Sievierodonetsk falls to Russia

·1 min read
Smoke rising from Sievierodonetsk
Smoke rising from Sievierodonetsk Photo by ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP via Getty Images

Ukrainian forces are withdrawing from the city of Sievierodonetsk, a regional official said Friday, bringing Russia one step closer to total control of Luhansk Oblast.

Luhansk Gov. Serhiy Haidai said the city's infrastructure had been "completely destroyed" and that it "makes no sense to stay," CNN reports. The city's mayor, Oleksandr Stryuk, said Saturday that Sievierodonetsk "is now under the full occupation of Russia."

Russia's next major objective is likely to be Lysychansk, the twin city of Sievierodonetsk located on the opposite side of the Siverskyi Donets River. Russian forces are reportedly attempting to approach Lysychansk from the south, a move that will allow Russian troops to potentially encircle the city and avoid a costly frontal assault across the river.

The U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War assessed Friday that "Ukrainian forces will occupy higher ground in Lysychansk, which may allow them to repel Russian attacks for some time if the Russians are unable to encircle or isolate them."

Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk, both major industrial centers, had a combined pre-war population of around 200,000. Russian forces launched an all-out assault on Sievierodonetsk in late May, using their overwhelming artillery advantage to hammer the city and its surrounding towns.

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