Russia claimed on Wednesday that its armed forces had taken control of Khromove, a small village on the outskirts of Bakhmut in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region which Moscow’s troops seized in May after one of the bloodiest battles of its 21-month military offensive.

“Troops, supported by aviation and artillery fire, improved their positions along the front line and liberated the village of Artemovskoye,” Russia’s defense ministry said in a daily briefing, referring to the village by a previous version of its name.

In a Tuesday evening broadcast, the pro-Ukraine military information platform DeepState said that Russian armed forces pressure against the village was intensifying but that, as of the time of the report, Ukrainian lines were holding.

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“In this sector we have seen an increase of neutral territory over the last week, in the region of Khromove, and this shows that the enemy is concentrating forces there. He is continuing to attack and we can see there is the possibility of our fighters being forced out. They (Russian forces) are doing everything they can to do that. But in recent days the line of contact has not changed, and the defense forces [Ukrainian military] are doing everything possible not to allow the enemy to advance,” the report said in part.

Russian military information Telegram channels widely repeated the Russian Defense Ministry statement.

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The pro-Kremlin Readovka platform wrote: “The liberation of this small village is an extremely important development symbolizing the shift of the Russian army to the offensive in the Bakhmut sector. The enemy army [the Ukrainian military] has exhausted its strength in the course of a disastrous “counterattack,” and the available reserves [it has] are frantically sent to [the sector of] Avdiivka, where the situation for the Ukrainian Armed Forces is extremely unfortunate. The Russian army took advantage of this and struck where the enemy did not expect.”

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According to satellite images, the village of Khromove, located on the western edge of Bakhmut, consisted of a few streets of several dozen houses before the Russian offensive. If the Russian capture of Khromove is confirmed, it would mean a shift of the contact lines 300-400 meters to the west, in a sector 1,800-2,00 meters wide.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu had said the capture of Bakhmut would open up the battlefield and allow Moscow’s troops to mount further significant advances.

But Russia’s forces have not pressed on from the city, which independent military analysts said had little significant strategic importance.

Bakhmut and its suburbs were completely destroyed by months of relentless artillery fire and urban combat.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, whose Wagner mercenaries led Russia’s assault on Bakhmut, said 20,000 of his fighters were killed fighting in an around the city.

Russia declared the annexation of Donetsk last year - along with three other areas of eastern and southern Ukraine - despite not having full control over the region.

AFP material was used in this report.

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