Why it matters: A full retreat from Severodonetsk would be the most significant setback for Ukraine amid Russia’s ongoing invasion since losing Mariupol, the southern port city, last month. It’s the last remaining major city in the Luhansk region of the Donbas still under Ukrainian control.
- “Unfortunately, they have almost left the city,” Mayor Oleksandr Stryuk said of Ukrainian forces that have endured weeks of bombardment in the city, per Reuters.
Catch up fast: On Friday, Luhansk region Gov. Serhiy Haidai said a withdrawal was imminent.
- “Unfortunately, we will have to remove our military from Severodonetsk, because staying in broken positions makes no sense — the number of dead is growing,” Haidai said in a Telegram post.
- Earlier this week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russian forces were trying to “destroy the whole Donbas step by step.”
The big picture: Moscow has backed separatist forces in Luhansk and Donetsk and demanded Ukraine relinquish the two provinces.
- Seizing Severodonetsk brings Russia closer to one of its goals: full control of Luhansk.
What’s next: Fighting is expected to intensify in the neighboring city of Lysychansk, where Ukrainian forces remain.