City of Severodonetsk now under Russian control following weeks-long battle

The Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk is now under the “full occupation” of Russian forces following a weeks-long battle.

Mayor Oleksand Stryuk said on national television: “The city is now under the full occupation of Russia. They are trying to establish their own order, as far as I know they have appointed some kind of commandant.”

Russia’s Interfax news agency also cited the defence ministry as saying the city in the Luhansk was now under full control of Russian forces.

Previously home to more than 100,000 people, Severodonetsk is now largely destroyed following concentrated shelling during the Russian offensive.

The plan from Ukrainian officials was reportedly never to fend off the Russian advance, but rather fight a war of attrition leaving Vladimir Putin’s forces vulnerable to a counter-offensive.

Having withdrawn from Severodonestk, Ukrainian forces will be looking to mount another defence at the nearby city of Lysyschansk, across the Siverskyi Donets river.

it comes as it was revealed that several Russian generals have been removed from their commands by military chiefs as a result of the progress of the Ukraine war, UK Defence Intelligence has said.

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They include the commander of Airborne Forces General-Colonel Andrei Serdyukov; and commander Southern Group of Forces General of the Army Alexandr Dvornikov, according to the intelligence branch of the Ministry of Defence.

On Friday, it was revealed Ukrainian forces had been ordered to withdraw from Severodonetsk after weeks of fierce street fighting, in order to limit more casualties and regroup.

The move, which is the biggest strategic loss for Ukraine since the withdrawal from Mariupol, is likely to be seen by Russia as a significant victory.

Ukrainian officials said troops in Severodonetsk were ordered to withdraw as there was very little left to defend in the bombed-out eastern city.

Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said on Ukrainian television that “Remaining in positions smashed to pieces over many months just for the sake of staying there does not make sense”.

The fate of hundreds of civilians trapped in a chemical plant remains unknown.

South of Lysychansk, Ukrainian soldiers were forced to retreat from the towns of Hirske and Zolote in the face of overwhelming Russian forces, according to an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Ukraine’s foreign minister said the retreat did not mean his country was losing the war, pointing out that Russia had wanted to occupy the eastern Donbas region by 9 May.

Severodonetsk, Lysychansk and their surrounding areas are the last major pockets of Ukrainian resistance in the Luhansk region – 95% of which is under Russian and local separatist forces’ control.

UK PM warns of pressure for peace deal

The UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he feared Ukraine could face pressure to agree a peace deal with Russia that was not in its interests, due to the economic consequences of the war in Europe.

“Too many countries are saying this is a European war that is unnecessary… and so the pressure will grow to encourage – coerce, maybe – the Ukrainians to a bad peace,” he said.

Mr Johnson, who is in the Rwandan capital Kigali for a Commonwealth summit, said the consequences of Russian President Vladimir Putin being able to get his way in Ukraine would be dangerous to international security and “a long-term economic disaster”.

He underscored his personal support for Ukraine by telling the BBC that if the British government decided that “we had to abandon the Ukrainian cause because it was simply getting too difficult and… the cost… was too great in terms of inflation… economic damage” he would resign as he would have accepted he had “lost a very important argument”.

UK Defence Intelligence said Gen Dvornikov had probably for a time been acting as over-all operational commander in Ukraine.

The pair are just the latest officials to lose their positions as a result of the course of the war, according to UK intelligence officials, with Lieutenant General Serhiy Kisel, who commanded the elite 1st Guards Tank Army, also said to have been likely suspended for his failure to capture Kharkiv, and Vice Admiral Igor Osipov, who commanded Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, said to have likely been fired for the sinking of the cruiser Moskva in April.

Ukraine has some success in Kherson region

Command of the Southern Group of Forces (SGF) is likely to transfer to Colonel-General Sergei Surovikin, as SGF continues to perform a central part in Russia’s offensive in the Donbas, UK Defence Intelligence added.

For over 30 years, Col-Gen Surovikin’s career is said to have been dogged with allegations of corruption and brutality.

Ukraine’s general staff reported that its troops had some success in the Kherson region, pushing back the Russians from defensive positions near the village of Olhine, as a result of the latest in a series of Ukrainian counter-assaults.

Meanwhile, a Russian strike on a military base in Yavoriv, in western Ukraine, wounded four people, Lviv governor
Maxim Kozitsky said in a video post on Saturday.

Mr Kozitsky said six missiles were fired from the Black Sea, with four hitting their target and two being intercepted and
destroyed before striking the facility.

On Friday, President Zelenskyy told a crowd at Glastonbury via a videolink: “We in Ukraine would also like to live the life as we used to and enjoy freedom and this wonderful summer, but we cannot do that because the most terrible has happened – Russia has stolen our peace.”