Ukraine flees strategic Donbas region city as Russians win gains

Ukraine flees strategic Donbas region city as Russians win gains

Ukraine began evacuating its soldiers on Wednesday from the embattled city of Severodonetsk, the strategic eastern city that Russia has been battling to take over in a bid to control the Donbas region, local officials said.

Ukrainian forces retreated after suffering big losses in the city that’s now about 80% controlled by Russian forces, Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Haidai said Wednesday.

“This is not a betrayal,” Haidai wrote in a post on Telegram.

The governor said the retreat across the river to Severodonetsk’s twin city, Lysychansk, was part of their strategy to move to “more advantageous, pre-prepared positions” as they wait for shipments of Western weapons.

Haidai said that as of Wednesday, about 70% of the city was under Russian control, while about 10 to 15% was in”a kind of grey zone” and the rest held by the Ukrainian defenders.

Ukrainian military spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, however, declined to give an assessment as to how much of the city had fallen to Moscow.

“I do not want to evaluate or give any percentage of what we control and do not control. We know the enemy’s goals and are doing 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 estimated 13,000 workers still trapped in the city.

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

A man is lifted on to a train in Pokrovsk, in the Donetsk region of the Donbas, as part of an evacuation of the region. As Ukrainian forces flee Severodonetsk in the Luhansk oblast, Russia is expected to focus on Donetsk next.

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

President Volodymyr Zelensky said Tuesday that his country is losing as many as 100 soldiers a day as they fight for the Donbas region.

“The most difficult situation is in the east of Ukraine and southern Donetsk and Luhansk​,” Zelensky said in an interview with Newsmax.

“The situation is very difficult; we’re losing 60 to 100 soldiers per day as killed in action and something around 500 people as wounded in action. So we are holding our defensive perimeters​,” he added. ​

Zelensky appeared to suggest that Ukraine would scale back its fighting as it awaits the weapons promised by President Biden on Tuesday.

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

The US announced Wednesday it would send Ukraine four sophisticated, medium-range rocket systems and ammunition.

The rocket systems are part of America’s new $700 million weapons package for Kyiv.

With Post wires.

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