Russia says the strategic northeastern town of Lyman in eastern Ukraine has fallen under its full control, as Moscow’s offensive against its neighbor continues unabated.
Russia’s Defense Ministry made the announcement on Saturday, a day after regional pro-Russian separatists said they controlled Lyman, a railway hub west of Sievierodonetsk.
“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 ministry said in a statement.
On Friday, Ukraine said Russia had captured most of Lyman but that its forces were blocking an advance to Sloviansk, to the southwest.
Ukrainian and Russian forces have been fighting for Lyman for several days.
In a daily update, the ministry said it had used missile strikes to destroy Ukrainian command posts in the cities of Bakhmut and Soledar, in the eastern region of Donbas.
Both towns lie on a strategically important road running southwest from Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk, where the main Russian offensive is now concentrated.
The ministry further noted that it had destroyed five command and observation posts, hit areas where Ukrainian soldiers and equipment were located and destroyed four ammunition depots near the towns of Nyrkove, Bakhmut and Myronivka.
This comes as Ukrainian officials said earlier in the day that they will do “everything” to defend Donbas to prevent the eastern area from being surrounded by Russian forces.
Russia launched the military operation in Ukraine on February 24, following Kiev’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements and Moscow’s recognition of the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, collectively known as Donbas.
At the time, Russian President Vladimir Putin said one of the goals of what he called a “special military operation” was to “de-Nazify” Ukraine.
Western countries have responded to the Russian offensive by backing Ukraine with cash and heavy weaponry while imposing unprecedented sanctions on Russian officials and entities.
The conflict in Ukraine has killed thousands of people and displaced more than 13 million, creating the worst refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.
Russia carries out hypersonic missile test
Meanwhile, the Russian military said it has successfully test-fired a hypersonic cruise missile, the latest in a series of missile tests by Moscow.
The Defense Ministry said on Saturday the military fired the Zircon missile from the Admiral Gorshkov warship stationed in the Barents Sea and the missile "successfully hit" a test target stationed 1,000 kilometers (625 miles) away in Russia's Arctic waters of the White Sea.
The test was undertaken as part of ongoing "testing of new weapons," the ministry added.
The Zircon has undergone several tests in recent years, including several tests from the same frigate and from a submerged submarine. The first official Zircon test came in October 2020.
The hypersonic cruise missile, one of the latest additions to Russia's arsenal of weapons called "invincible" by Putin, can travel more than five times the speed of sound and is much harder to track and intercept than traditional projectiles.
Putin used his state of the nation address in 2018 to reveal new hypersonic weapons, including the Zircon, saying it could hit targets at sea and on land with a range of 1,000 kilometers.