MOSCOW (Dispatches) -- Russian-backed separatist forces in the eastern Donetsk region of Ukraine said Monday they had seized a village near the key city of Bakhmut that Moscow has been trying to capture for months.
The village of Bakhmutske in “the territory of the Donetsk People’s Republic was liberated by the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation,” on Monday, read a statement from separatist authorities on Telegram.
The village lies northeast of Bakhmut, a salt-mining city that used to have a population of 70,000 people and is now an epicenter of fighting.
The village is just outside the city of Soledar, also the scene of heavy fighting.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his evening address Sunday that the area between these two cities is “one of the bloodiest places on the front”.
In September, Moscow claimed to have annexed Donetsk and three other Ukrainian regions following referendums not recognized by Kyiv and the West.
Ukrainian authorities said their forces were repelling constant Russian attacks on Bakhmut and other towns in the eastern region of Donbas after denying Kremlin claims of 600 soldiers killed in a missile strike.
“Bakhmut is holding on despite everything,” Zelensky said. “And even though most of the town has been destroyed by Russian strikes, our soldiers are repelling constant Russian attempts to advance.”
The nearby town of Soledar was holding on, “even though there is even greater destruction and things are very difficult”, he added.
On Sunday, Russia said a missile attack on Kramatorsk, northwest of Bakhmut, had killed 600 Ukrainian soldiers.
Serhiy Cherevatyi, a Ukrainian military spokesperson for the eastern region, described the claim of mass casualties as an attempt by the Russian defense ministry to show it had responded forcefully to Ukraine’s recent strikes on Russian soldiers.
The militaries of both Russia and Ukraine militaries have often overstated enemy losses, while minimizing their own.
Ukraine’s top military officials said last week some 760 Russian troops had been killed or wounded in two attacks on Moscow-controlled parts of the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions.
These reports could not be independently verified.
A 60-year-old woman was killed and several other people were wounded in a Russian missile strike on a market in the village of Shevchenkove in eastern Ukraine on Monday, Ukrainian officials said.