Russia’s defence ministry said on Friday that its forces had taken control of the salt-mining town of Soledar in eastern Ukraine, state media reported.
Russian forces captured the town, long the focus of heavy fighting and bombardment, on Thursday evening, the ministry said. This would now allow its troops to cut off Ukrainian forces from the nearby, much larger town of Bakhmut, it added.
Reuters was not able to immediately verify the defence ministry’s claim.
Ukraine said earlier on Friday that its forces were still holding out in Soledar after a “hot” night of fighting, in what has become one of the bloodiest battlefields of the entire war.
Both sides have endured heavy losses in the battle for the small town.
Moscow is seeking what would be its first big battlefield gain after half a year of humiliating retreats. Kyiv says Russia is throwing wave upon wave of soldiers into a pointless fight for a bombed-out wasteland.