Ukraine retreats from key city in major Russian gain

SIVERSK    –   The Ukrainian army retreated from the strategic city of Lysychansk Sunday, as Russia claimed a major victory by seizing control of the entire eastern Lugansk region.

The Ukrainian withdrawal followed weeks of fierce fighting and marked a decisive breakthrough for Moscow’s forces more than four months after their invasion and after turning their focus away from the capital Kyiv.

Lysychansk had been the last major city in the Lugansk area of the eastern Donbas region still in Ukrainian hands and this frees up Moscow’s forces to advance on Kramatorsk and Sloviansk in neighbouring Donetsk.

President Volodymyr Zelensky had earlier denied Russian claims of Lysychansk’s fall before the Ukrainian army announced the retreat on Sunday evening.

“The continuation of the defence of the city would lead to fatal consequences” in the face of Russia’s superiority in numbers and equipment, the army said in a statement.

“In order to preserve the lives of Ukrainian defenders, a decision was made to withdraw.

“Unfortunately, steel will and patriotism are not enough for success — material and technical resources are needed.”

Russian forces seized Lysychansk’s twin city of Severodonetsk last week following weeks of intense fighting.

The latest blow to Ukrainian resistance came after Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Sunday pledged further military support including armoured vehicles and drones during a meeting with Zelensky in Kyiv.

In an address late Sunday, Zelensky vowed Kyiv would fight on and ensure the military had “the most modern weapons”.

“It requires many negotiations, but we will ensure such a supply. Ukraine will reach the level when the fire superiority of the occupiers will be leveled.”

Rebuilding Ukraine ‘common task’ of democratic world: Zelensky

Rebuilding Ukraine was the “common task of the whole democratic world”, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Monday, insisting the recovery of his war-torn country would serve world peace.

“Reconstruction of Ukraine is the biggest contribution to the support of global peace,” Zelensky said, speaking via video link to an international conference in Switzerland on rebuilding his nation.

The two-day conference, held under tight security in the picturesque southern Swiss city of Lugano, had been planned well before Russia’s full-scale invasion on February 24.

It had originally been slated to discuss reforms in Ukraine before being repurposed to focus on reconstruction. Lugano is not a pledging conference but will instead attempt to lay out the principles and priorities for a rebuilding process designed to begin even as the war rages. Zelensky said the aim of reconstruction was “the most ambitious project of our time”. But he told the leaders from dozens of countries, international organisations and the private sector that the colossal investments that would be needed were not for Ukraine alone.

“Reconstruction of Ukraine is not a local task of a single nation. It is a common task of the whole democratic world,” he said.

“We are uniting the democratic world… The outlook of free people always prevails.”

Zelensky’s Swiss counterpart and conference co-host, Ignazio Cassis, stressed the importance of supporting Ukraine “in this time of horror, wanton destruction and grief”.

It was vital, he said, “to provide the people of Ukraine with the prospect of a return to a life of self-determination, peace and a bright future”.

While Zelensky was unable to leave Ukraine to co-host the event with Cassis, Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal attended, in a rare trip outside Ukraine since the war began.

Five other government ministers were also among the around 100 Ukrainians who made the journey, although Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba reportedly had to cancel at the last moment due to illness.

In all, around 1,000 people were scheduled to participate in Lugano, including European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, and the prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Lithuania and Poland.

“We know that their fight is also our fight,” Von der Leyen told the conference.

“(That is) why we work in these days to help Ukraine to win this war,” she said.

“We must also make sure that Ukraine wins the peace that will come for sure.”

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