Russian forces have reportedly abandoned the key town of Kreminna just miles from the strategic city of Severodonetsk.
The capture Severodonetsk saw Russian forces fight for more than month there, destroying much of the city. The strategically important city, along with the neighbouring city of Lysychansk, were the last Ukrainian holdouts before the Russian capture of Luhansk.
The Kyiv Independent reported on Telegram: “Russian army leaves key town of Kreminna. The city is ‘completely empty’, and the Ukrainian flag raised by local partisans still flies high, Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said on Telegram.
“Kreminna lies only 25 kilometers northwest of Severodonetsk, which Russian forces occupied over a month of fierce fighting over May and June.”
If the reports are accurate, it would mean that Ukraine now controls territory inside of Luhansk Oblast, which, before a stunning Ukrainian counteroffensive, was completely controlled by Russian forces.
Over the last 24 hours, a video shared several times on social media purported to be filmed near Kreminna. It shows Ukrainian special forces attacking a Russian vehicle. Express.co.uk could not verify the location the of the video.
Kreminna is located on the same side of the Seversky Donets River, just 15 miles from Severodonetsk, which was captured by Russian forces on June 25. The battle for the city lasted more than a month and saw the much of the city destroyed.
Capturing Kreminna would give Ukraine a foothold across the river, something which proved extremely difficult for Russian forces who were repeatedly shelled during attempted crossings.
Earlier today, the Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said on Telegram that the liberation of Luhansk would begin with Kreminna and Svatovo.
Svatovo is further to the north in Luhansk and well east of the Oskil River where the Russian forces claimed they would regroup.
He said: “The large-scale de-occupation of Luhansk region will begin from Kreminnaya and Svatovo; the Russians have already begun to move equipment closer to these cities. The main impact will be there.
“Today, Kreminna is completely empty – the Russian Army has left the city. The Ukrainian flag raised by the partisans flies there.”
Earlier he said that “every centimetre of Luhansk” would be reclaimed.
The news comes following Russia’s abandonment of the logistics hub of Izyum, which Kremlin forces had held since April.
With the collapse of Russian defences and ground lines of communication in Kharkiv Oblast, it now seems Ukrainian soldiers to the southeast are attempting to put pressure on the Donetsk and Luhansk fronts.
Putin’s stated war goal is the capture, and likely annexation, of these two oblasts, also known as the Donbas region.
The sweeping counteroffensive was likely made possible due to a push in the south of the country by Ukrainian forces – Moscow responded by moving more men and equipment to this front.
The speed with which Ukrainian forces have retaken key towns seems to have surprised Moscow and Ukraine’s Western allies.