- The capture of Siverodonetsk was a huge gain for Russia
- Ukraine calls it a ‘tactical withdrawal’
- Dozens of missiles struck Ukrainian military bases
KYIV / POKROVSK, Ukraine, June 25 (Reuters) – Russian forces have completely occupied Siverodonetsk, the mayor of eastern Ukraine said on Saturday, confirming Kyiv’s biggest military setback in more than a month after weeks of bloody fighting. .
Ukraine has called a “tactical retreat” from the city to fight off the highlands in Lysyansk, on the opposite bank of the Shivarsky Donets River. Russian-backed separatists say Moscow’s forces are now attacking Lysyansk.
The fall of Siverodonetsk – once home to more than 100,000 people and now a barren land – is Russia’s biggest victory since it captured the port of Mariupol last month. Several weeks later the battlefield in the East was transformed, in which the great advantage over Moscow’s firepower only yielded slow gains.
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Russia now hopes to seize more land on the opposite shore, while Ukraine hopes that Moscow’s price for capturing the ruins of the small town will lead to a counter-attack by Russian forces in the coming weeks.
“The city is now under full Russian occupation. They are trying to establish their own order. As far as I know they have appointed some kind of commander-in-chief,” Mayor Alexander Stryuk said on national television.
Kyrilo Budanov, Ukraine’s military intelligence chief, told Reuters that Ukraine was carrying out a “tactical restructuring” by pulling its troops from the Siverodonetsk to a high point across the river.
“Russia is using a tactic … it was used in Mariupol: to wipe the city off the face of the earth,” he said. “Under the conditions, it is no longer possible to maintain security in the ruins and open spaces. Therefore, the Ukrainian forces are leaving for higher ground to carry out security operations.”
Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted a representative of Russian-backed separatist militants as saying that Russian and pro-Russian forces had crossed the river into Lyczynsk and that fighting was taking place in urban areas.
Elena, an elderly woman in a wheelchair from the Ukrainian-controlled town of Donbass in Pokrovsk, was one of dozens of evacuees who arrived by bus from the front lines.
“Lysychansk, it was a horror, last week. We could not bear it yesterday. Thanks to the soldiers who kicked us out of there. Otherwise it would have happened,” he said. “I have already told my husband that if I die, bury me behind the house.”
As Europe’s largest land conflict entered its fifth month after World War II, Russian missiles rained down on the western, northern and southern parts of the country.
Russian President Vladimir Putin sent tens of thousands of troops to the border on February 24. It has also triggered an energy and food crisis that has rocked the world economy.
Since the defeat of Russian forces in the attack on the capital Kiev in March, it has focused on the eastern Donbass, which is made up of the Luhansk and Donetsk provinces. Zhivrodonetsk and Lyczynsk were the last large Ukrainian forts in Luhansk.
The Russians have in recent days crossed the river, advancing towards Lyczynsk and threatening to encircle the Ukrainians in the area.
The capture of Siverodonetsk can be seen as proof of Russia’s transition from its early, failed “lightning war” to a relentless, grinding offensive using massive artillery in the east.
Moscow says Luhansk and Donetsk, which have supported the uprisings since 2014, are independent. It demands that Ukraine cede the entire territory of its two provinces to separatist rule.
Ukrainian authorities did not have much faith in the indefinite operation of Siverodonetsk, but hoped that it would come at a high enough price to weaken the Russian military and make the invading force counter-attack.
Ukraine’s top general Valeriy Zaluzhnyi wrote in a telegram processor on Saturday that advanced HIMARS rocket systems provided by the United States were now being used to strike targets in Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine. read more
Asked about a possible counter-attack in the south, Budanov, the head of Ukrainian military intelligence, said Ukraine should start looking at the results “from August”.
“Wait a minute and we’ll see what it brings,” he told Reuters.
Russian missiles struck an unusually large barrage across Ukraine overnight.
“48 ship missiles. Overnight. Across Ukraine,” said Ukraine’s adviser Mikhail Potoliak on Twitter. “Russia is still trying to intimidate Ukraine, intimidate and intimidate the people.”
The governor of the Lviv region in western Ukraine said six missiles were fired from a base near the Polish border into the Black Sea. Four hit the target but two were destroyed.
The governor of the Zhytomyr region in the north said at least one soldier had been killed in attacks on a military target. Mycolive Meyer, near the Black Sea in the south, said Saturday that five ship missiles had struck the city and nearby areas.
Russia denies targeting civilians Kiev and the West say Russian forces have committed war crimes against civilians.
Western support for Ukraine
Despite the setbacks on the battlefield, Kiev received the support of Western nations that imposed sanctions on Russia and sent arms to Ukraine.
The war has had a major impact on the world economy and European security arrangements, raising the prices of gas, oil and food, reducing the EU’s greater reliance on Russian energy and prompting Finland and Sweden to seek NATO membership.
At the three-day summit in Germany, which begins on Sunday, the leaders of the Seven Rich Democrats are expected to express their long-standing support for Ukraine and discuss how to tighten the grip on Russia. read more
Participating British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he feared Ukraine would face pressure to agree to a peace deal and that the consequences of Putin’s entry into Ukraine would endanger international security. read more
As a key sign of support, EU leaders agreed this week to join Ukraine’s formal nomination – Russia’s decision on Friday “enslaves” the EU’s neighbors. read more
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Additional reporting by Max Hunder, Alessandra Prentice and Reuters bureaux; By Michael Perry, Madeline Chambers, Peter Graf; Editing by Sam Holmes, Edwina Gibbs, David Clark, Peter Groff
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