Russian forces have seized the city of Kreminna in eastern Ukraine and Ukrainian troops have withdrawn from the city, the regional governor said on Tuesday.
Kreminna, which had a population of more than 18,000 before the war with Russia, appears to be the first city confirmed to have been taken by Russian forces since they launched a new offensive in eastern Ukraine.
“Kreminna is under the control of the ‘Orcs’ (Russians). They have entered the city,” Serhiy Gaidai, the governor of the Luhansk region, told a briefing.
“Our defenders had to withdraw. They have entrenched themselves in new positions and continue to fight the Russian army.”
He did not say when the Russian forces established 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 in reality there are many more, ” he said, without making clear what period the estimated death toll covered.
Russia, which launched what it calls a “special military operation” on Feb. 24, denies targeting civilians. Ukraine said on Monday the Russian forces, after regrouping, had launched a new offensive focused on eastern Ukraine.
The seizure of Kreminna takes Russian forces a step closer to the much larger city of Kramatorsk, one of Russia’s potential targets in its offensive on the Donbas region of east Ukraine.
Capturing Donbas and the southern port city of Mariupol would help Russia establish a land link between territory it controls in eastern Ukraine and the Crimea region that Moscow seized and annexed in 2014.