Ukrainian forces are leaving the strategic city of Sievierodonetsk after weeks of fierce fighting, a setback that could pave the way for Russia to seize a larger swath of eastern Ukraine as the conflict enters its 122nd day.

A picture taken on June 21, 2022 from the town of Lysychansk, shows a large plume of smoke rising on the horizon, behind the town of Sievierodonetsk, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
A picture taken on June 21, 2022 from the town of Lysychansk, shows a large plume of smoke rising on the horizon, behind the town of Sievierodonetsk, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (AFP)

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Ukraine shells Sievierodonetsk, Russia suspends evacuations

Some Ukrainian special forces are still in Sievierodonetsk, directing artillery fire against Russians said Oleksiy Arestovych, advisor to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The statement was likely confirmed by Russia-backed local police there.

Ukrainian shelling has forced Russia-backed forces to suspend evacuation of people from the Sievierodonetsk chemical plant,  Tass cites local Russian police.

We'll get lost cities back - Zelenskyy

President Zelenskyy has vowed that Ukraine will get lost cities back from the Russians. 

"Sievierodonetsk, Donetsk, Luhansk, we'll get them all back."

Zelensky noted that it is the fifth month of the Russian attacks turned into a "full-scale war" adding that "invaders were going to seize most of our country on the fifth day, and are forced to make such a missile show-off on the fifth month, which strategically does not do anything for Russia."

Ukraine's Sievierodonetsk 'fully occupied' by Russian army: mayor

Ukraine's Sievierodonetsk was "fully occupied" by the Russian army, the city's mayor has said, after weeks of fighting over the key eastern city.

"The city has been fully occupied by the Russians," mayor Oleksandr Striuk said.

The Ukrainian army on Friday said it would withdraw its forces from the city of some 100,000 inhabitants before the war to better defend the neighbouring city of Lysychansk.

Striuk said civilians had started to evacuate the Azot chemical plant, where several hundred people had been hiding from Russian shelling. "These people have spent almost three months of their lives in basements, shelters." 

Ukraine to fight on from higher ground in Lysychansk: spy chief 

Ukraine is regrouping its forces from the rubble of the city of Sievierodonetsk to higher ground in neighbouring Lysychansk to gain a tactical advantage over Russia, the head of Ukraine's military intelligence agency has said.

In an interview in Kiev, Kyrylo Budanov, told Reuters that Ukrainian forces would continue their defence of that front from Lysychansk in eastern Ukraine and that it was no longer possible to hold the line in Sievierodonetsk.

"The activities happening in the area of Sievierodonetsk are a tactical regrouping of our troops. This is a withdrawal to advantageous positions to obtain a tactical advantage," said, Budanov, head of the Defence Intelligence of the Ministry of Defence of Ukraine.

Russia is using the tactic ... it used in Mariupol: wiping the city from the face of the earth. Given the conditions, holding the defence in the ruins and open fields is no longer possible. So the Ukrainian forces are leaving for higher ground to continue the defence operations.

Kyrylo Budanov, Head of Ukraine's military intelligence agency

European mayors duped into calls with fake Kiev mayor

The mayor of the Ukrainian capital of Kiev has warned that an imposter is posing as him and communicating with other officials, including three European mayors who were duped into believing they were having a video call with the real Vitali Klitschko.

“Several mayors in Europe have been contacted by a fake mayor of Kiev who has been saying absurd things,” Klitschko told German daily newspaper Bild. "This is criminal energy. It must be urgently investigated who is behind it."

The office of Berlin Mayor Franziska Giffey tweeted on Friday night that she cut short a call with the reputed Kiev mayor after his comments and questions made her suspicious.

Street clashes in key Ukraine city Lysychansk: pro-Russian separatists

Russian troops and allies have entered Lysychansk and street fighting is under way in the eastern Ukrainian city neighbouring its strategic twin Sievierodonetsk, pro-Moscow separatists said.

"The people's militia of the Luhansk People's Republic and the Russian army have entered the city of Lysychansk. Street fighting is currently taking place," a representative for pro-Russian separatists, Andrei Marochko, said on Telegram.

Russian protests over Ukraine, Moldova EU bids show weakness: Kiev

Russia's protests over the EU giving Ukraine and Moldova candidate status show Moscow's weakness, Ukraine's top diplomat has said.

"After decades of lost policies based on aggression, coercion and lack of respect, all that Russia can do now is to spit threats against other states," Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Twitter. "All it does is show Russia's weakness."

"We are by the side of the government and the people of our friend Moldova in the face of renewed threats coming from Moscow," he said.

Dozens of missiles target Ukraine military facilities: officials

Dozens of Russian missiles have rained down on military facilities in western and northern Ukraine, local officials said, as Europe's biggest land conflict since World War Two enters its fifth month.

The governor of the Lviv region in western Ukraine, Maxim Kozytskyi, said in a video posted online that six missiles were fired from the Black Sea at the Yavoriv base, with four hitting the base and two being intercepted and destroyed before hitting their target.

"Nearly 30 missiles were launched at one military infrastructure facility very near to the city of Zhytomyr," said Vitaliy Bunechko, governor of the Zhytomyr region in the north of the country, adding that nearly 10 missiles had been intercepted and destroyed. In the Chernihiv region, also in the north, governor Vyacheslav Chaus said the small town of Desna had come under "massed" rocket strikes.

'Massive' bombardment from Belarus of border region: Ukraine army

Ukraine's northern border region of Chernihiv has come under "massive bombardment" from the territory of Belarus, the Ukrainian army has said.

"Around 0200 GMT (5:00AM local) the Chernihiv region suffered a massive bombardment by missiles," Ukraine's northern military command wrote in a statement on Facebook. "Twenty rockets, fired from the territory of Belarus and from the air, targeted the village of Desna," it said, adding that infrastructure had been hit without any reported casualties.

The strikes come as Russian President Vladimir Putin meets his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko in Saint Petersburg.

Ukraine says Russia aiming to drag Belarus into conflict

Ukraine's intelligence service has said that Russia is aiming to drag Belarus into the conflict, after missiles have been fired from Belarusian territory into a northern border region.

"Today's strike is directly linked to Kremlin efforts to pull Belarus as a co-belligerent into the war in Ukraine," the Ukrainian intelligence service, which is part of the defence ministry, said on Telegram.

Russian troops kill 'up to 80' Polish fighters in Ukraine: Moscow

Russia has said its troops have killed "up to 80" Polish fighters in "precision strikes" in eastern Ukraine.

"Up to 80 Polish mercenaries, 20 armoured combat vehicles and eight Grad multiple rocket launchers were destroyed in precision strikes on the Megatex zinc factory in Konstantinovka" in the Donetsk region, the Russian defence ministry said in a statement.

Ukraine already using US-supplied rocket systems in conflict - top general

US-supplied HIMARS rocket systems are already working and hitting targets in Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine, the country's top general has said.

"Artillerymen of the Armed Forces of Ukraine skillfully hit certain targets - military targets of the enemy on our, Ukrainian, territory," Chief of Ukraine's General Staff Valeriy Zaluzhnyi wrote on the Telegram app.

Russia pushes to block second city in eastern Ukraine

Russian forces are trying to block a city in eastern Ukraine, the region's governor has said, after their relentless assault on a nearby city forced Ukrainian troops to begin withdrawal after weeks of intense fighting.

Russia also launched missile attacks on areas far from the heart of the eastern battles.

Serhiy Haidai, governor of the Luhansk region, said on Facebook that Russian forces are attempting to blockade the city of Lysychansk from the south. That city lies next to Sievierodonetsk, which has endured relentless assault and house-to-house fighting for weeks.

Ukraine reconstruction, food security to dominate G7 agenda

Leaders of the world's seven wealthiest nations will gather in Germany for talks on additional sanctions against Russia and the medium- and long-term reconstruction of Ukraine.

The three-day G7 meeting at Schloss Elmau in the Bavarian Alps will start on Sunday.

Russia has removed several key generals from Ukraine: Britain

The British defence ministry has said that Russia has likely withdrawn several generals from key command roles in the Ukraine conflict this month.

"Since the start of June, the Russian high command has highly likely removed several Generals from key operational command roles in the war in Ukraine," the ministry said in its daily Twitter update.

Ukrainian forces have been ordered to withdraw from the battleground city of Sievierodonetsk after weeks of fierce street fighting, in order to limit more casualties and regroup.

UK's Johnson says he fears Ukraine will be coerced to make 'bad peace'

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that he feared Ukraine could face pressure to agree to a peace deal with Russia that was not in its interests, due to the economic consequences of the conflict in Europe.

"Too many countries are saying this is a European war that is unnecessary...and so the pressure will grow to encourage - coerce, maybe - the Ukrainians to a bad peace," he told broadcasters in the Rwandan capital Kigali, where he is attending a Commonwealth summit.

Johnson said the consequences of Russian President Vladimir Putin being able to get his way in Ukraine would be dangerous to international security and "a long-term economic disaster".

Ukrainian army leaving battered city for fortified positions

After weeks of ferocious fighting, Ukrainian forces have begun retreating from a besieged city in the country's east to move to stronger positions, a regional official said, the four-month mark in Russia's attack.

The planned withdrawal from Sievierodonetsk, the administrative center of the Luhansk region, comes after relentless Russian bombardment that has reduced most of the industrial city to rubble and cut its population from 100,0000 to 10,000. Ukrainian troops fought the Russians in house-to-house battles before retreating to the huge Azot chemical factory on the city's edge, where they remain holed up in its sprawling underground structures in which about 500 civilians also found refuge.

In recent days, Russian forces have made gains around Sievierodonetsk and the neighboring city of Lysychansk, on a steep bank across a river, in a bid to encircle Ukrainian forces.

For live updates from Friday (June 24), click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies