1014 GMT August 13, 2022
The city of Sievierodonetsk, the administrative center of the Luhansk region, has faced relentless Russian bombardment. Ukrainian troops fought the Russians in house-to-house battles before retreating to a huge chemical factory on the city’s edge, where they holed up in its sprawling underground structures, AP reported.
In recent days, Russian forces have made gains around Sievierodonetsk and the neighboring city of Lysychansk, on a steep bank across the river, in a bid to encircle Ukrainian forces.
Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said that the Ukrainian troops have been given the order to leave Sievierodonetsk to prevent that.
“We will have to pull back our guys,” he said. “It makes no sense to stay at the destroyed positions, because the number of casualties in poorly fortified areas will grow every day.”
He said the Russians were also advancing toward Lysychansk from Zolote and Toshkivka, adding that Russian reconnaissance units conducted forays on the city edges but were driven out by its defenders.
The Russian Defense Ministry declared Friday that four Ukrainian battalions and a unit of “foreign mercenaries” totaling about 2,000 soldiers have been “fully blocked” near Hirske and Zolote, south of Lysychansk.
The Russian military controls about 95% of Luhansk Province and about half of neighboring Donetsk Province, the two areas that make up the Donbas.
Capturing Sievierodonetsk in the Donbas area has been a key goal of the Russians as they seek to seize a swathe of eastern Ukraine.
EU grants Ukraine candidate status
In other development, European leaders formally accepted Ukraine as a candidate to join the EU on Thursday, Reuters reported.
Although it could take Ukraine and neighboring Moldova more than a decade to qualify for membership, the decision at a two-day EU summit is symbolic step that signals the bloc's intention to reach deep into the former Soviet Union.
Also on Thursday, a senior aide to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said the EU should stop adding sanctions on Russia and instead push for a ceasefire and the start of negotiations.
The aide said the more sanctions the EU adopted the more they hurt the bloc, while Russia survived.
"At the end of the day Europe will be on the losing side of this war because of the economic problems. Our recommendation would be that we should stop the sanction process," Balazs Orban, not related to the prime minister, told Reuters in an interview.
Hungary is one of the most pro-Russian EU countries, heavily dependent on Russian gas and oil.