Up to 2,000 Ukrainian troops, nationalists and foreign fighters have been surrounded by the Russian forces and the Donbass militias, Moscow claimed on Friday. The forces were encircled in two neighboring towns in the Lugansk People’s Republic.
Four Ukrainian battalions. as well as an artillery unit are among those trapped, the Defense Ministry announced. The encircled forces also include around 120 fighters from the notorious Ukrainian ‘Right Sector,’ a neo-Nazi group of up to 80 foreign fighters, according to the ministry.
The troops have been surrounded in the towns of Gorskoye and Zolotoye, located south of the major cities of Severodonetsk and Lisichansk, which have recently become one of the major targets for both sides amid the continued fighting for the territory of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics.
The Russian military has also claimed that the trapped units have lost over 60% of their strength. According to the defense ministry, 41 Ukrainian soldiers encircled in the area have surrendered. The Defense Ministry has also published a video supposedly showing those who have laid down their arms.
The head of the Ukrainian Gorskoye military administration, Aleksey Babchenko, confirmed to the Ukrainian media on Friday that the town has been fully seized by the Russian forces and the Donbass militias.
Sergey Gaidai, who Ukraine calls the head of the “Lugansk Oblast,” has also said on Telegram that the Ukrainian forces might soon retreat from Lisichansk since their defensive positions had been destroyed by the Russian forces and there is “little sense” in staying.
The Russian Air Force has also successfully hit a Ukrainian artillery battery equipped with the US-made M777 howitzers in the Kharkov region. Earlier, Washington vowed to supply 90 such artillery pieces to Kiev, according to a May report by the New York Times.
The news comes just days after the Russian military claimed to have killed hundreds of Ukrainian troops in a strike on a shipbuilding plant in the Ukrainian port of Nikolaev. Last week, the defense ministry also claimed to have killed scores of Ukrainian officers after striking a compound where a meeting of commanders of several Ukrainian units was taking place.
Russia attacked the neighboring state in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements. The Minsk Protocol was designed to give the regions special status within the Ukrainian state.
The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.