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Sievierodonetsk falls to Russia after one of war's bloodiest fights

World Jun 25, 2022 08:31PM ET
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6/6 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian service members walk in the industrial area of the city of Sievierodonetsk, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, Ukraine June 20, 2022. REUTERS/Oleksandr Ratushniak/File Photo 2/6

By Tom Balmforth and Marko Djurica

KYIV/POKROVSK, Ukraine (Reuters) -Russian forces fully occupied the eastern Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk on Saturday, both sides said, confirming Kyiv's biggest battlefield setback for more than a month following weeks of some of the war's bloodiest fighting.

Ukraine called its retreat from the city a "tactical withdrawal" to fight from higher ground in Lysychansk on the opposite bank of the Siverskyi Donets river. Pro-Russian separatists said Moscow's forces were now attacking Lysychansk.

The fall of Sievierodonetsk - once home to more than 100,000 people but now a wasteland - was Russia's biggest victory since capturing the port of Mariupol last month. It transforms the battlefield in the east after weeks in which Moscow's huge advantage in firepower had yielded only slow gains.

Russia will now seek to press on and seize more ground on the opposite bank, while Ukraine will hope that the price Moscow paid to capture the ruins of the small city will leave Russia's forces vulnerable to counterattack.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy vowed in a video address that Ukraine would win back the cities it lost. But acknowledging the war's emotional toll, he said: "We don't have a sense of how long it will last, how many more blows, losses and efforts will be needed before we see victory is on the horizon."

"The city is now under the full occupation of Russia," Sievierodonetsk Mayor Oleksandr Stryuk said on national television. "They are trying to establish their own order."

Kyrylo Budanov, Ukraine's military intelligence chief, told Reuters that Ukraine was carrying out "a tactical regrouping" by pulling its forces out of Sievierodonetsk.

"Russia is using the tactic ... it used in Mariupol: wiping the city from the face of the earth," he said. "Given the conditions, holding the defence in the ruins and open fields is no longer possible. So the Ukrainian forces are leaving for higher ground to continue the defence operations."

Russia's defence ministry said Russian forces had established full control over Sievierodonetsk and the nearby town of Borivske.

Not long after that, however, Ukrainian shelling from outside Sievierodonetsk forced Russian troops to suspend evacuation of people from a chemical plant there, Russia's Tass news agency quoted local police working with Russian separatist authorities as saying.

Oleksiy Arestovych, senior advisor to Zelenskiy, said some Ukrainian special forces were still in Sievierodonetsk directing artillery fire. But he made no mention of those forces putting up any direct resistance.

Russia's Interfax news agency cited a representative of pro-Russian separatist fighters saying Russian and pro-Russian forces had entered Lysychansk and were fighting in urban areas there.

Russia also launched missile strikes across Ukraine. At least three people were killed in the town of Sarny, some 185 miles (300 km) west of Kyiv, after rockets hit a carwash and a car repair facility, said the local regional military administration.

Russia denies targeting civilians. Kyiv and the West say Russian forces have committed war crimes.

Seeking to tighten the screws on Russia, U.S. President Joe Biden and other Group of Seven leaders attending a summit in Germany starting on Sunday will agree on an import ban on new gold from Russia, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters.

A German government source said G7 governments also were having "very constructive" conversations on a possible price cap on Russian oil imports.

'IT WAS HORROR'

In the Ukrainian-held Donbas town of Pokrovsk, Elena, an elderly woman in a wheelchair from Lysychansk, was among dozens of evacuees arriving from frontline areas.

"Lysychansk, it was a horror, the last week. Yesterday we could not take it any more," she said. "I already told my husband if I die, please bury me behind the house."

As Europe's biggest land conflict since World War Two entered its fifth month, Russian missiles also rained down on western, northern and southern parts of the country.

"48 cruise missiles. At night. Throughout whole Ukraine," Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said on Twitter (NYSE:TWTR). "Russia is still trying to intimidate Ukraine, cause panic."

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent tens of thousands of troops over the border on Feb. 24, unleashing a conflict that has killed thousands and uprooted millions. It has also stoked an energy and food crisis which is shaking the global economy.

Since Russia's forces were defeated in an assault on the capital Kyiv in March, it has shifted focus to the Donbas, an eastern territory made up of Luhansk and Donetsk provinces. Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk were the last major Ukrainian bastions in Luhansk.

The Russians crossed the river in force in recent days and have been advancing towards Lysychansk, threatening to encircle Ukrainians in the area.

The capture of Sievierodonetsk is likely to seen by Russia as vindication for its switch from its early, failed attempt at "lightning warfare" to a relentless, grinding offensive in the east.

Moscow says Luhansk and Donetsk, where it has backed uprisings since 2014, are independent countries. It demands Ukraine cede the entire two provinces to separatists.

Ukrainian officials had never held out much hope of holding Sievierodonetsk but have sought to exact a high enough price to exhaust the Russian army.

Ukraine's top general Valeriy Zaluzhnyi wrote on the Telegram app that newly arrived, U.S.-supplied advanced HIMARS rocket systems were now hitting targets in Russian-occupied areas.

The war has had a huge impact on the global economy andEuropean security, driving up gas, oil and food prices, pushing the European Union to reduce reliance on Russian energy and prompting Finland and Sweden to seek NATO membership.

(Additional Reporting by Max Hunder, Alessandra Prentice and Reuters bureaux; Writing by Madeline Chambers, Peter Graff and Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Peter Graff and Alistair Bell)

Sievierodonetsk falls to Russia after one of war's bloodiest fights
 

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Comments (17)
Sam Dur
Sam Dur Jun 26, 2022 5:10AM ET
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Why most of the comments here support Ukraine? Why all this Russofobia is revealed? If you're American, could you imagine Russia urges Mexico to join anti American military bloc? Would the US army resist it or accept as a "Mexican free will of choice"? Russia is the biggest country in the World. Ukraine just second to Russia in the Europe. Russia just can't let this huge 40M people country to join the anti-Russia NATO military bloc. They don't want to conquer Europe. They're just fighting to protect their National Security interests.
Max German
MaxiGE Jun 26, 2022 5:10AM ET
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dont be hypocrite the nato never asked ukraine. understand what nato is and what ukraine should do before they could even enter nato. this was a russian lie. was 2008 invasion on georgia also due nato? u should follow some real sources instead of ria or russia today. who are the ones spreading this that they invade ukraine cause they would join nato, besides russia fears nato neigbours if it controls ukraine how much nato countries do they border then? does it increase risk or not?
Ken Roth
Ken Roth Jun 26, 2022 5:10AM ET
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Nato has never invaded russia and you have been bordering Nato with years of peace
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Jun 26, 2022 5:10AM ET
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You misunderstand NATO. If your premise is broken, of course you will come to a conclusion in support of barbarism.
Nils Hullmann
Nils Hullmann Jun 26, 2022 3:51AM ET
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Ukrainians in Germany go directly into welfare system and make more money than the average salary in Ukraine.....guess who is paying
Ken Roth
Ken Roth Jun 26, 2022 3:51AM ET
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Nils is a russian trying to divide us have followed his comment he suffers from skizo because he also calls himself 99 and other names in this forum. So pay no attention to him
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Jun 26, 2022 3:51AM ET
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I know! I know! Confiscated Russian assets.
Benjamin USA
Benjamin USA Jun 25, 2022 9:06PM ET
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Russian Mir is depressing
Mark Jannetty
Mark Jannetty Jun 25, 2022 8:43PM ET
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this war is Biden and Obama doing. that's why Biden is stealing billions from Americans to fund his cover up in Ukraine. only way for Ukrainians to survive is to surrender. no one is going to help them and putin knows that
Benjamin USA
Benjamin USA Jun 25, 2022 8:43PM ET
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Triggered nonsense
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Jun 25, 2022 8:43PM ET
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Hilarious! You really have a great brain.
Roberto Baggio
Roberto82 Jun 25, 2022 8:43PM ET
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Brad Albright  While you are not for sure.
Jun 25, 2022 7:00PM ET
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Lets be honest we all knew Ukraine didnt stand a chance
Jay Garrelts
Jay Garrelts Jun 25, 2022 6:25PM ET
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It’s like Trump got the ball rolling for them now Joe supposed to look like he’s doing something interesting
Imre Zsombor Varga
Imre Zsombor Varga Jun 25, 2022 3:45PM ET
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From Hungary-Quite a few of all the experts demand peace from this. Unfortunately, Ukraine has lost what we knew from the beginning. We demand immediate peace on behalf of Europe and the surviving people of Ukraine! In the meantime, we still have our own territory in the Ukrainian part. The events are unfortunate, but that remains a logical step.
Ken Roth
Ken Roth Jun 25, 2022 1:34PM ET
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Piss ants are more correct that should be squashed
Mantas Bepavardis
Mantas Bepavardis Jun 25, 2022 1:06PM ET
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Russians are the cockroaches of the world
Junk Man
Junk_Man Jun 25, 2022 1:06PM ET
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The US government is the cockroach of the world and the Americans that believe MSM are a species beneath the cockroach... The mmn geek shall inherit the earth
Junk Man
Junk_Man Jun 25, 2022 1:06PM ET
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The meek shall inherit the earth
Benjamin USA
Benjamin USA Jun 25, 2022 1:06PM ET
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Junk Man spam as usual
Ken Roth
Ken Roth Jun 25, 2022 10:03AM ET
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Putin only understands strength, so if we do nothing fast he will gain his territories and be a big hero in russia because they have been able to steal land from another country and nobody could stop him. He will gather strenght and start all over until he has ukraine and moldova and georgia and then he will build up forces against nato and this will end in a wwIII probably without nukes to start with. So we need to help ukraine fast and stop putin now
Ken Roth
Ken Roth Jun 25, 2022 10:03AM ET
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History has shown us if you deal with a dictator you cannot give him an inch. Just look at adolf he was allowed to take land without great war and Russia already have crimea without consequences
 
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