The head of the Russian-backed separatist administration in east Ukraine's Donetsk region said on Friday that the Russian stronghold of Lyman, in the region's north, was "semi-encircled" by the Ukrainian army and that news from the front was "alarming."
In a message posted on Telegram, Denis Pushilin, administrator of the self-styled Donetsk People's Republic, said the villages of Yampil and Drobysheve near Lyman "are no longer fully controlled by us."
With Russian President Vladimir Putin poised to formally annex the Donetsk region on Friday, Pushilin said that "the Ukrainian army is trying with all its might to blacken this historic event for us."
Lyman, which had a pre-war population of around 20,000, was captured by Russia in May after an extended battle. It has been at the center of renewed fighting since Ukraine routed Russian forces in the nearby Kharkiv region in a lightning counteroffensive this month.