Saturday, August 20, 2022

Washington downplays Ukrainian retreat from Severodonetsk

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WASHINGTON: The United States on Friday played down the importance of Ukrainian forces’ retreat from the strategic city of Severodonetsk, with the Pentagon emphasizing the cost to Russia “for this very small, very incremental gain.”

“What (the Ukrainian troops) are doing is putting themselves in a position where they can better defend themselves,” a senior Pentagon official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

“The Russians are just eking out inch by inch of territory here,” she said.

“And I think it’s important to reflect on the cost that Russia has paid for this very small, very incremental gain.”

The eastern industrial hub of Severodonetsk has been the scene of weeks of street battles as outgunned Ukrainians put up a stubborn defense, and as Russians aim to consolidate power throughout the Donbas.

But Sergiy Gaiday, governor of the Lugansk region that includes Severodonetsk, said Friday that Ukrainian military forces in the city had received the order to withdraw.

According to some estimates, Russia now controls some 20 percent of Ukrainian territory.

The Defense Department official said the United States did not want to underestimate Ukrainian losses in territory or human lives, but said Russia’s gains have been “limited.”

“In saying that Russia is making incremental gains, I’m certainly not minimizing the territory that they do hold and how significant that is to Ukraine and really to the world as a significant violation of sovereignty,” she said.

“But that said, I think you have to compare the limited gains that Russia has achieved, versus what Russia’s original plan was,” she said, including Moscow’s failed efforts to capture the capital of Kyiv.

“And instead what we see is they have these gains around the edges.”

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