Source: www.nytimes.com : 2022-06-27 13:50:22 : The New York Times
LVIV, Ukraine — Days after Ukrainian officials confirmed that their forces had retreated from the devastated industrial city of Sievierodonetsk, the city’s exiled mayor on Monday painted a bleak picture of life for those who remain there, in a pocket of the east where Russian forces have focused their attention in recent weeks.
“There’s no good news I can share with you,” the mayor, Oleksandr Striuk, said in a morning news conference as he described a Russian-occupied city battered and in places leveled by artillery fire.
About 7,000 to 8,000 civilians, out of a prewar population of 160,000, were still in the city when it fell to Russian forces on Friday, Mr. Striuk said, based on information from sources still inside. Their humanitarian situation is dire, with infrastructure razed and clean water and food in short supply.
About 90 percent of the city’s buildings have been destroyed, Ukrainian officials said earlier.
Ukrainian forces have withdrawn west toward Lysychansk, the twin city on the opposite bank of the Siversky Donets River. But with no bridges still standing, they had to use whatever materials they could find in Sievierodonetsk to retreat, Mr. Striuk said.
He and other local officials were forced to flee elsewhere in Ukraine when the situation deteriorated. Those who remain will likely be allowed to evacuate only to Russian-held cities, as has been the case in other captured areas.
There was a certain symbolic importance attached to Sievierodonetsk, the mayor acknowledged, and it had become a regional administrative hub in Luhansk Province after pro-Russian separatists seized part of the region in 2014.
He also said that Russian forces were now likely to focus their efforts on Lysychansk, the last city in Luhansk to remain in Ukrainian hands.
After abandoning their thwarted push to take Kyiv early in the war, Russian forces have been seeking to claim full control of Donbas, the eastern region containing the provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk where their separatist allies already held territory.
On Monday, Serhiy Haidai, the governor of Luhansk, called on civilians to evacuate Lysychansk, calling the situation “very difficult.”
“Due to the real threat to life and health, we call for an evacuation immediately,” he said in a post on the social messaging app Telegram. “Save yourself and your loved ones. Take care of the children. Be sure that you will be taken care of in the evacuation cities on the territory of Ukraine.”
The general staff of the Ukrainian military said in a statement on Monday that Russian forces were trying to blockade Lysychansk from the south, with the support of artillery, and were shelling civilian and military infrastructure in the area.
Even after the Ukrainian withdrawal from Sievierodonetsk, the Russian assault on the east has not slowed. Russian troops launched 20 strikes on 12 settlements in Donetsk Province from Sunday into Monday, with civilian casualties recorded, according to a Telegram post from the Ukrainian National Police.
Much of Ukraine, even areas of the west and north that had escaped the worst of the fighting in recent weeks, remained on edge on Monday after tensions were raised by a sudden escalation in strikes on Kyiv and other areas over the weekend.
Dozens of rockets were fired from Belarusian airspace toward Kyiv and the surrounding region, and at least one person was killed in the city.
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