After weeks of heavy fighting against Russia, Ukrainian troops have retreated from Lysychansk, the last major Kyiv-controlled city in the eastern Luhansk region, the country’s military command said Sunday.
“In order to preserve the lives of the defenders of Ukraine, a decision was made to withdraw,” according to a statement from the General Staff of the Armed Forces.
Ukraine’s military command said that given the great “superiority” of Russia’s troops in terms of weapons, ammunition and personnel, attempts to prolong the defense of the city — which had a pre-war population of around 100,000 — “would lead to fatal consequences.”
The eastern region of Ukraine is a major target for Russia: Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014 in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions that make up the key industrial area of Donbas, and Russia’s recognition of the self-styled people’s republics there preceded its full-scale invasion of the country this past February.
Donbas then became the main target of Russia’s creeping offensive after Moscow’s failure to seize control of Ukraine’s capital of Kyiv at the start of the current assault.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Sunday that “there is a risk” that the whole Luhansk region could be fully occupied by Russian troops soon. “There are such risks, and we realize them,” he said at a press conference after a meeting with Australian PM Anthony Albanese in Kyiv.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reported earlier on Sunday to President Vladimir Putin that “full control” had been established over Lysychansk as well as “a number of nearby settlements,” and declared “the liberation” of the whole Luhansk region.
Zelenskyy said later during his regular address to the nation that Ukrainian troops would seek to return to the area and not let it go.
“Ukraine does not give anything up. And when someone over there in Moscow reports something about the Luhansk region, let them remember their reports and promises before February 24, in the first days of this invasion, in the spring and now,” he said. “Their current reports will turn into dust just as the previous ones.”