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Ukrainian troops withdrawing from embattled Sievierodonetsk, fighting continues

June 24, 2022 10:26 amby Asami Terajima
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Ukrainian troops withdrawing from embattled Sievierodonetsk, fighting continuesSmoke and dirt rise after Russian troops attack Sievierodonetsk on June 14, 2022. (Photo by Aris Messinis/AFP via Getty Images)

Ukrainian troops were ordered to withdraw from Sievierodonetsk, Luhansk Oblast Governor Serhiy Haidai said on June 24. The city has been the scene of fierce fighting for the past several months, with Russian troops controlling most of it.

According to the Kyiv Independent's sources in the military, as well as other Ukrainian media outlets' sources, the troops are currently in the process of withdrawing from Sievierodonetsk. 

There has been no official confirmation of withdrawal from the army commandment yet. 

The announcement comes a day after the official said troops had pulled out of some areas around the twin city of Lysychansk, sitting on the opposite side of the Siverskyi Donets river, a major waterway that is slowing down Russian advances in the Donbas.

“Remaining in positions smashed to pieces over many months just for the sake of staying there does not make sense,” the governor said 

The urban fighting in Sievierodonetsk has turned once a quiet industrial city of 160,000 people into a largely abandoned ruin. The key city in eastern Ukraine had been the site of the most intense fighting, where both sides are suffering a high number of casualties.

Russian forces have damaged around 90 percent of the buildings and destroyed all three key bridges leading to the city, further complicating logistics and civilian evacuation efforts.

There have long been calls for Ukrainian soldiers to retreat from Sievierodonetsk, one of the last large cities in the region under Kyiv’s control. Russian forces already control an estimated 90 percent of Luhansk Oblast.

“Nobody is abandoning our guys, nobody will allow the encirclement (of our troops),” Haidai said. 

About 12,000 civilians remain in Sievierodonetsk, Haidai had told the Associated Press in mid-June. The remaining residents are left without access to water, electricity, or gas.

Sievierodonetsk Mayor Oleksandr Striuk said that the humanitarian situation is “critical.” 

Civilian evacuation efforts had continued in moments of relative “quiet” for weeks but it remained difficult, the official said. While the city itself had not been cut off, the destruction of key bridges strained evacuation efforts and the delivery of support to the defending Ukrainian forces fighting in the area. 

While bombarding Ukrainian positions near Sievierodonetsk with artillery barrage and airstrikes, Russian forces have been indiscriminately killing and injuring the area’s remaining residents.

Hours after announcing the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from Sievierodonetsk, Governor Haidai also said that Russian forces have taken the village of Mykolaivka, around 25 kilometers south of Lysychansk, now the last major settlement in Luhansk Oblast controlled by Ukraine.

Russian forces captured the villages of Loskutivka and Rai-Oleksandrivka, south of the city of Lysychansk, Luhansk Oblast, Ukraine’s General Staff reported on June 23, pushing to encircle Ukrainian positions in the villages of Zolote and Hirske.

Earlier, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said that Kyiv is likely preparing for the loss of both Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk, but this outcome would not represent a turning point in the war.

Asami Terajima
Author: Asami Terajima

Asami Terajima is a national reporter at the Kyiv Independent. She previously worked as a business reporter for the Kyiv Post focusing on international trade, infrastructure, investment and energy.

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