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Pro-Russian Forces Close to Encircling Key Ukrainian City: Separatists

Pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine claimed Wednesday they were close to surrounding Ukrainian forces defending the twin cities of Lysychansk and Severodonetsk, the site of fierce weeks-long fighting.

An officer in the separatist army of Lugansk — a pro-Russian breakaway region in eastern Ukraine — said their forces surrounded Ukrainian troops in the villages of Hirsk and Zolote, a day after capturing the neighboring village of Toshkivka.

The three settlements are located a few kilometers outside Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, which Moscow’s forces have been trying to seize for weeks.

“Very soon (Ukrainian) groups in Lysychansk and Severodonetsk will also be surrounded,” Andrei Marochko told Russian state TV.

In Zolote and Hirsk “there is a full encirclement of Ukrainian troops,” he added, also claiming that “a group of foreign mercenaries had been eliminated.”

“Victories and successes are colossal. Over the past several days, enormous work has been accomplished,” Marochko said.

AFP could not independently verify these claims.

Intense fighting for the strategic city of Severodonetsk has raged as Russia advances in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.

Capturing Severodonetsk — the largest city in Lugansk still under Ukrainian control — would allow Moscow’s forces to advance on Sloviansk and Kramatorsk further west.

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