Russia claims full control of Maryinka, marking major advance in eastern Ukraine

Kremlin hails liberation of strategic town, but Kyiv says its troops are still there

Russia Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu, left, briefs President Vladimir Putin on military operations in Ukraine. Reuters
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Russia on Monday had complete control over Maryinka, Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu told President Vladimir Putin, who lauded the operation as a success.

Maryinka would be one of the Russia army's most substantial gains since the capture of Bakhmut in May.

In a state television broadcast, Mr Shoigu claimed assault units had completely liberated the settlement of Maryinka.

Video taken by a drone and shown on Russian television, purportedly showing Maryinka, revealed piles of rubble and heavily damaged apartment buildings.

Maryinka, south-west of the Russian-held regional centre of Donetsk, was once home to about 10,000 people.

Mr Putin said that control of Maryinka would allow Russian forces to push Ukrainian army units from Donetsk.

“Our troops (now) have the opportunity to reach a wider operational area,” he said in a video exchange with Mr Shoigu posted online by a Kremlin journalist.

The capture of Bakhmut in May was Russia's last major success, which involved some of the conflict's most intense fighting.

Ukraine started a counteroffensive in June with the objective of retaking territories in the south and east, including Bakhmut.

However, its forces have failed to overcome entrenched Russian positions.

Russian forces have intensified their ground and air assaults on Avdiivka, a nearby town, since mid-October.

Avdiivka, briefly captured in 2014 by Russian-backed separatists, is considered by the Kremlin as a gateway to Donetsk.

The Ukrainian military on Monday denied Russia's claims.

“It's not correct to talk about seizing Maryinka,” spokesman Oleksandr Shtupun told Ukrainian national television.

“Our forces are within the city,” he said.

Updated: December 25, 2023, 7:26 PM