Kreminna governor says Ukrainian troops are withdrawing from city after Russian attack ‘from all sides’.
Russian troops have taken the city of Kreminna in eastern Ukraine and Ukrainian troops have withdrawn from the city, the regional governor said.
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 another offensive in the Donbas region of 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 on Tuesday.
“Our defenders had to withdraw. They have entrenched themselves in new positions and continue to fight against the Russian army.”
He did not say when the Russian forces had established control of Kreminna, but said they had attacked “from all sides”.
“It is impossible to calculate the number of deaths among the civilian population. We have official statistics – about 200 deaths – but in reality there are many more,” he said, without clarifying the period over which the estimated death toll fell.
Russia, which launched a “special military operation” in Ukraine on February 24, denies targeting civilians. It stepped up its struggle for control of Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland on Tuesday, attacking towns and villages along a boomerang-shaped front hundreds of miles long in what both sides described as a new phase of the war.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said air-launched missiles destroyed 13 Ukrainian troop and weapons sites, while the Air Force hit 60 other Ukrainian military facilities, including warhead storage depots.
The attacks began Monday along a front stretching more than 480 km (300 miles) from northeastern Ukraine to the southeastern part of the country.
Russia said it hit several areas with missiles, including the northeastern city of Kharkiv and areas around Zaporizhzhya and Dnipro west of the Donbas.
After a Russian attempt to capture the capital failed, the Kremlin declared last month that its main goal was the capture of the largely Russian-speaking eastern Donbas region.
If successful, that offensive would provide Russian President Vladimir Putin with a vital piece of Ukraine and a much-needed victory in the now seven-week-old war he could offer the Russian people amid mounting casualties and economic hardship caused by Western sanctions.
It would also effectively cut Ukraine in half and rob Ukraine of key industrial assets concentrated in the east, including coal mines, metal works and machine-building plants.
The seizure of Kreminna brings Russian troops one step closer to the much larger city of Kramatorsk.
Coal and steel-producing Donbas has been the focal point of Russia’s campaign to destabilize Ukraine since 2014, when the Kremlin used proxies to establish separatist “people’s republics” in Luhansk and Donetsk.
Conquering Donbas and the southern port city of Mariupol would help Russia establish a land link between the territory it controls in eastern Ukraine and the Crimean region that Moscow seized and annexed in 2014.
Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said earlier on Tuesday that the aim of Russia’s new military offensive in the east is to capture land, establish an overhead connection between areas in the east and Crimea, and crush Ukrainian forces. .
Ministry spokesman Oleksandr Motuznyak said Russian troops attacked along the entire frontline in eastern Ukraine, penetrated their siege of Mariupol in the south and tried to surround towns in Donetsk and Luhansk provinces.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said huge numbers of Russian troops are committed to the campaign.