Kyiv: In a clear sign that the eastern Russian stronghold Lyman may be falling soon, Ukrainian troops have captured two villages, according to officials on Friday.
Lyman has been in the Donetsk region for months, a logistics and transportation hub conducting Russian operations in the north of the region.
Since a quick counterattack helped Kyiv recapture large parts of Kharkiv territory in September, its capture would be the city's greatest victory.
President Volodymyr Zelensky in an evening video address thanked soldiers for capturing Yampil, a village about 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) southeast of Lyman.
Earlier in the day, Drobyshev, about 10 kilometers (6 mi) northwest of Lyman, was claimed by Ukrainian forces, according to the Defense Ministry.
Zelensky said in a video address, "In the east of our country, we have had remarkable results ... Lyman's incidents have been widely reported.
He continued without going into further detail, "These are steps that mean a lot to us."
Lyman is "half-circled" by the Ukrainian military, according to Denis Pushilin, the head of the Russian-backed administration in the Donetsk region, who earlier Friday described the news as "dangerous".
Pushilin acknowledged in a Telegram message that Drobyshev and Yampil were no longer completely in control of their forces.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday announced Russian rule over Donetsk and three other provinces. These areas were occupied by Moscow during its neighbor's seven-month offensive.
The annexations have been rejected by Ukraine and its Western allies as outright illegal and were condemned by the head of the United Nations.