Russian forces have been able to seize the town of Metelkine, to the east of the strategic city of Severodonetsk, according to a regional official on Monday.
"Unfortunately, we do not currently control Metelkine near the regional center," said Serhiy Hayday, the head of the Luhansk Regional Military administration.
Russian forces have intensified their use of artillery and air strikes to target Ukrainian positions in and around Severodonetsk as the battle for the strategic city continues to drag on, Hayday added.
"They are working hard on the Severodonetsk industrial zone and the outskirts of the city," Hayday said. "The same is true in the Toshkivka and Ustynivka districts."
"(They) want to make a breakthrough there, and for this purpose they have gathered a large amount of equipment there," he added. "Fighting is taking place in many villages around Severodonetsk and Lysychansk."
Some background: Severodonetsk lies in the heart of Donbas, a large industrial region in eastern Ukraine that has been the site of sporadic fighting since 2014, when Russian-backed separatists took control of two territories there -- the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic.
Last week, Hayday said that Russian forces control most of Severodonetsk, adding that the "situation remains difficult."
His remarks came as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the fight for the city may determine the outcome of the war in the east of the country.
“Severodonetsk remains the epicenter of the confrontation in Donbas,” Zelensky said at the time.
“This is a very fierce battle, very difficult … Probably one of the most difficult throughout this war,” he added. “In many ways, the fate of our Donbas is being decided there.”