Russia’s separatist proxies in eastern Ukraine claimed full control of the important battlefield town of Lyman on Friday, and Ukraine appeared to concede it, as Moscow presses its biggest advance for weeks. Lyman, site of a key railway hub, has been a major front line as Russian forces press down from the North, one of three directions from which they have been attacking Ukraine’s industrial Donbas region. The pro-Russian Donetsk People’s Republic separatists said they were now in full control of it. Oleksiy Arestovych, adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, appeared to confirm the fall of Lyman in an interview overnight, and said the battle there showed that Moscow was improving its tactics. US and Ukraine discuss danger of escalation as new arms extend Kyiv’s reach “According to unverified data, we lost the town of Lyman. The Russian army – this must be verified – captured it,” Arestovych said in a video posted on social media. “Moreover, the way they captured it … correctly organising the operation. This shows, in principle, the increased level of operational management and tactical skills of the Russian army. It has grown. It has not grown everywhere of course, but it has unquestionably grown.” After being driven back from the capital Kyiv in March and from the outskirts of the second biggest city Kharkiv earlier this month, Russian forces are staging their strongest advance in weeks in the eastern Donbas region. Western military analysts say the battle there could prove decisive, depending on whether Russian forces can sustain the advance or run out of momentum. Further east, Russian forces have been trying to encircle Ukrainian troops in the cities of Sievierodonetsk and Lyshchansk, after breaking through Ukrainian lines further south in the city of Popasna last week. Popasna, reached by journalists in Russian-held territory on Thursday, was a blasted wasteland of burnt-out high-rise flats and shattered municipal buildings. Russian tanks and other military vehicles tore through the rubble-strewn streets kicking up dust with their treads, and low-flying attack helicopters thundered overhead.