Ukrainian General Valeriy Zaluzhniy on Friday urged his American counterpart to get more weapons to match Russia and stabilize the situation in Luhansk
Russia launched artillery and airstrikes on the twin cities of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk yesterday, hitting a chemical plant where hundreds of civilians were trapped, a Ukrainian official said.
Luhansk Oblast Governor Serhiy Haidai said Russian forces attacked the industrial zone of Sievierodentsk and also tried to enter and blockade Lysychansk.
“There was an airstrike in Lysytchansk. Sievierodonetsk was hit by artillery,” Haidai said on the Telegram messaging app, adding that the Azot chemical plant in Sievierodonetsk and the villages of Synetsky and Pavlograd and others were shelled.
He made no mention of casualties at the Azot chemical plant and Reuters could not immediately verify the information.
Haidai said 17 people were evacuated from Lysychansk on Friday by police, rescuers and volunteers.
Ukraine said on Friday its troops had been ordered to withdraw from Sievierodonetsk, a key battlefield town, as there was little left to defend after weeks of heavy fighting.
“During the last [several] days, an operation was carried out to withdraw our troops,” Ukrainian National Guard spokesman Kharatin Starskyi said yesterday.
Starskyi, who was in Sievierodonetsk, said on morning television that the flow of information about the withdrawal had been delayed to protect troops on the ground.
The retreat marks the biggest reversal for Ukraine since losing the southern port of Mariupol last month.
News of Friday’s withdrawal came four months to the day since Russian President Vladimir Putin sent tens of thousands of troops across the border, sparking a conflict that has killed thousands, uprooted millions and reduced entire cities to rubble.
The latest Russian advances appeared to bring the Kremlin closer to taking full control of Lugansk, one of Moscow’s declared war objectives, and setting the stage for Lysychansk to become the next primary fighting objective.
Vitaly Kiselev, an Interior Ministry official in the breakaway Luhansk People’s Republic – recognized only by Russia – told Russian news agency TASS that it would take another week and a half to gain full control of Lysychansk.
Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, but abandoned an early advance on the capital, Kyiv, in the face of fierce resistance reinforced by Western weapons.
Since then, Moscow and its proxies have focused on the south and Donbass, an eastern territory made up of Luhansk and its neighbor Donetsk, deploying overwhelming artillery in some of the fiercest ground fighting in Europe since World War II. .
Yesterday, Russia again launched missile strikes on military and civilian infrastructure in the north, near Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, to Sievierodonetsk in the east, the chief of Ukrainian General Staff.
Several regional governors yesterday reported bombings of Ukrainian cities.
Russia denies targeting civilians, but Kyiv and the West say Russian forces have committed war crimes against civilians.
Ukraine has again called for more weapons, with the Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, General Valeriy Zaluzhniy, telling his American counterpart in a phone call on Friday that Kyiv needs “fire parity ” with Moscow to stabilize the situation in Luhansk.
South of Sievierodonetsk, Ukrainian soldiers have also withdrawn from the towns of Hirske and Zolote in the face of overwhelming Russian force, said Oleksiy Arestovych, adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.
He said the Ukrainian army had learned the hard lesson of trying to defend its positions at all costs during battles with pro-Russian forces in 2014.
“Now for the first time we have a precedent where our boys have retired in an orderly fashion,” he said in a video posted online.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba downplayed the significance of the possible loss of more territory in the Donbass.
“Putin wanted to occupy Donbass before May 9. We are [there] on June 24 and is still fighting. Withdrawing from a few battles does not mean losing the war at all,” he said in an interview with Italian daily Corriere della Sera.
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