Victorious on the diplomatic field since Thursday and the formalization of its status as a candidate for the European Union, Ukraine is losing ground from a military point of view. In Severodonetsk, a key industrial city bombed relentlessly by the Russian army, the situation is disastrous for the defense forces. So much so that the Ukrainian resistance has been ordered to withdraw from the city, the regional governor announced on Friday morning.
Bombarded by the Russians for weeks, the city of Severodonetsk is on the point of falling entirely into the hands of the invader. While the governor of the Lugansk region spoke on Thursday of a “retreat that may be necessary” in the coming days, it will surely take place this Friday. “The Ukrainian armed forces will have to withdraw from Severodonetsk. They have received the order”, announced, on Telegram, Serguiï Gaïdaï. “It no longer makes sense to stay in positions that have been constantly bombarded for months,” he said, adding that “all essential infrastructure has been destroyed. 90% of the city is damaged, 80% houses will have to be destroyed”.
According to him, there would remain 568 civilians entrenched in the shelters of the Azot factory. Severodonetsk is, for Russia, a crucial step in its project to conquer the entire Donbass. Yesterday, Russian Lieutenant-Colonel Andrei Marotchko estimated that at the rate at which his soldiers were going, “the entire territory of the People’s Republic of Lugansk would soon be liberated”, describing the Ukrainian resistance as “futile”. In addition, the Russian army continues to shell the region of Mykolaiv, in the South, where it announced that it had destroyed 49 fuel reserves and three armored repair centers.
Meeting at a summit in Brussels, the European Union endorsed Ukraine’s candidacy on Thursday, a highly symbolic step nearly four months after the invasion launched by the Russian army. “Today marks a crucial step on your path to the European Union, we have a future together,” European Council President Charles Michel said on Twitter, congratulating the Ukrainian president.
Volodymyr Zelensky, present by videoconference before the representatives of the Twenty-Seven, praised a political “victory”, which his people had been waiting for since independence in 1991. “The Ukrainian and European flags will fly together when we rebuild our country together after this war,” he said Thursday evening in his daily video address to his compatriots.
The granting of this candidate status to Ukraine, but also to Moldova, is a “very strong signal vis-à-vis Russia”, for French President Emmanuel Macron. He sees it as “a political gesture” of “a strong and united Europe”. “We have advanced by leaps and bounds”, and “all of this we owe to the Ukrainian people who are fighting to defend our values, their sovereignty, their territorial integrity”, he declared.
For his part, Russian President Vladimir Putin took advantage of a virtual summit of the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa), organized on the same day as that of Brussels, to denounce the “selfish actions” of the countries Westerners and call for BRICS leadership to “create a truly multipolar system”.
In response to the desire to grant Ukraine and Moldova EU candidate status, Russia called the decision on Friday “an internal matter for Europe”. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stressed that it is “important” for Moscow that “all these processes do not bring more problems for Russia and (…) in the relations of these countries with the Russia”. He also said he hoped this would not result in a deterioration of relations between Moscow and Brussels, which are currently at such a low level “that it is very difficult to deteriorate them further”.
Dmitry Peskov also denounced Moldova’s desire “to become more European than the Europeans themselves”, and recalled that Turkey, which has been an EU candidate for twenty years, “has never been able to advance further. But at the same time, it has become a sovereign and independent country”.
Undermined by the firepower of the Russian artillery and aviation, the Ukrainian forces are now basing their hopes on the arrival of heavy weapons, relentlessly demanded from the Western allies, such as the American Himars multiple rocket launchers. . Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiï Reznikov announced on Thursday the arrival of the first examples of these powerful and precise weapons, a few hours before the White House announced a new component of military aid to kyiv, d an amount of 450 million dollars.
“The summer will be hot for the Russian occupiers. And the last for some of them,” threatened Oleksiï Reznikov, without specifying how many of these mobile batteries with a range of 80 km had been delivered at this stage. The question of financial and military aid will be one of the major subjects of the G7 and NATO summits, both scheduled for the coming days.