Ukraine orders retreat from strategic Donbas town as Russia advances
Lysychansk now stands as the final major city out of Russian hands in the Luhansk Oblast
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Ukrainian forces received orders to retreat from the strategic Donbas city of Severodonetsk early Friday morning amid a Russian offensive that threatens to encircle a major portion of the Ukrainian Army.
Luhansk Gov. Serhiy Haidai announced the retreat order, per Economist correspondent Oliver Carroll.
The city of Severodonetsk is situated opposite the Siverskyi Donets river from the oblast capital city of Lysychansk and was one of the last major bastions of Ukrainian resistance in the region. The Russians largely secured the city in late May, but Ukrainian forces have remained on that side of river contesting the occupation up to the present.
The evacuation from Severodonetsk means Lysychansk stands as the final major city out of Russian hands in the Luhansk Oblast. The former has been the provisional capital of Ukrainian Luhansk since the eponymous city that formerly held that role fell into the hands of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic, a pro-Russian separatist polity.
Luhansk and Donetsk Oblast make up the contested Donbas region. While almost all of Luhansk is now in Russian hands, only a portion of Donetsk has fallen to Muscovite forces. The city of Donetsk itself, however, is under Russian separatist control while Mariupol fell after a lengthy and devastating siege in late May.
Withdrawal from the region may prove difficult as the Russians are reportedly using helicopters to destroy bridges and infrastructure to cut off the Ukrainian Army's escape, per Gov. Haidai.
The Russians currently hold positions to the west of Lysychansk from both its North and South with only a 10 mile stretch of unconquered land between them and the complete encirclement of Ukrainian positions in Luhansk, according to Livemaps.