How Ukrainian defenders left Sierrodonetsk by boat under cover of night – Reuters.com

SLOVIANSK, Ukraine, June 27 (Reuters) – One of the last Ukrainian defenders of Sierrodonetsk said he withdrew in a boat, outraged that he was leaving after enduring weeks of Russian attack on the destroyed city, but happy to be alive as he and others crossed the river. on more ground.

Russian forces on Saturday completely occupied the eastern city on the front line, both sides said, confirming Kiev’s biggest defeat on the battlefield more than a month after some of the bloodiest fighting in the war. Read more

“It was a shame of course because a lot of effort was put into the defense – it took months,” said Danilo, a 24-year-old soldier who said he was among the last to leave.

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“But … we’re not too upset because we also want to live.”

He and another soldier, Anton, who also left in recent days, described their retreat across the Siverskyi Donets River in interviews Sunday.

They spoke to Reuters in Slavyansk, a town some 60 km (35 miles) west of Sievierodonetsk that has now become one of Ukraine’s key strongholds for the defense of the industrial center of Donbas that Russia is targeting.

“It was mostly in the dark for security reasons. The locations of the crossings were constantly changing because they were also shelled,” Danilo said.

He said that, as far as he knew, no one was injured in the retreat.

FEARS OF ANOTHER MARIUPOL

Anton said Sijevierodonetsk defenders fear a repeat of the siege of the Azovstal steel plant in the southern port city of Mariupol, where hundreds of Ukrainian fighters hid before finally surrendering.

In Sievierodonetsk, Ukrainian forces were also pushed into a vast industrial area, this time into the Azot chemical plant.

“There were a lot of civilians, soldiers and everything was moving towards our environment,” said Anton, accusing the Russian army of using “scorched earth” tactics.

“If it was just infantry and assault, we could still defend ourselves, but their tactic is to destroy all buildings, destroy everything that exists, and we simply have nowhere to fortify, nowhere to wage a positional war, nowhere to defend ourselves. ,” He said.

“They’re just testing our endurance. There’s no logical explanation for their actions, but they’re just drawing us, that’s their whole tactic,” he said.

Moscow denies targeting civilians in what it calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine. Kyiv and the West accuse Russian forces of war crimes in a conflict that has killed thousands and sent millions to flee abroad.

Anton said the defenders were ordered to withdraw because there was no point in staying because of the heavy losses. He said he believed Russian forces had suffered much greater losses.

“When you fight for every street … every piece of this country becomes your home and you fight for everything. It’s hard (decision to withdraw), but that’s the order and it means it’s the right thing to do,” He said.

In Slovenia, Tatyana Khimeon, a former choreographer, said she volunteered to distribute supplies including socks, wet wipes, body armor and helmets.

“It’s hard for the boys when they leave the occupied cities. So we smile and hug them to cheer up the mood a bit,” she said.

“But in general their morale is good. We believe in them, we hope in them.”

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Written by Tom Balmforth; editing John Stonestreet

Our standards: Principles of trust of Thomson Reuters.

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