Heavy fighting raged around the eastern Ukrainian town of Pisky on Thursday as Russia pressed its campaign to seize all of the industrialised Donbas region, while to the west Kyiv accused Moscow of using a nuclear plant to shield its artillery.
An official with the Russia-backed Donetsk People’s Republic said Pisky, on the frontlines just 10 km (6 miles) northwest of provincial capital Donetsk, was under control of Russian and separatist forces.
“It’s hot in Pisky. The town is ours but there remain scattered pockets of resistance in its north and west,” the official, Danil Bezsonov, said on Telegram.
Ukrainian officials denied that the heavily fortified town, a key to the defence of Donetsk, had fallen. Reuters was unable to verify the battlefield accounts.
The Donbas region comprised of Luhansk and Donetsk provinces became Moscow’s main objective after it failed to seize the capital Kyiv at the start of the war in February. Luhansk is now almost completely under Russian control but Donetsk is still holding out.
Oleksiy Arestovych, a Ukrainian presidential adviser, said in an interview posted on YouTube that Russian “movement into Pisky” had been “without success”.
Luhansk regional Governor Serhiy Gaidai, interviewed on Ukrainian TV, said Russia had sent increasing numbers of mercenaries into the region, including from the Wagner private security firm.
“We once had peaceful Ukrainian towns. Now we have been thrust into the Middle Ages … People are now leaving because they are afraid of freezing in the coming winter,” he said.
Ukraine accused Russia on Wednesday of killing at least 13 people and wounding 10 with rockets fired from around a captured nuclear power plant in the centre of the country, in the knowledge it would be risky for Ukraine to return fire.