Ukrainian troops set to withdraw from bitterly disputed city of Severodonetsk


After weeks of fierce fighting, Ukrainian forces will withdraw from a besieged town in the east of the country to avoid encirclement, a regional governor said on Friday.

The city of Severodonetsk, the administrative center of the Luhansk region, has faced incessant Russian bombardment. Ukrainian troops fought the Russians in house-to-house battles before retreating to a huge chemical plant on the outskirts of the city, where they dug into its sprawling underground structures.

In recent days, Russian forces have made gains around Severodonetsk and the nearby town of Lysychansk on a steep bank across the river in an effort to encircle Ukrainian forces.

Some Ukrainian forces remained entrenched with around 500 civilians at the Azot chemical plant, the only part of the city still under Ukrainian control.

Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said Ukrainian troops were ordered out of Severodonetsk to prevent this.

“We’ll have to pull our guys out,” he said. “It makes no sense to stay on destroyed positions, because the number of casualties in poorly fortified areas will increase every day.”

Haidai said Ukrainian forces had “been ordered to retreat to new positions and continue fighting there”, but did not give further details.

A man rides a scooter past a damaged car in Lysychansk on June 21. Ukraine says Russian shelling has caused extensive destruction in the eastern industrial city, which sits just across a river from Severodonetsk. (Anatolii Stepanov/AFP/Getty Images)

He said the Russians were also advancing towards Lysychansk from Zolote and Toshkivka, adding that Russian reconnaissance units had made incursions on the outskirts of the town but were driven off by its defenders.

The governor added that a bridge over a highway leading to Lysychansk was badly damaged in a Russian airstrike and became unusable for trucks. The claim could not be independently verified.

Russia commands a large part of 2 provinces

The Russian Defense Ministry said Friday that four Ukrainian battalions and a unit of “foreign mercenaries” totaling around 2,000 soldiers were “completely blocked” near Hirske and Zolote, south of Lysychansk.

After a failed attempt to capture Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, at the start of the invasion that began on February 24, Russian forces focused on the Donbass region, where Ukrainian forces have been fighting Moscow-backed separatists since 2014.

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Ukraine’s ambassador to Canada, Yulia Kovaliv, said Ukraine’s request for Canadian light armored vehicles was “under consideration”, but stressed that time is running out. “Every day of delay unfortunately costs the lives of our soldiers”

The Russian military controls about 95% of Luhansk province and about half of neighboring Donetsk province, the two regions that make up Donbass.

After repeated pleas to its Western allies for heavier weapons to counter Russia’s firepower advantage, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said an answer had come in the form of spears. – American medium-range rockets.

In a separate development, a pro-Moscow administration official in the southern city of Kherson who was captured by Russian troops early in the invasion was killed in an explosion on Friday.

The pro-Russian Kherson regional administration said Dmitry Savlyuchenko died when his vehicle exploded in what it described as a “terrorist attack”.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

More US military aid on the way

Gathered at a summit in Brussels, the leaders of the 27 countries of the European Union obtained on Thursday the unanimous approval required to grant Ukraine candidate status. This triggers an accession process that could take years or even decades.

EU officials said Ukraine had already adopted around 70% of EU rules and standards, but they also stressed the need for further far-reaching steps.

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Ukraine has obtained its candidacy for the EU

In a political victory for Ukraine and a potential blow to Vladimir Putin, the European Union granted Ukraine candidate status, setting it on the path to EU membership in the years to come. .

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky tweeted his gratitude and said: “The future of Ukraine is in the EU”.

“This is a victory. We have been waiting for 120 days and 30 years,” he said on Instagram, referring to the length of the war and the decades since Ukraine gained independence after the outbreak of the war. Soviet Union. “And now we will defeat the enemy.”

Ukraine applied for membership less than a week after the February 24 invasion of Moscow.

In 2013, Russian President Vladimir Putin opposed Ukraine’s plan to sign an Association Agreement with the EU and pressured the then Ukrainian President to step down at the last minute.

As the European bloc convened, U.S. officials said Thursday they would send an additional $450 million in military aid to Ukraine, including four more medium-range rocket systems, ammunition and other supplies.

Food crisis ‘could be even worse’ in 2023, says UN chief

Germany hosted a summit on global food security on Friday. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told those gathered in Berlin that the war in Ukraine has added to the disruption caused by climate change, the coronavirus pandemic and inequality to produce a “global hunger crisis unprecedented” which is already affecting hundreds of millions of people.

“There is a real risk that multiple famines will be declared in 2022,” he said in a video message to officials from dozens of wealthy and developing countries meeting in Berlin. “And 2023 could be even worse.”

António Guterres noted that harvests in Asia, Africa and the Americas will be hit as farmers around the world struggle to cope with rising fertilizer and energy prices.

“This year’s food access problems could become next year’s global food shortage,” he said. “No country will be immune to the social and economic repercussions of such a disaster.”

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Trudeau blames Russia for global food crisis, calls for isolation of Moscow

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau blamed Russia for the global food crisis and urged other Commonwealth leaders to steer clear of Moscow. But his calls were met with resistance as several countries met with Russia, China and Brazil instead.

Guterres said UN negotiators were working on a deal that would allow Ukraine to export food, including via the Black Sea, and let Russia bring food and fertilizer to world markets without restrictions .

The host of the Berlin meeting, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, said Moscow’s claim that Western sanctions imposed during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine were responsible for the food shortages was “completely unsustainable”.

Russia exported as much wheat in May and June this year as in the same months of 2021, Baerbock said.

Russia finds a home for its wheat in several countries, including many in Africa and the Middle East.