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Ukrainian forces are edging closer to Kreminna, a fiercely defended city in the east of the country that could help Ukraine recapture a key area.

The region is currently almost entirely occupied by Russia.

Ukraine’s campaign to recapture Kreminna, in the Luhansk region, began in the fall, around the time that its forces reclaimed the city of Lyman, in the neighboring Donetsk region, and drove Russian forces back eastward toward their country’s border. The two regions, which make up the area called Donbas, are home to self-proclaimed Russian-backed separatist republics and were among four regions illegally annexed by Russia in September.

In the past few months, there have been a series of battles and artillery duels over highways and small settlements around Kreminna and farther northwest, in the city of Svatove. Russian forces took over both early in their 10-month invasion of Ukraine.

Recapturing the two cities, and a third one, Starobilsk, could enable Ukrainian forces to continue their advance toward the Russian border and take back more territory seized by Moscow. It would also give Ukraine control of a triangle of roads that provide access to two larger cities farther south, Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk, that fell to Russia during the summer.

On Tuesday, Serhiy Haidai, the Ukrainian regional governor of Luhansk, said in a post on the Telegram messaging app: “The Russians understand that if they lose Kreminna, their entire line of defense will ‘fall.’”

A day earlier, Mr. Haidai said that, in response to military pressure, part of the Russian command in the city had withdrawn to the town of Rubizhne, a few miles to the southeast, although it was not possible to verify the claim.

In his nightly address on Monday, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said of the battle zones: “The occupiers are using all the resources available to them — and these are significant resources — to squeeze out at least some advance.”

There was no independent confirmation of the battlefield developments, but Vitaly Kiselyov, a senior official in the Luhansk’s Russian-backed separatist republic, said on Russian state television on Monday that the situation around Kreminna and Svatove remained “very tense.”

Fighting continued in parts of those regions on Tuesday. In the southern region of Kherson, a Russian artillery strike damaged a critical infrastructure facility, a kindergarten and an emergency medical aid station, although no casualties were reported, the regional governor, Yaroslav Yanushevych, wrote on Telegram.

In recent weeks, Russian forces have built a series of defensive barriers near Kreminna and other parts of Ukraine’s jagged front line. They have also severed the pontoon bridges over the Siversky Donets River, which runs through northern Luhansk, the province’s military administration said on Telegram on Monday.

The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, said that after losing the city of Kherson and suffering other territorial setbacks, Russia was rallying its forces in northern Luhansk for an offensive that would aim to extend its control in the region and then potentially push into Kharkiv Province.

To that end, the institute said, Russia is prioritizing mobilizing troops to defend Kreminna and Svatove over operations in other parts of the Donbas. The institute cited Ukrainian military reports of increased Russian movements of troops, military equipment and ammunition in the area.

It said, however, that Russian success in the short term appeared unlikely given the difficult terrain and the “very limited” offensive capabilities of Moscow’s forces.



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