Ukraine to retreat from key city
After weeks of bloody street-by-street fighting and months of withering Russian bombardment, Ukrainian forces fighting in the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk will retreat from the city, the local governor said on Friday.
Serhiy Haidai, head of the Luhansk region’s military administration, said that it “does not make sense” to hold onto what he described as “broken” positions in the city any longer. “The number of people killed will increase every day,” he said.
“It was decided that our defenders would retreat to new positions, fortified areas, and from there conduct hostilities and inflict damage on the enemy.” The fall of the ruined industrial city on the east bank of the Siversky Donets river meant that Russia could fully concentrate its forces on taking its twin city on the west bank of the river, Lysychansk, the last pocket of land in Luhansk province under the control of the Ukrainian government.
The Kremlin has devoted a large portion of its combat forces to the capture of the city and the 48-km-wide pocket of land surrounding it as it seeks to advance westward in the Donbas region — the mineral-rich, industrial heartland of Ukraine. But to claim the city, they had to devastate it with artillery strikes.
There are an estimated 8,000 civilians in the city, and Ukrainian officials have said they cannot safely be evacuated to Ukrainian-controlled territory. On Thursday night, the Ukrainian military high command said its forces had stopped the Russian advance on Lysychansk on the outskirts of the city, inflicting heavy losses on the enemy and forcing them to pull back.
“To resume the offensive, the occupiers put forward reserves,” the Ukrainian military said. Overnight, the Ukrainian military said Russia fired on the city using tanks, mortars, artillery and fighter jets. The fight for the twin cities has been among the bloodiest of the war, with both sides suffering heavy casualties.
Over the course of the battle, the Ukrainians made desperate pleas to the west to speed up the delivery of heavy weapons as they were vastly outgunned by Russian forces. As the battle intensified, Ukrainian officials said that as many as 200 soldiers a day were dying in eastern Ukraine.
Some western and Ukrainian military analysts said that by holding out for as long as they did in Sievierodonetsk, Ukraine’s soldiers were able to severely degrade Russia’s combat capabilities. As in the defence of Mariupol, the fight in the east has allowed time for western weapons to start flowing into the country and for Ukrainian forces to begin staging counterattacks in other parts of the country.
New York Times News Service