The Russian military said on Monday it had taken full control of the settlement of Bilohorivka in Ukraine's Luhansk region and had taken up better positions in the area.

The Russian Defence Ministry said in a statement its forces had also been involved in fierce clashes in Ukraine's Kharkiv region near Vovchansk, Starytsia and Hlyboke where it said they had repelled two counter-attacks.

Russian forces earlier this month thrust into the Kharkiv region in what President Vladimir Putin said was an operation to create a buffer zone to protect Russian border regions. (Reporting by Reuters Writing by Maxim Rodionov; editing by Andrew Osborn)