KYIV (REUTERS) - Ukraine's defence ministry said late on Friday (March 18) it lost access to the Sea of Azov "temporarily" as invading Russian forces were tightening their grip around the Sea's major port of Mariupol.
"The occupiers have partially succeeded in the Donetsk operational district, temporarily depriving Ukraine of access to the Sea of Azov," Ukraine's defence ministry said in a statement.
The ministry did not specify in its statement whether Ukraine's forces have regained access to the Sea.
Russia said on Friday its forces were "tightening the noose" around Mariupol, where an estimated 80 per cent of the city's homes had been damaged.
Mariupol, with its strategic location on the coast of the Sea of Azov, has been a target since the start of the war on Feb 24 when Russian President Vladimir Putin launched what he called a "special military operation".
The city lies on the route between the Russian-occupied peninsula of Crimea to the west, and the Donetsk region to the east, which is partially controlled by pro-Russian separatists.
Russia claimed as early as March 1 that its forces had cut off the Ukrainian military from the Sea of Azov.