Reports that Moscow’s troops have captured the eastern Ukrainian town of Maryinka are premature and have been falsely inflated and promoted by a popular Telegram channel, a Russian milblogger has claimed.

Friday saw conflicting reports about the status of the now-ruined town, located southwest of the Russian-occupied regional centre of Donetsk and near the heavily-contested town of Avdiivka.

In an evening report, Ukraine’s military said it had repelled Russian attacks on villages around the town but made no mention of Russian troop movements in the area itself.

The Kremlin didn’t mention Maryinka at all but a popular Russian milblogger highlighted a photo posted to social media showing Moscow’s troops raising a flag above the ruins of a building.

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Mash, a Russian news Telegram channel, then published what it said was a statement from Russian soldiers claiming the town had been taken.

On Saturday morning, German Bild journalist Julian Röpcke said Russian forces had taken Maryinka, saying: “Russia's army hoisted the Soviet Union's victory banner over the ruins of the Ukrainian city of Maryinka, which it captured yesterday.

“And some naive people in the Bundestag still believe that Putin would be content with a few annexed areas of Ukraine.”

But just an hour after Röpcke’s post, Russian milblogger Roman Sapon'kov cautioned it was “too early to rejoice in Maryinka.”

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He added: “To put it mildly, one unit decided to raise the flag on the outermost house and report on the capture of Maryinka as a whole.

“Perhaps in another war the capture of the last house would have led to the capture of the village, but a little later. But in this war this is not at all the case.”

He then said the Mash Telegram channel had recently undergone editorial changes that affected the reliability of its output, adding: “I advise you to immediately unsubscribe from this garbage dump.”

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Further confirmation that reports of Moscow’s forces capturing Maryinka were premature came from Russian military correspondent Alexander Sladkov, who wrote: “From the line where our control ends to the end of Maryinka, to the city limits, a kilometer. We still have a kilometer to storm Maryinka.

“The other day we tried to get around Maryinka for the hundredth time, but failed.”

While the Kremlin hasn’t commented on Maryinka directly, it has been at pains this week to portray a positive image of what’s happening on the front lines.

Russia said on Friday its troops were advancing in every section of the Ukrainian front, despite observers seeing little movement.

The front lines have barely shifted in 2023 but fighting has remained intense.

The latest major flashpoint is the nearly encircled industrial town of Avdiivka, where Ukraine said it was fending off assaults.

“Our servicemen are acting competently and decisively, occupying a more favourable position and expanding their zones of control in all directions,” Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

In a briefing with Russia’s top military brass, Shoigu said his men were “effectively and firmly inflicting fire damage on the Ukrainian armed forces, significantly reducing their combat capabilities”.

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His ministry announced on Wednesday it had taken control of Khromove, a small village on the outskirts of Bakhmut in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region, but other territorial gains have proved elusive.

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