaidai, said at a briefing that the Kreminna is under the control of the 'Orcs' Russians.
Our defenders had to withdraw. They have consolidated themselves in new positions and continue to fight the Russian army. He did not say when Russian forces had 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 there are many more, he said, without making any clear what period is the estimated death toll covered.
Russia, which launched what it calls a special military operation in Ukraine on February 24, denies targeting civilians.
Moscow poured troops into the east for a ground offensive after being driven back by Ukrainian forces from an attack on the capital Kyiv in the north.
Attacks have been reported along the eastern frontline.
The seizure of Kreminna takes Russian forces closer to the larger city of Kramatorsk, one of Russia's potential targets in its offensive in Donbas.
Capturing Donbas and the southern port city of Mariupol would help Russia establish a land link between the territory it controls in eastern Ukraine and the Crimea region that Moscow seized and annexed in 2014.
Ukrainian fighters are believed to have held out in underground shelters beneath the vast Azovstal steel plant, along with about 1,000 civilians, according to a report from Mariupol.
Russian forces are methodically carrying out plans to liberate two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine, Russia's defence minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday.
Since 2014 when the Kremlin has used proxies to set up separatist people's republics in Luhansk and Donetsk, Russia's campaign to destabilise Ukraine has been centred on the coal- and steel-producing Donbas.
The plan to liberate the Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics is being carried out methodically, according to the RIA news agency.
The Russian military plan is to take over all of the Luhansk and Donetsk territories, establish a land link between those territories and Crimea, and destroy Ukraine's armed forces, Ukraine's defence ministry said.