Ukrainian troops will have to be withdrawn from the mostly Russian-occupied battleground city of Sievierodonetsk, the regional governor said on Friday.
Some of the heaviest fighting of the Russian invasion so far has taken place in Sievierodonetsk, where street-by-street battles have raged for a month as Russia has slowly and painstakingly taken more ground.
“Remaining in positions smashed to pieces over many months just for the sake of staying there does not make sense,” Serhiy Gaidai said on television.
He said troops in the city had already received the order to move to new positions, but did not indicate whether they had already done so or where exactly they were going.
The battle for the city is key for Russia to establish control over the last Ukrainian-held sliver of the Luhansk region. Only the city of Lysychansk will be left in Ukrainian hands if Sievierodonetsk falls.
The Luhansk region is one of two provinces that make up the Donbas, an area which Russia and its separatist allies in east Ukraine aim to fully capture as one of their war aims.
“In many respects, the fate of the Donbas is being decided there,” the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said of Sievierodonetsk recently.