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Ukraine could withdraw from Sievierodonetsk.  What does this mean for Russia’s Donbass offensive?

The Ukrainians have, indeed, already lost Sievierodonetsk’s critical infrastructure and may seek “a reasonable withdrawal” from the city, said Michael Clarke, professor of war studies at King’s College London. The city “is not so important strategically, but it has become symbolically important, like Mariupol, and the Russians are putting a lot of effort into taking it,” Clarke added.

He expects the Ukrainian forces to withdraw to Lysychansk, take another position there and hold it as long as they can. Lysychansk is on higher ground and Russian troops would have to cross the Siverskyi Donets River to attack it.

Losing both would give Russia full control of Luhansk, a key target in the Donbass offensive that has become the focus of its war after earlier setbacks highlighted by a pushback around the capital, Kyiv.

Zelenskyy reiterated earlier this week that Ukraine will ultimately seek to regain control of all of its territory currently occupied by Russia.

But if pulling out now might make military sense for Ukraine, it would be a blow that might not be so easily reversed.

Ukraine’s political and military leaders face a dilemma when it comes to Sievierodonetsk, said Michael A. Horowitz, a geopolitical and security analyst who is head of intelligence at consultancy Le Beck International.

“If we are heading for a long war of attrition, I think that losing a great city like Sievierodonetsk and having no prospect of taking it back will be a big problem for Ukraine – it will not mean that Ukrainians lose the war. , but it’s still a pretty big setback,” Horowitz said.

“At the same time, militarily, there are certain realities that Ukrainian military leaders are trying to take into account,” Horowitz added. “The city is almost surrounded, and every time you send reinforcements there, that’s manpower you won’t have for potentially more battles.”

Associated press and Reuters contributed.

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