Ukrainian forces withdraw from embattled Severodonetsk: Governor | Russia-Ukraine War News

The local governor said troops were ordered to leave the city after weeks of fighting against Russian troops.

Defending Ukrainian troops will have to withdraw from the city of Severodonetsk, the governor of Ukraine’s Luhansk region said, after weeks of fierce fighting against Russian forces in the strategic city.

“Ukrainian armed forces will have to retreat from Severodonetsk. They received an order to do so,” Serhiy Haidai said Friday on Telegram.

“Staying in positions that have been relentlessly bombed for months just doesn’t make sense,” he added.

Haidai did not indicate whether troops would be withdrawn immediately from the city of Luhansk, or by what timeframe the withdrawal would take place.

After failing to take the capital Kyiv at the start of the war, Russian forces focused on trying to take full control of Luhansk and Donetsk provinces, which together comprise the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. Parts of the Donbas were already held by Russian-backed separatists before Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, ordered his troops to attack neighboring Ukraine on February 24.

INTERACTIVE- WHO CONTROLS WHAT IN DONBAS- - JUNE 120 - 23

Some of the heaviest fighting of the entire Russian invasion of Ukraine took place in Severodonetsk, where street-to-street battles have been raging for a month, with Russia slowly and painstakingly gaining more ground.

Ukrainian forces had already been driven away from much of the city, leaving them in control only of industrial areas.

Haidai said Severodonetsk was “almost turned to rubble” by the continuous bombing.

“All critical infrastructure has been destroyed. Ninety percent of the city is damaged, 80 percent [of] houses will have to be demolished,” he said.

The battle for the city is critical for Russia to establish control over the last remaining part of the Luhansk region, under Ukrainian control, with only its twin city of Lysychansk left in Ukrainian hands if Severodonetsk falls.

Haidai said the Russians are now advancing on Lysychansk, which is facing increasingly heavy Russian bombardment.

The AFP news agency reported that its journalists who left the city on Thursday twice had to jump out of cars and lie on the ground as Russian forces bombed the city’s main supply road. They saw dark smoke rising over the road ahead, and heard artillery fire and saw flashes of light, as the road was littered with trees downed by shelling.

The situation for those remaining in the city was increasingly grim.

Liliya Nesterenko said her home had no gas, water or electricity and she and her mother were cooking over an open fire. She was riding her bike down the street and went out to feed a friend’s pets.

But the 39-year-old coach was optimistic about the city’s defenses: “I believe in our Ukrainian army, they should [be able to] to deal.

“They’ve already prepared.”

A representative of pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine previously told AFP that resistance by Ukrainian forces trying to defend Lysychansk and Severodonetsk was “useless and futile”.

“At the rate our soldiers are going, very soon the entire territory of the Luhansk People’s Republic will be liberated,” said Andrei Marochko, a spokesman for the Moscow-backed Luhansk army.

Donbas, Ukraine’s industrial heartland, is a region that Russia and its separatist allies in eastern Ukraine aim to fully capture as one of their war objectives.

“In many ways, the fate of the Donbas is being decided there,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy recently said of Severodonetsk.

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