After weeks of fierce fighting against Russia, Ukrainian troops have withdrawn from Lysychansk, the last major Kiev-controlled city in the eastern region of Luhansk, the country’s military command said on Sunday.
“In order to preserve the lives of the defenders of Ukraine, it has been decided to withdraw,” said a statement from the Armed Forces General Staff.
Ukraine’s military command said that, given the great “superiority” of Russian forces in weapons, ammunition and personnel, efforts are being made to extend the city’s defenses – which are a pre-war population of about 100,000 – “would lead to fatal consequences.”
Ukraine’s eastern region is a prime target for Russia: Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces in the Ukraine since 2014 Luhansk and The regions of Donetsk that make up Donbas’s main industrial area, and Russia’s recognition of its self-proclaimed People’s Republics, preceded the large-scale invasion of the country last February.
Donbas then became the main target of Russia’s stealthy offensive after Moscow failed to take control of the Ukrainian capital Kiev at the start of the current attack.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Sunday that “there is a risk” that the entire Luhansk region will soon be completely occupied by Russian troops. “There are such risks and we realize them,” he said at a news conference after meeting Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in Kiev.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told President Vladimir Putin earlier on Sunday that “complete control” had been established over Lysychansk and “a number of nearby settlements”, declaring “the liberation” of the entire Luhansk region.
Zelenskyy later said during his regular speech to the nation that Ukrainian troops would try to return to the area and would not let it go.
“Ukraine is not giving up anything. And if anyone there in Moscow reports anything about the Luhansk region, let them remember their reports and promises for February 24, in the early days of this invasion, in the spring and now,” he said. “Their current reports will crumble to dust, just like the previous ones.”