Ukraine flees strategic town in Donbass region as Russians make gains

Ukraine on Wednesday began evacuating its troops from the beleaguered city of Severodonetsk, the strategic eastern city that Russia fought to gain control of the Donbass region, local officials said.

Ukrainian forces withdrew after suffering heavy casualties in the city which is now around 80% controlled by Russian forces, Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Haidai said on Wednesday.

“It’s not a betrayal,” Haidai wrote in a post on Telegram.

The governor said the retreat across the river to Severodonetsk’s twin town of Lysychansk was part of their strategy to move to “more advantageous and prepared positions” while awaiting deliveries western weapons.

Haidai said as of Wednesday about 70% of the city was under Russian control, while about 10-15% was in “a kind of gray area” and the rest held by Ukrainian defenders.

Ukrainian military spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, however, declined to give an assessment from the city that had fallen to Moscow.

“I don’t want to rate or give a percentage of what we control and don’t control. We know the enemy’s objectives and do everything to prevent them from being achieved,” he said.

Severodonetsk, 90 miles from the Russian border and once home to more than 100,000 people, has been largely evacuated, but its mayor Oleksandr Stryuk said the fighting has endangered the roughly 13,000 workers still trapped in the city .

“The situation is very serious and the city is basically being destroyed ruthlessly block by block,” he said on Tuesday.

A man is transported on a train in Pokrovsk, Donetsk region, Donbass, as part of an evacuation from the area. As Ukrainian forces flee Severodonetsk in Luhansk Oblast, Russia is expected to focus next on Donetsk.

If Russia seizes Severodonetsk and its sister city, it will retain control of the Luhansk region, one of two Donbass provinces that Moscow claims for the separatists.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Tuesday that his country was losing up to 100 soldiers a day as they fought for the Donbass region.

“The most difficult situation is in eastern Ukraine and southern Donetsk and Lugansk,” Zelensky said in an interview with Newsmax.

“The situation is very difficult; we lose 60 to 100 soldiers a day killed in action and about 500 wounded in action. We therefore maintain our defensive perimeters,” he added.

Zelensky appeared to suggest that Ukraine would reduce its fighting while waiting for the weapons promised by President Biden on Tuesday.

“If our steps or operations to deoccupy this or that region cost tens of thousands of dead, we will wait for appropriate weapons to save as many of our fellow citizens as possible,” Zelensky said.

The United States announced on Wednesday that it would send four advanced medium-range rocket systems and ammunition to Ukraine.

The rocket systems are part of the new US $700 million weapons package for Kyiv.

With post wires.


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