Russia seizes Ukrainian village to claim first ‘victory’ in battle for the Donbas

The General Staff of the Ukrainian armed forces said in an evening statement that the Russian attacks near Izyum were unsuccessful and that a counter-attack had recaptured Maryinka, forcing the Russians to retreat.

A major Russian assault was also reported at Hulyaipole, in the Zaporizhzhya region, where the front line has been static for more than a month. It was not immediately clear if that attack had made progress.

Pro-Russian figures said that they had launched a final infantry assault on the Azovstal steel factory in Mariupol, where an unknown number of Ukrainian soldiers are making their last stand. A large number of civilians are also believed to be sheltering there.

Denis Pushilin, the head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, said that the goal was to capture the factory as soon as possible. Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin-appointed head of Chechnya, said that he expected the last defenders to be rooted out “in hours”.

Ukrainian forces were also preparing to resist a Russian attempt to go as far as the Dnieper River.

Russia’s initial, largely unsuccessful attacks in February appeared to envisage a major encirclement converging on Dnipro, the industrial city that controls access to the east and is Ukraine’s most important logistical hub in the area.

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