(Reuters) - Russian cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station on Monday celebrated Russia's capture of the eastern Ukrainian region of Luhansk, a significant milestone for Moscow in the war.
Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, described Moscow's capture of the Luhansk region as "a liberation day to celebrate both on Earth and in space."
The agency posted pictures of cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev and Sergei Korsakov smiling as they held up flags of Russia's proxies in eastern Ukraine, the self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic and Donetsk People's Republic.
"This is a long-awaited day that the residents of the occupied areas of the Luhansk region had been waiting eight years for," Roscosmos wrote on the Telegram messaging app.
"We are convinced that July 3, 2022, will forever remain in the history of the (Luhansk People's) Republic."
Russia announced on Sunday that Russian and separatist forces had gained full control over the Luhansk region after capturing its last major city, Lysychansk.
Ukraine, which has vowed to regain the lost territory, said its troops had withdrawn from their last remaining bastion in the region to save the lives of its soldiers. Kyiv said its troops would regroup to launch a counter-offensive with the help of long-range Western weapons.
After being repelled in its initial attempt to capture the capital Kyiv in February, Russia has focused on driving Ukrainian forces out of the eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Kyiv since Russia's first military intervention in Ukraine in 2014.
(Reporting by Reuters)