Ukraine troops ‘to be withdrawn’ from key city of Sievierodonetsk as street battles rage

Ukrainian troops will “have to be withdrawn” from the city of Sievierodonetsk which has seen fierce fighting in the past few weeks with Russian forces, the regional governor said on Friday.

The key eastern city has been the location for some of the heaviest fighting of the war and street-by-street battles have raged for a month, with Russia slowly making advances.

“Remaining in positions smashed to pieces over many months just for the sake of staying there does not make sense,” governor Serhiy Gaidai said on television.

He said that the troops in the city “have already received the order to move to new positions”.

The battle for the city is crucial for Russia to establish control over the last remaining Ukrainian-held area of the Luhansk region, with only the city of Lysychansk left in Ukrainian hands if Sievierodonetsk falls.

The Luhansk region is one of two provinces that make up the Donbas, an industrial area which Russia and its separatist allies in east Ukraine aim to fully capture as one of their war aims.

“In many respects, the fate of the Donbas is being decided there,” Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said of Sievierodonetsk recently.

Meanwhile, A senior official in the Russian-installed administration of Kherson region was killed in an apparent assassination on Friday, the deputy head of the administration told Reuters.

Dmitry Savluchenko, head of the families, youth, and sports department of the Kherson Military-Civilian Administration, was killed in a bomb blast.

And four people were killed after a Russian military cargo plane crashed in Moscow’s western city of Ryazan.

The plane — II-76 military cargo aircraft — crashed and caught fire while trying to make a landing the Russian city.

It all comes just a day after Ukraine and Moldova were granted candidate status to join the EU. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday their decision to accept Kyiv’s candidacy was among the most important for Ukraine since it broke from the Soviet Union 31 years ago.

“But this decision is not just being made for the benefit of Ukraine,” he said. “It is the biggest step towards strengthening Europe that could have been made right now…when the Russian war is testing our ability to preserve freedom and unity.”

Additional reporting by agencies

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