Heavy fighting in Donetsk, Luhansk, as Russia steps up attack on Donbas
Ukraine said on Thursday that fierce fighting had broken out in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions
80% of Luhansk's territory is reportedly under Russian control
Russia this week intensified its assault on the Donbas
Over the past 24 hours, as many as 42 settlements in the Donetsk region had fallen under the control of Russian forces, Olena Symonenko, an adviser to the Deputy Head of the Office of the President, said in televised remarks on Thursday.
"This happened today, so it may well happen that our armed forces will return them under our control tomorrow. But as of today, we understand that fierce hostilities are ongoing in these settlements. And people who stayed there are staying in the shelters or basements," Symonenko said.
Meanwhile, the situation in Luhansk is reportedly worse than that of Donetsk.
"The enemy is trying to advance in the area of Rubizhne. The defensive battles with the enemy continue in the direction of the settlements of Novotoshkivske and Popasna," CNN quoted Serhii Haidai, the head of the Luhansk regional military administration, as saying.
Days earlier, Haidai had told CNN that more 80% of the territory in the Luhansk region had been taken by Russian forces, and further advances could see Moscow's troops capture the region in its entirety.
News of the fierce fighting in the Donbas comes after Russia withdrew from other areas and announced that it would re-direct its efforts to 'liberate' the breakaway region, where Moscow-backed rebels declared independence prior to the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine on February 24.