The head of the Luhansk regional military administration urged civilians on Tuesday to evacuate amid an escalation in fighting and the fall of the town of Kreminna to Russian forces.
Please, evacuate now! The residents of Kreminna did not make it on time and are now hostages," Serhii Haidai said.
Haidai said evacuations would take place even though Russian forces had refused a ceasefire.
Evacuation efforts would focus on the areas of Rubizhne, Severodonetsk, Lysychansk, Popasna and Hirske, Haidai said, adding people had volunteered to help despite heavy Russian shelling.
"The police will escort the elderly and less mobile people to the buses, as well as people from shelters," he said. "Therefore, when you see the police patrol, do not delay, this is a chance to escape. There are fewer opportunities to evacuate from day to day."
Some context: Russian forces have been trying to advance toward the borders of both Luhansk and Donetsk in the Donbas region. Russia's focus has shifted to the east of the country since its failure to gain territory around the capital Kyiv, and other parts of central and northern Ukraine.
On Monday, Russian forces entered Kreminna, a town in the eastern Luhansk region, with "a huge amount of equipment," said Haidai, claiming that "the offensive has begun."