The Ukrainian Defense Ministry has said that Russian forces are "conducting an intense offensive" in order to seize the key town of Lyman in the Donetsk region.
Ministry spokesperson Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said Russian efforts to "completely take control" of Lyman "did not succeed." However, images posted on social media Wednesday showed Russian soldiers at identifiable locations in northern neighborhoods of the town, which Ukrainian forces have defended in the face of an intense assault since late April.
Lyman is an important rail hub, and if the Russians are able to consolidate control over the town, the nearby city of Sloviansk becomes more vulnerable to attack by artillery — and Ukrainian troops to the south-east of Lyman become more at risk of encirclement.
Motuzyanyk added, "The enemy is conducting offensive operations, trying to surround our units near Lysychansk and Severodonetsk and reach the administrative border of Luhansk region."
On Tuesday, the head of the regional administration in Donetsk, Pavlo Kyrylenko, described the situation in Lyman as "very difficult."
"It's now under constant fire," he said. "The enemy entered the territory of the Lyman community a long time ago. Their main goal is to take the centre of the community of Lyman. The estuary is now partially under control, they enter, then they are kicked out, heavy artillery drives in, and tanks enter the outskirts of the city to conduct shelling and occupy the entire center and the entire Lyman community."
The Institute for the Study of War reported in its latest assessment Tuesday that Russian forces continued to "prioritize attacks against Lyman rather than Slovyansk on May 24, likely to support a shallow encirclement of Ukrainian troops northwest of Severodonetsk."