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Live updates: Russia’s war in Ukraine

Ukrainian firefighters work to extinguish a fire at a damaged residential building in Lysychansk, on Sunday.
Ukrainian firefighters work to extinguish a fire at a damaged residential building in Lysychansk, on Sunday. (Luhansk region military administration/AP)

The decision to withdraw from Lysychansk was “very difficult” but it was the right one, considering the losses Ukrainian forces would have incurred if they tried to hold on for additional time, according to the head of the Luhansk region military administration, Serhiy Hayday.

Russia has now taken control of Lysychansk, the last city in the Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine that was still under Ukrainian control. Ukraine’s military announced Sunday that it had been “forced to withdraw” from the critical city.

“There was a chance to hold Lysychansk for longer, but at what cost? To hold out there for another two weeks? Then Russian troops would have made a breakthrough from the Bilohorivka, Popasna and Komyshuvakha side and encircled our troops in Lysychansk, and we would have lost the whole group,” Hayday told CNN on Monday.

It is clear that it is very painful, very difficult, but now the boys are alive, the equipment is intact, everyone is able to continue fighting the Russian army,” he added.

Hayday called for more support from the West, conceding Russia had the advantage in the amount of equipment they were able to field in the area.

“They deployed an incredible amount of military equipment for the assault, there was daily shelling from morning till night and thousands of pieces of equipment, and thousands of new and new cannon fodder brought to their positions,” he said. “Our defenders will continue to fight and we will wait until we receive a sufficient number of foreign weapons to be able to stop the enemy, because, unfortunately, at the moment, the advantage in artillery is simply enormous with the Russians.”

Area held for almost five months: Hayday still commended the bravery and skill of the Ukrainian forces who were able to hold territory in the Donbas for a significant amount of time.

“30% of the oblast was already occupied [before the war], so our military had 70% left to build up a line of defense,” he said. “And it was the right decision — we’ve been holding it since February 24th, March, April, May, June, now July – for almost five months in a relatively small area.” 

Donbas’ remaining cities next target: Hayday went on to say Russia is likely to move towards the remaining cities in the Donetsk oblast still under Ukrainian control, to try and secure the entire Donbas.

“They are eager to reach the borders of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. In order to reach this goal they are incurring incredible, insane losses,” he explained. “They also need some kind of break there in order to catch their breath and raise their reserves somewhere again.”

“And as soon as we leave, they will immediately announce that they are part of the Russian Federation,” he added. “So that when we get enough weapons and start to take our territories back, they will be screaming that Ukraine has attacked Russia.”

Hayday concluded by saying Ukraine would go on to recover any lost territory. “I am absolutely sure we will get Luhansk oblast back,” he said.

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