Russia steps up offensive in 2 eastern regions in Ukraine

Russian forces are stepping up their offensive in eastern Ukraine with air raids, aiming to take full control of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, while Ukrainian forces put up a fierce fight.

In Luhansk, Russian forces appear to have taken control of most of Severodonetsk, which is said to be Ukraine's last stronghold in the region.

Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said in a social media post on Friday that Ukrainian forces had taken back about 20 percent of Severodonetsk. But on Saturday, he said Russian forces continued to attack the city and fighting prevented food and medical supplies from being delivered to citizens.

The British defense ministry said on Saturday that Russian air activity remains high over the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, with Russian aircraft conducting strikes using both guided and unguided munitions.

It also said that the increased use of unguided munitions has led to the widespread destruction of built-up areas in the Donbas and has most certainly caused substantial collateral damage and civilian casualties.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces continue to resist and appear to have taken back some parts of Luhansk and the southern region of Kherson.

But Russia is trying to cement its control of the areas it claims to have already captured. A pro-Russian senior official in Kherson told Russian media on Friday that a facility has opened where residents can file for Russian citizenship and that about 1,500 people have applied.

The official said more such facilities would be set up and that Kherson will be an essential part of Russia and no one can stop it.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, who is a close aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin, visited the city of Luhansk and inspected local schools on Friday. He said on social media that he was instructed to do so by the president.

Sobyanin, in an apparent bid to show off Russia's control, said humanitarian aid and help to restore infrastructure will be provided in Luhansk and Donetsk.