KREMENCHUK, Ukraine (AP) — Russian forces battled Wednesday to surround the Ukrainian military’s last stronghold in a long-contested eastern province, as shock reverberated from a Russian airstrike on a shopping mall that killed at least 18 in the center of the country two days earlier.
Moscow’s battle to wrest the entire Donbas region from Ukraine saw Russian forces pushing toward two villages south of Lysychansk while Ukrainian troops fought to prevent their encirclement.
Britain’s defense ministry said Russian forces were making “incremental advances” in their offensive to capture Lysychansk, the last city in the Luhansk province under Ukrainian control following the retreat of Ukraine’s forces from the neighboring city of Sievierodonetsk.
Russian troops and their separatist allies control 95% of Luhansk and about half of Donetsk, the two provinces that make up the mostly Russian-speaking Donbas.
Wednesday’s summit came as NATO held its own summit in Madrid, declaring Russia the “most significant and direct threat” to its members’ peace and security and vowing to strengthen support for Ukraine.
Putin and other leaders didn’t mention the fighting in Ukraine at their public comments at the summit.