Russia Claims Control Over Eastern Ukrainian Town, As Rocket Strikes Kill 3


(RFE/RL) — Russian forces say they have claimed control over an eastern Ukrainian town whose defenses they had broken through about two weeks ago, as Russian rockets killed at least three people in eastern villages.

Kyiv had no immediate comment about Russia’s claim on May 5 to have captured Ocheretyne, a town with a prewar population of about 3,700 but which has been left largely in ruins by the fighting.

If confirmed, however, it would be the latest in a series of battlefield setbacks for Ukrainian forces, who have struggled to hold back a Russian offensive while also grappling with shortages of men and ammunition.

The violence came as Ukrainian Orthodox believers marked the third Easter since the Russian invasion by gathering in Kyiv’s main cathedral and other churches around the country.

In a video posted to Telegram and his website, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called on Ukrainians to unite in prayer.

Ukrainian officials urged residents to mark Easter services online out of safety concerns.

“Ukraine is going through dark and difficult times. For the third Easter in a row, we meet during a full-scale war. But light always overcomes darkness, life overcomes death, good will blow evil, and hope will surely overcome fear,” Serhiy Popko, the head of the Ukrainian capital’s military administration, wrote on Telegram.

In its daily update, Russia’s Defense Ministry said troops from its Center command group had taken control of the town, but it gave no further details.

Ukraine’s military was buoyed by last month’s decision by the U.S. Congress to send $60 billion in weaponry and equipment. But it will take time for the guns, shells, and vehicles to start appearing on the battlefield.

A newly passed law aimed at bolstering Ukraine’s troop levels is also critical, but training new soldiers will also take weeks, if not months.

To the north, Ukrainian forces are trying to blunt a Russian effort to seize the height-of-land town of Chasiv Yar.

Russian troops have entered the town’s eastern outskirts, and are also trying to flank the settlement. But they’ve been thwarted in trying to cross a major canal that separates the eastern district from the main center.

In Ocheretyne, meanwhile, Russian troops were able to push through Ukrainian defenses after what some observers have called a botched troop rotation involving exhausted units.

Since April 22, open-source intelligence maps show, Russian forces have steadily pushed west and north out of the village.

Elsewhere, two people were killed overnight when Russian rockets hit their house in the village of Pokrovsk, about 40 kilometers west of Ocheretyne, according to Vadym Filashkin, the military governor of the Donetsk region still under Ukrainian control.

Ukrainian authorities said another Russian strike, on Monachynivka in the Kharkiv region, killed an 88-year-old woman.

Ukraine’s military said Russia launched two dozen kamikaze drones over multiple targets overnight. All but one were downed, the military claimed.

Russia’s weekslong bombardment of Ukrainian energy infrastructure has caused more than $1 billion in damage, the country’s energy minister said, leading to blackouts in many regions.

“Today, we are talking about the amounts of losses for more than a billion dollars. But the attacks continue, and it is obvious that the losses will grow,” Herman Halushchenko said in a statement on May 5.

In Washington, the White House’s national-security adviser said Russia was still expected to advance further “in the coming period,” because “you can’t instantly flip the switch.”

But, speaking to the Financial Times on May 4, Jake Sullivan also said that Kyiv would have the capacity to “hold the line” and “to ensure Ukraine withstands the Russian assault” over the course of 2024.

Ukraine intends to “to move forward to recapture the territory that the Russians have taken from them,” he was quoted as saying.


RFE/RL journalists report the news in 21 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established.

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