Ukrainian troops are locked in a “fierce combat” with Russian soldiers for control of the town of Vuhledar southwest of Donetsk as the two sides battle along the southern front.

Both sides claimed success in the small administrative centre of apartment blocks surrounded by flat fields, a short distance from the strategic prize of the village of Pavlivka.

“The encirclement and subsequent liberation of this city solves many problems,” said Denis Pushilin, the Moscow-appointed leader of the Donetsk region.

But Kyiv said the town, which had a pre-invasion population of about 15,000, remained contested. “There is fierce combat there,” Ukrainian military spokesman Sergiy Cherevaty told local media.

President Zelenskyy says the situation at the front remains acute, particularly in the eastern Donetsk region where Russia is stepping up an offensive.

Zelenskyy, in an evening address, said Russian forces were not just storming Ukrainian positions but also destroying the towns and villages around them.