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Russian forces on Saturday claimed victory in the battle for the last Ukrainian-held town in the Luhansk region, an important step in Vladimir Putin's mission to conquer the Donbas.
Pro-Russian forces posted videos on social media of them placing a red "victory banner" in the centre of Lysychansk at the Memorial of the Fallen.
Russian newswires also started to describe Lysychansk as having been "liberated" on Saturday. "Lysychansk has been taken and is under the control of the allied forces," a RIA Novosti correspondent reported.
"The trap has closed and Lysychansk is now completely surrounded by our united forces," he said.
Mr Kadyrov has previously proved an unreliable witness, but that claim was also echoed by separatist officials.
"Today the Luhansk popular militia and Russian forces occupied the last strategic heights, which allows us to confirm that Lysychansk is completely encircled," said Andrei Marotchko, a spokesman for the separatist forces.
But Kyiv denied that they were surrounded and said the battle was ongoing. “Fighting rages around Lysychansk... The city has not been encircled and is under control of the Ukrainian army," Ruslan Muzytchuk, a spokesman for the Ukrainian National Guard, said on local television.
British intelligence and some Ukrainian officials said that fighting continued in one part of Lysychansk, but this is likely to be a rear-guard action to cover the withdrawal of the main Ukrainian forces.
"Ukrainian forces probably continue to block Russian forces in the south-eastern outskirts of Lysychansk," said the British Ministry of Defence.
Following the fall of the nearby city of Severodonetsk last month, however, analysts had largely expected Lysychansk would eventually follow suit.
Taking Luhansk, which makes up half of Donbas, has become Mr Putin's priority target since his forces retreated from outside Kyiv in March.
Ukrainian forces have said that they are outgunned by 10-to-1 in the battle for Donbas and have begged for more heavy weapons from Western countries.
The Ukrainian governor of Luhansk, Sergiy Haidai, said that Russian attackers had nearly destroyed Lysychansk, which used to house 95,000 people, using "scorched earth" tactics.
"The Russians are storming Lysychansk from different sides, using a large number of forces and means for this," he said.
Last week, Ukrainian soldiers said that they had retreated from Severodonetsk to higher ground in Lysychansk to prepare for the battle. They had clearly hoped to hold the city for longer to give their forces in other industrial towns in Donbas more time to organise their defences.
Russian forces have deployed similar tactics across the Donbas battlefield. Massing outside each town and city, they pound Ukrainian forces with artillery before sending in soldiers to claim victory.
If Lysychansk falls, it would mark the end of the battle for Luhansk and the start of the fight for Donetsk, the other half of the Donbas. Russia's army would then turn its attention to the larger industrial towns of Slovyansk and Kramatorsk, around 50 miles to the west.
There has been fighting in the Donbas ever since pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk fought Ukrainian forces and broke away from Kyiv in 2014. Mr Putin made defending these unrecognised regions one of his reasons for invading Ukraine on Feb. 24.
Donbas has an outsized place in the Russian psyche because of its rich coal mines and fertile soil which were celebrated as far back as Tsarist Russia.
In the popular Russian imagination, the people of Donbas are hardworking, earthy Russians who ended up inside Ukraine accidentally after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
These split loyalties come through in reporting from Lysychansk. Residents there told a Sky News team reporting from inside the city earlier this week that they supported Russia and blamed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for the war.
"Ukraine is to blame," one man said as he collected water from a river. "They started this. Russia wants to help Ukraine." The boom of artillery sounded in the background.