Russian-backed separatists report control of village south of key Ukraine battle

Ukraine's general staff said on Sunday that Ukrainian forces had repelled heavy fighting near Toshkivka and a number of other villages around Sievierdonetsk.

 Members of a foreign volunteers unit which fights in the Ukrainian army take positions, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Sievierodonetsk, Luhansk region Ukraine June 2, 2022. (photo credit: Serhii Nuzhnenko/Reuters)
Members of a foreign volunteers unit which fights in the Ukrainian army take positions, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Sievierodonetsk, Luhansk region Ukraine June 2, 2022.
(photo credit: Serhii Nuzhnenko/Reuters)

Russian-backed separatist forces in Ukraine said on Monday they had taken a village beside the main southern road towards the eastern Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk, over which Russian and Ukrainian forces have been fighting for weeks.

Both Russian and Ukrainian forces have suffered significant losses in the battle for Sievierodonetsk, which is in one of the two self-proclaimed breakaway regions Russia says it launched its invasion of Ukraine in late February to defend.

Vitaly Kiselev, an assistant to the self-styled interior minister of the Russian-backed Luhansk People's Republic (LPR), was quoted by TASS news agency as saying the village of Toshkivka, about 25 km south of Sievierodonetsk, had been taken.

The governor of the Ukrainian region of Luhansk, Serhiy Gaidai, told Ukrainian television that pro-Russian forces were trying to break through the lines of Toshkivka.

Ukraine's general staff said on Sunday that Ukrainian forces had repelled heavy fighting near Toshkivka and a number of other villages around Sievierdonetsk.

 A self-propelled howitzer 2S1 Gvozdika of pro-Russian troops fires a leaflet shell in the direction of Sievierodonetsk to disperse information materials from their combat positions in the Luhansk region, Ukraine May 24, 2022.  (credit: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters) A self-propelled howitzer 2S1 Gvozdika of pro-Russian troops fires a leaflet shell in the direction of Sievierodonetsk to disperse information materials from their combat positions in the Luhansk region, Ukraine May 24, 2022. (credit: Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

Reuters was unable to independently verify the battlefield claims of either side.

Russia's defense ministry said on Sunday that Russian forces had taken Metyolkine, a district on Sievierodonetsk's eastern outskirts. Gaidai said Ukraine was no longer in control of Metyolkine.

Since the February 24 start of the invasion, Russia has scaled back the ambitions of its war, pulling back troops from around the capital Kyiv and focusing on pushing out Ukrainian troops from the eastern Donbas region.