Ukrainian officials on Friday reported continued heavy fighting in the Luhansk region, with a local military chief describing "fierce battles" for the city of Severodonetsk.
In televised remarks, Oleksandr Striuk, head of the Severodonetsk city military administration, said: "There have been fierce battles for the city. We have a hot spot, the Mir hotel. On May 26 [Thursday], an enemy sabotage and reconnaissance group entered the Mir Hotel. The [Ukrainian] Armed Forces resisted."
A pro-Russian Telegram channel said Russian forces had entered the hotel, which is in the north of Severodonetsk, and that street fighting was underway.
Serhiy Hayday, the head of the Luhansk regional military administration, said a Ukrainian operation to retake the hotel was underway on Friday, but added: "We are not yet in control of the hotel. But we are working to drive out the ruscists [Russian fascists]."
Hayday also described heavy shelling around Severodonetsk and neighboring Lysychansk as Russian forces pushed from the direction of the towns of Purdivka and Shchedryshchevo, saying it had set the police station in Lysychansk on fire and damaged about 50 buildings in the area.
"Residents of Severodonetsk have already forgotten what it is like when the city is silent for at least half an hour," Hayday said.
"Russians are harassing residential neighborhoods continuously. On May 26, four residents of Severodonetsk were killed by enemy shells in the old districts of the city. Two of them died at the same time near one high-rise building. There is damage to the housing stock; 11 apartment buildings and one private house damaged."