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Monday, November 28, 2022

Ukrainian forces may withdraw from troubled eastern city

Kyiv, UK – Ukrainian forces battling Russian troops in a key eastern city appeared on the verge of retreat on Wednesday, though the regional governor insisted they were still fighting “for every centimeter” of the city.

The urban battle for Svyarodonetsk testified to a painstaking, inch-by-inch advance by the Russian army as they locked in control of the entire Luhansk region, one of two that make up the industrial stronghold known as the Donbass.

After a failed attempt to dominate Kyiv in the early days of the war, Russia shifted its focus to the area of ​​coal mines and factories. The region has been partially controlled by Russia-backed separatists for years, cutting supply lines and allowing Moscow to support its attack by separatist forces. But Russia also faces Ukraine’s most battle-hardened soldiers, who have been fighting separatists there for eight years.

The result is a slow-moving sloop in which the two sides exchange barrages of artillery that seemingly inflicted heavy damage with neither apparent movement.

Luhansk government Serhi Haidai acknowledged the difficulties in Svierodonetsk, telling The Associated Press on Wednesday “Maybe we’ll have to retreat, but there’s a fight going on in the city right now.”

Earlier, on the Telegram messaging app, he said that the Ukrainian military was fighting “for every centimeter of the city”.

He indicated that they may return to positions that are easier to defend. The city across the river, Lysychansk, sits on high ground.

Svirodonetsk became the administrative capital of the region after the separatists captured the city of Luhansk in 2014. It and Lisichansk are both between Russian forces to the east, north and south, and Luhansk is among the few cities and towns that still stand out. ,

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The Kremlin claims that its forces have captured almost the entire Luhansk region, and about half of the Donetsk region that surrounds the Donbass.

Meanwhile, in the north, Russian shelling in the northern Kharkiv region has killed five people and injured 12 others in the past 24 hours, regional governor Ole Sinihubov said on Wednesday.

The Russian military said on Wednesday that Moscow used “air-launched, high-precision missiles” to hit an armor repair plant near Kharkiv. There has been no confirmation from the Ukrainian authorities that such a plant would be affected.

On the diplomatic front, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov held talks with Turkish officials on Wednesday on a plan that could allow Ukraine to export its grain to global markets via the Black Sea amid a growing global food crisis. Is.

Ukraine is one of the world’s biggest exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil, but war and the Russian blockade of its ports have halted that flow, jeopardizing food supplies to many developing countries. Many of those ports are still heavily mined.

An estimated 22 million tons of grain are sitting in silos in Ukraine.

Turkey is looking forward to negotiating a secure corridor under UN supervision for shipments of Ukrainian grain as well as Russian food and fertilizer.

Before Russia’s February 24 invasion, Ukrainian officials said that Russia controlled about 7% of the country, including the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014, and separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk. occupied area. Last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Russian forces had captured 20% of the country.

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While Russia has better firepower, the Ukrainian defenders have strong roots and have shown the ability to counterattack.

“The absolutely heroic defense of the Donbass continues,” Zelensky said in his nightly video address late Tuesday.

Speaking ahead of a Financial Times conference, Zelensky stressed the need for Ukraine to defeat Russia on the battlefield, but also said he is still ready for peace talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Speaking at a news conference after talks with Lavrov, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said his country was “very optimistic” that Russia and Ukraine could be persuaded to return to talks aimed at ending the war. Is. The talks between the two sides, organized by Turkey in the first conflict, saw no progress.

But a former senior US intelligence official said the timing was not right.

Andrea Kendall-Taylor of the Washington-based Center for a New American Security said, “You’re not going to the negotiating table unless either side feels they have an advantage that they can pursue.” “

“The Russians think they’ll be able to take the whole Donbass and then use that as an opportunity to call for talks,” Kendall-Taylor said at an online symposium organized by Columbia and New York Universities.

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Associated Press journalist Oleksandr Stashevsky in Kyiv; Yurus Karmanau in Lviv; and Andrew Keitel in New York contributed to this report

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