Ukraine said Russian forces “completely occupied” a city south of the strategically important city of Lysichansk in eastern Luhansk region as of Friday, and Moscow said it had surrounded about 2,000 Ukrainian troops in the area.
The loss of Gorsky and several other settlements around it puts Lysychansk, the last major Ukrainian-controlled city of Luhansk, under the threat of encirclement from three sides by advancing Russian forces.
“Unfortunately, today… the entire Gorsky district is occupied,” said Alexei Babchenko, head of the Gorsky municipality, on television. “There are some minor, local battles on the outskirts, but the enemy has entered.”
“A red flag is flying over the municipal administration[in Girsk],” a spokesman for the regional administration told Reuters by phone.
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The Russian Defense Ministry said on Friday that it had rounded up up to 2,000 Ukrainian troops, including 80 foreign fighters, in Girsk. Reuters was unable to independently verify the report.
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A spokesman for the regional administration declined to comment on the allegation.
At its daily briefing on Friday, the Russian Defense Ministry said its forces had “completely isolated” a group of Ukrainian units in the Gorsky and Zolote area. It said they surrounded four Ukrainian battalions, an artillery group, and a “detachment of foreign mercenaries.”
Half of Zolote is under Russian control, he said, adding that it is conducting “continuous attacks” around encircled Ukrainian forces in Girsky.
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Ukraine said on Friday that its troops are withdrawing from Severodonetsk, sister city of Lysychansk, a site of heavy shelling and street fighting, in a major setback in its fight to defeat Russian forces.
“Our troops had to withdraw and conduct a tactical retreat, because there was essentially nothing to defend. There was no city left there, and secondly, we could not allow them to be surrounded, ”said Alexander Musienko, a Kyiv military analyst.