The local governor says troops have been ordered to leave the city after weeks of fighting Russian forces.
Defending Ukrainian troops will have to withdraw from the disputed city of Severodonetsk, the governor of Ukraine’s Luhansk region has said, after weeks of fierce fighting against Russian forces in the strategic city.
“The Ukrainian armed forces will have to withdraw from Severodonetsk. They have been ordered to do this,” Serhiy Haidai said on Telegram on Friday.
“It just doesn’t make sense to stay in positions that have been fired on relentlessly for months,” he added.
Haidai did not specify whether troops would be immediately withdrawn from the city in Luhansk, or within what time frame the withdrawal would take place.
After failing to take the capital Kiev early in the war, Russian forces have concentrated on trying to take full control of the Luhansk and Donetsk provinces, which make up the Donbas region to the east. of Ukraine. Parts of the Donbas were already in the hands of Russian-backed separatists before Russia’s president Vladimir Putin ordered his troops on Feb. 24 to attack neighboring Ukraine.
Some of the heaviest fighting of the entire Russian invasion of Ukraine has taken place in Severodonetsk, where street-by-street fighting has been going on for a month, with Russia slowly and painstakingly gaining ground.
Ukrainian forces had already been pushed back from much of the city, leaving them in control of only the industrial areas.
Haidai said Severodonetsk was “almost turned to rubble” by constant bombing.
“All critical infrastructure has been destroyed. Ninety percent of the city is damaged, 80 percent [of] Houses will have to be demolished,’ he says.
The battle for the city is key for Russia to gain control of the last remaining Ukrainian-occupied swath of the Luhansk region, with only its sister city Lysychansk in Ukrainian hands if Severodonetsk fell.
Haidai said the Russians are now advancing towards Lysychansk, which is being increasingly bombarded by Russia.
The AFP news agency reported that its journalists who drove out of the city on Thursday had to jump out of cars twice and lie on the ground as Russian troops shelled the city’s main supply road. They saw dark smoke rising over the road ahead, heard artillery fire and saw flashes of light, while the road was littered with trees that had been felled by shelling.
The situation for those who remain in the city became increasingly bleak.
Liliya Nesterenko said her house had no gas, water or electricity and that she and her mother were cooking on a campfire. She was cycling down the street and had come out to feed a friend’s pets.
But the 39-year-old was optimistic about the city’s defense: “I believe in our Ukrainian army, they must [be able to] handle.
“They’ve already prepared.”
A representative of pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine previously told AFP that the resistance of Ukrainian troops trying to defend Lysychansk and Severodonetsk was “pointless and pointless”.
“With the pace at which our soldiers are going, the entire territory of the Luhansk People’s Republic will be liberated very soon,” said Andrei Marochko, a spokesman for the Moscow-backed Luhansk army.
Donbas, the industrial heart of Ukraine, is a region that Russia and its separatist allies in eastern Ukraine want to conquer completely as one of their war targets.
“In many ways the fate of the Donbas is decided there,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy recently said of Severodonetsk.