The Ukrainian military said Thursday that fighting continues in multiple parts of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, with Russian forces trying to advance from several directions as they seek to take more of the area.
Much of the fighting has been on the approaches to the city of Sloviansk. The nearby town of Sviatohirsk — which is home to a historic monastery on the banks of the Siverskiy Donets river — was shelled, and the Orthodox Church of Ukraine said three monks were killed.
The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said that three other settlements in the area were under fire, and there was fighting underway in several more places. The locations named by the Ukrainians — Studenok, Sosnove and Yarova — suggest that Russian forces have made modest progress toward reaching the river. Observers said, however, that Ukrainian forces have prepared defenses around Sloviansk.
The military said that "in the Severodonetsk direction, the occupiers continue to fire on the Armed Forces positions in the districts of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk."
There has also been Russian airstrikes in adjacent communities. Ukrainian troops continue to hold the western edges of Severodonetsk, but the rest of the city is now in Russian hands.
The military said Russians were also continuing efforts to close in on the town of Bakhmut, a supply hub for Ukrainian forces, and fighting continued around settlements to the east and south of the town.
Oleksandr Zaika, head of Lysychansk City Military-Civil Administration, said that Thursday was "very difficult" in the city, which is across the Siverskiy Donets river from Severodonetsk.
"The shelling has become more powerful. They are firing all over the city. They are firing continuously. Almost every minute, something arrives, so the situation is very difficult," Zaika told Ukrainian television.
He said that the highway linking Lysychansk with Bakhmut is under Ukrainian control, but said "they fire there all time, so it is very difficult to drive there, but it is possible. There is an alternative road on which you can move, but it is also dangerous."
He said 80,000 people — out of a population of about 100,000 — had left Lysychansk, and that 60% of the infrastructure and housing had been destroyed.