Russian forces have advanced further into Ukraine’s eastern region of the Donbass by capturing the frontline village of Toshkivka, near the flashpoint city of Severodonetsk, after fierce weeks-long clashes, a Ukrainian official says.
"As of today, according to our information, Toshkivka is controlled entirely by the Russians," Roman Vlasenko, the head of the Severodonetsk district, told Ukrainian television on Tuesday, adding that the battle for the Donbass was "now in full swing."
With a pre-war population of around 5,000 people, Toshkivka is approximately 25 kilometers south of Severodonetsk, where heavy fighting has been going between Russian troops and Ukrainian forces for weeks.
"The entirety of the Lugansk region is now the epicenter of fighting between Ukraine and the Russian army," Vlasenko added.
A day earlier, Ukrainian authorities admitted to losing control of Metyolkine Village, which is adjacent to the key industrial city of Severodonetsk, also confirming on state television that Russian troops had taken control of most of the city's residential areas.
Russian forces have gradually advanced in the eastern Donbass region, where they focused their military operation after deciding to withdraw their troops from areas around the capital, Kiev, at the beginning of their military offensive in Ukraine.
In February, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a military offensive against Ukraine.
Russia urged to avoid 'escalatory steps' over Kaliningrad
Separately on Tuesday, a European Union spokesperson said the bloc's envoy to Moscow, Markus Ederer, had called on Russia to refrain from "escalatory steps and rhetoric" over what Moscow calls "anti-Russian restrictions" on goods transiting between Kaliningrad and the rest of Russia.
The call was made after EU member Lithuania shut a rail corridor from Russia to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad to certain basic goods, including construction materials, metals, and coal in accordance with the bloc's new anti-Moscow sanctions that came into force on Saturday.
"He (Ederer) conveyed our position on Russia's aggression against Ukraine and explained that Lithuania is implementing EU sanctions and there is no blockade, and asked them to refrain from escalatory steps and rhetoric," EU spokesperson Peter Stano said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry summoned Ederer earlier on Tuesday, calling for transit via the region to be restored "immediately" and vowed to retaliate if the situation did not improve. "We demanded the immediate restoration of normal Kaliningrad transit. Otherwise, retaliatory measures will follow," the ministry said.
Kaliningrad, formerly the port of Koenigsberg, the capital of East Prussia, was captured from Nazi Germany by the Red Army in April 1945 and was ceded to the Soviet Union after World War Two. The Russian exclave is sandwiched between NATO members Poland and Lithuania.