Russia-Ukraine conflict World

Ukraine Army to leave battered Severodonetsk to avoid encirclement

Ukrainian service members watch while a tank fires toward Russian troops in the industrial area of the city of Severodonetsk, Ukraine, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues.

Ukrainian service members watch while a tank fires toward Russian troops in the industrial area of the city of Severodonetsk, Ukraine, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues. | Photo Credit: Reuters

“After weeks of ferocious fighting, Ukrainian forces will retreat from a besieged city in the country’s east to avoid encirclement,” a regional governor said on June 24.

The city of Severodonetsk, the administrative centre of the Luhansk region, has faced relentless Russian bombardment. Ukrainian troops fought the Russians in house-to-house battles before retreating to a huge chemical factory on the city's edge, where they holed up in its sprawling underground structures.

In recent days, Russian forces have made gains around Severodonetsk and the neighbouring city of Lysychansk, on a steep bank across the river, in a bid to encircle Ukrainian forces.

Luhansk Gov. Serhiy Haidai said that the Ukrainian troops have been given the order to leave Severodonetsk to prevent that.

“We will have to pull back our guys,” he said. “It makes no sense to stay at the destroyed positions, because the number of casualties in poorly fortified areas will grow every day.”

Mr. Haidai said the Ukrainian forces have “received the order to retreat to new positions and continue fighting there" but didn't give further details.

He said the Russians were also advancing toward Lysychansk from Zolote and Toshkivka, adding that Russian reconnaissance units conducted forays on the city edges but were driven out by its defenders.

The governor added that a bridge on a highway leading to Lysychansk was badly damaged in a Russian airstrike and became unusable for trucks. The claim couldn't be independently verified.

The Russian Defence Ministry declared on June 24 that four Ukrainian battalions and a unit of “foreign mercenaries” totalling about 2,000 soldiers have been “fully blocked” near Hirske and Zolote, south of Lysychansk.

Following a botched attempt to capture Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, in the early stage of the invasion that started on February 24, Russian forces have shifted focus to the Donbas region, where the Ukrainian forces have fought Moscow-backed separatists since 2014.

The Russian military controls about 95% of Luhansk province and about half of neighbouring Donetsk province, the two areas that make up the Donbas.

After repeated requests to its Western allies for heavier weaponry to counter Russia’s edge in firepower, Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov said a response had arrived in the form of medium-range American rocket launchers.

A U. S. defence official confirmed on June 23 that all four of the promised High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, were in the hands of Ukrainian forces but said it was not clear if they have been used yet.

The U. S. approved providing the precision-guided systems at the end of May and once they were in the region, Ukraine’s forces needed about three weeks of training to operate them. The rockets can travel about 70KM (45 miles).

The U. S. will send an addition $450 million in military aid to Ukraine, including four more of the medium-range rocket systems, ammunition and other supplies, U. S. officials announced on June 24.

Other developments

An official with the pro-Moscow administration in the southern city of Kherson that was captured by Russian troops early in the invasion was killed in an explosion on June 24.

The pro-Russian regional administration in Kherson said that Dmitry Savlyuchenko died when his vehicle exploded in what it described as a “terror attack.” There was no immediate claim of responsibility.


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Printable version | Aug 15, 2022 12:38:09 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/ukraine-army-to-leave-battered-severodonetsk-to-avoid-encirclement/article65560400.ece