Russian forces have taken control of two more settlements near the strategic city of Lysychansk in their offensive to capture the remainder of Luhansk region, according to Ukrainian officials.
Shrinking territory: It appears the pocket of territory defended by Ukrainian forces where the regions of Luhansk and Donetsk meet has shrunk further as Russian attacks persist from three sides.
Since yesterday Loskutivka and Rai-Oleksandrivka were occupied by the enemy," Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk region military administration, said on Thursday.
Both villages lie to the southwest of Lysychansk and are within 8 kilometers (5 miles) of the main highway linking Lysychansk with the west.
Russian offensive: In its operational update for Thursday, the General Staff indicated that the Russian focus was now on seizing the highway.
The Russians were "trying to seize the dominant heights in the area of Berestove in order to establish control over the Bakhmut-Lysychansk highway" and had brought in an additional tactical battalion group," it said.
In neighboring Severodonetsk: Hayday said Ukraine continues to "deter the Russians" but "the occupiers are destroying industrial facilities."
"The Russian Army is 'liberating' Severodonetsk from life and jobs," he said.
Missiles and shelling: Lysychansk was shelled several times on Wednesday, with several settlements around the two cities suffering air and missile strikes, Hayday said. Despite the shelling, some civilians had been evacuated from Lysychansk and humanitarian supplies were being brought in to the city.
Aiming for full control: The Ukrainian military said on Thursday that "the enemy is concentrating its main efforts on establishing full control over the city of Severodonetsk, conducting offensive operations to surround our troops near the city of Lysychansk, and blocking the main logistics routes."
It said the Russians were also preparing to bridge the Siverskiy Donets river.