The Ukrainian authorities ordered their forces on June 24 to withdraw from the city of Severodonetsk, a strategic lock in Donbass, where the Russian army is concentrating its efforts as part of its military intervention which began at the end of February.
“It no longer makes sense to stay in positions that have been constantly bombarded for months […]. All essential infrastructure has been destroyed. 90% of the city is damaged, 80% of the houses will have to be destroyed,” said the governor of the part of the Lugansk region hitherto controlled by kyiv, Serguiï Gaïdaï, quoted here by AFP.
While Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky still predicts a “certain” victory against the Russian army, Serguiï Gaïdaï had prepared the ground on the night of June 23 to 24 by evoking a potential withdrawal from the city. “Under constant shelling we have suffered too much damage and a retreat may be necessary […]. There are 568 civilians left in shelters in Azot”, had indeed warned this official who gives daily updates on the military situation in the Donbass.
Ukrainian forces struggling in Donbass
Officer of the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Lugansk (LPR), Andrei Marotchko, for his part indicated on June 24 on Telegram that all the villages in the Hirske Zolote area, a few kilometers south of Lyssytchansk, Severodonetsk’s twin town located just across the Donets River, were under Russian or pro-Russian control.
A sign of Ukraine’s difficulties in the theater of operations, Pavlo Kyrylenko, the governor of the part of the Donetsk region under Ukrainian control, further south, had for his part told AFP the day before that “no more of the area under his administration was not “safe” for its inhabitants, the fighting there being too violent.
Ten days earlier, when it had announced the provision of a “humanitarian corridor to allow the evacuation of civilians” from Severodonetsk, the Russian defense accused Ukraine of having “cynicically failed the humanitarian operation” by having obstructed its progress.
Targeted by Russian strikes for weeks, the city of Severodonetsk is a crucial stage in the military operation through which Russian President Vladimir Putin claims, among other objectives, that of protecting the Russian-speaking populations of Donbass, victims according to him of a “genocide”.
As a reminder, this region notably includes the people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk (whose independence was recognized by Russia in February) which have been the subject of recurrent bombardments by kyiv since 2014, the year during which the authorities of these two territories had announced a secession with Ukraine, in the wake of the Maidan coup. Over the past eight years, hostilities in the Donbass have killed more than 13,000 people from all sides, according to the UN.
The Russian military intervention which began on February 28 is strongly condemned by the West, led by the United States, as “an unprovoked and unjustified attack by the Russian army”. In addition to the sanction measures decreed in recent months against Russia, several Western chancelleries claim a recurring supply of arms to kyiv and are stepping up their efforts to initiate the process of Ukraine’s accession to the European Union.
On 23rd June the leaders of the 27 Member States of the Union thus recognized Ukraine and Moldova as candidates for EU membership.