Russia claimed on Monday that its forces were fully in control of the town of Maryinka in eastern Ukraine.
Hailing the news, President Putin – who originally planned to take all of Ukraine in a matter of weeks – said the capture of the small town nearly 22 months into Russia’s full-scale invasion was a “success.”
Russian state media showed footage of Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu meeting Putin to tell him the news.
“Our assault units have today completely liberated the settlement of Maryinka,” Shoigu told him.
"I want to congratulate you. This is a success" which gives Russian troops "the opportunity to move into a wider operational area," Putin replied.
Shoigu said the control of Maryinka would enable his soldiers to "move further in this direction" and "make it possible to protect Donetsk more effectively from strikes" from Ukrainian forces.
Kyiv has yet to comment on the claims.
The town, formerly home to around 10,000 people is largely destroyed.
Piles of rubbles and gutted apartment buildings over a wide area could be seen in drone images shown on Russian television that were said to be of Maryinka, AFP reports.
Mar'inka.... 😡 completely wiped off the earth by the Russians. They captured ruins. pic.twitter.com/Wx1wPwhmYn— NOELREPORTS 🇪🇺 🇺🇦 (@NOELreports) December 25, 2023
A counter-offensive by Ukrainian forces which started in June along the front line in the south and east of the country has largely petered out, with few successes.
Russian forces have increased pressure in recent weeks.
Elsewhere, “entire groups” of Russian soldiers are surrendering en-masse due to the “inhuman attitude” of their commanders, the Ukrainian military has said.
According to Oleksandr Shtupun, the spokesman for the Tavria Grouping of Troops, more and more of Moscow’s troops are also snubbing orders to assault Ukrainian positions.
Speaking on national TV, he said: “It should be noted that whole groups of Russian soldiers are seen surrendering.
“One of the reasons that the enemy does this is what I’d say is inhuman attitude on the part of their command.
“For refusing to deploy on pointless assaults or for other offenses, some officers would strip them naked in winter cold and hold them in cold pits, beating them and threatening them with execution.”
You can also highlight the text and press Ctrl + Enter