Ukraine’s retreat from Severodonetsk after weeks of fighting against Russian forces in the eastern city was a “tactical” move to avoid a repeat of the fateful Azovstal siege in Mariupol, according to the country’s military intelligence chief.
Brigadier General Kyrylo Budanov said Friday’s pullout was ordered because weeks of Russian heavy artillery had “levelled” Severodonetsk “to the ground”. The devastation mirrored the fate of the port of Mariupol where Ukrainian soldiers sheltering in the Azovstal steel mill became trapped for weeks before surrendering.
Ukrainian troops had therefore “moved to higher ground” westward across the Siversky Donetsk river to the sister city Lysychansk and its surroundings. This retreat would make it “very difficult” for Russian forces positioned on the eastern banks of the river to cross and advance, particularly uphill, towards Lysychansk, he said.
“This was absolutely the right decision . . . a tactical regrouping,” he insisted.
Ukrainian forces have successfully bombed Russian convoys trying to cross the river on army pontoons. But Russian forces advancing from the south-east of Lysychansk, who do not face the river, did pose a threat, Budanov cautioned.
Both cities were, until recently, the last big government-controlled cities in the Luhansk region. Russian forces are pushing westward to Kramatorsk, Slovyansk and Bakhmut.
A former special forces soldier with combat experience in Donbas, the 36-year-old Budanov spoke at the weekend in his Kyiv office, as Russia stepped up missile strikes on the capital and elsewhere.
Sandbags were stacked along windows and combat gear was piled up on the floor. Outside lay a crater from a missile strike in the early phase of Russia’s…
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