Ukraine orders withdrawal from Sievierodonetsk to avoid encirclement

Four out of every five buildings in Severodonetsk have been damaged beyond repair by Russian shelling and airstrikes, and all the vital infrastructure in the city has been destroyed, said Serhiy Haidai, the head of Ukraine’s military administration for Luhansk. The overwhelming majority of the city’s residents have fled to safer parts of Ukraine or Europe in recent months.

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Defending Severodonetsk became nearly impossible after Russia destroyed all three of the bridges across the Siverskyi Donets River that connected the city to Lysychansk, the only town in the Luhansk region still under full Ukrainian control. In recent days, the resupply of Ukrainian troops in Severodonetsk was possible only by small river craft.

“It makes no sense to remain on positions that have been demolished over the months,” Mr. Haidai said in a TV appearance Friday. “The defenders have already received orders to pull back to new positions, new fortified areas, and to conduct full military activities and to inflict damage on the enemy from there.” Staying put could have led to encirclement and heavy losses, he added.

A Ukrainian reporter embedded with the forces in Severodonetsk, Yuri Butusov, said on social media that the troops already left the city overnight. They were shelled during the retreat but didn’t sustain casualties, he said.

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