(File photo) Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu Photograph:( Reuters )
"Sergei Shoigu has informed the commander in chief of the Russian armed forces, Vladimir Putin, of the liberation of the People's Republic of Lugansk," the defence ministry said in a statement quoted by Russian news agencies
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu on Sunday said that Russia has taken strategic Ukrainian city of Lysychansk and now has control over the entire Luhansk region. Fierce fighting was ongoing between Russia and Ukraine over the region in east Ukraine.
"Sergei Shoigu has informed the commander in chief of the Russian armed forces, Vladimir Putin, of the liberation of the People's Republic of Lugansk," the defence ministry said in a statement quoted by Russian news agencies.
Russian forces and their separatist allies have taken "full control of Lysychansk and other nearby towns, notably Belogorovka, Novodruzhesk, Maloryazantseve and Bila Hora," the statement said.
News agency AFP said that it was unable to independently verify the claims which were made through Russian news outlets.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President volodymyr Zelensky has denied Moscow's claim that Lysychansk had fallen.
"We cannot say today that Lysychansk is under (Russian) control. There is fighting on the outskirts," Zelensky told a press conference with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
Zelensky warned, however, of "risks" that the Luhansk region, where Lysychansk was the last major city in Ukrainian hands, "will be completely occupied" by Moscow.
A few minutes prior to the announcement, a spokesman for the Russian defence ministry had said that fighting was ongoing in Lysychansk and that Ukrainian forces were "completely" surrounded.
An adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky had earlier admitted that the city could fall. Russia already controls Lysychank's sister city Severodonetsk.
Control of Lysychansk can be a shot in the arm for Russia as it attempts to solidify its hold on east Ukraine.
After the Russian invasion of Ukraine started on February 24, Russian forces tried to capture Ukrainian capital Kyiv but were repelled by Ukrainian forces. Russia has since then concentrated its firepower towards gaining control of Donbas region in east Ukraine.
Pro-Russian separatists in the Donbas region have long enjoyed support from Russia. With Lysychansk, list of Russia-controlled cities in Ukrain is steadily growing. Russia already has control on Mariupol and Severodonetsk.
(With inputs from agencies)
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