'Fierce Battles': Ukraine Disputes Claims Russian Forces Seized Lysychansk

The Ukrainian government on Saturday denied claims that Russian forces seized a new city, as the invading army continues its major assault on the Luhansk region.

Reports recently emerged that Russian forces had taken complete control of Lysychansk, the last city it would need to fully control the Luhansk region in Eastern Ukraine. Along with Donetsk, the region makes up the highly contested Donbas area, which has been at the heart of Russia's invasion from the beginning.

On Saturday, the National Guard of Ukraine spoke out against these claims during a telethon, explaining that the city remains under Ukrainian control despite Russian efforts, Interfax reported.

"Now there are fierce battles near Lysychansk," Ruslan Muzychuk, speaker of the Ukrainian National Guard, said. "However, fortunately, the city is not surrounded and is under the control of the Ukrainian army."

ukraine eastern city not taken
The National Guard of Ukraine on Saturday denied reports that Russia had seized a city it would need to take full control of the Luhansk region. Above, a shot of smoke above the embattle town of Lysychansk. Anatolii Stepanov/AFP via Getty Images

Ukrainian and Russian officials have released statements amid the ongoing conflict over Lysychansk and the broader Luhansk region. Recently, the Russian Ministry of Defense claimed that the country's forces had taken control of an oil refinery outside the city. In response, Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai refuted the claim on Friday, stating that the fight over the refinery was ongoing, according to the Associated Press.

In a message on the social media platform, Telegram, Haidai attempted to capture the scale of the conflict in his region, claiming Saturday that "over the last day, the occupiers opened fire from all available kinds of weapons." Fighting has become heavily focused on Lysychansk after the neighboring city of Severodonetsk fell under Russian control last week.

Russia has put significant focus on the Donbas region, which pro-Russian separatists have controlled various parts of since 2014. Russia officially recognized the independence of the Donetsk and Luhansk areas this past February, just days before the full-scale invasion. Russian President Vladimir Putin cited alleged abuses of citizens in the Donbas region by the Ukrainian government as justification for the attack.

In the spring, with Russia's attempts to take control of Northern Ukraine and the capital city of Kyiv floundering, the country redirected its forces to focus their attacks on the breakaway eastern regions, with the Battle of Donbas beginning in mid-April.

Newsweek reached out to the Ukraine Ministry of Defense for comment.

On Friday, Ukrainian officials reported that a residential area near the port city of Odessa had been struck by a Russian missile, killing 21 civilians. Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Iryna Venediktova said that investigators are recovering materials from the scene to help determine culpability for potential war crime charges.