The Ukrainian army retreated from the strategic city of Lysychansk over the weekend, 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 them invasion and after turning their focus away from the capital Kyiv.
Leaders from dozens of countries and international organizations will meet Monday in Switzerland to map out a “Marshall Plan” to rebuild Ukraine — aimed to begin even as Russia’s war efforts continue to rage.
A major flashpoint in the conflict, Lysychansk had been the final holdout in the Lugansk area of the eastern Donbas region and Moscow’s capture of it frees up Russian forces to advance on Kramatorsk and Sloviansk in neighbouring Donetsk.
“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 Ukrainian army said in a statement announcing its retreat Sunday evening.
“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.”
The fall of Lysychansk comes after Russian forces seized its twin city of Severodonetsk last week after bouts of intense fighting.
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 levelled.”
The latest country to provide aid was Australia, whose Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Sunday pledged further military support — including armored vehicles and drones during a meeting with Zelensky in Kyiv.