Russia could have a little closer control of the coveted donbas, the industrial region of eastern Ukraine where its military offensive is concentrated. After several months of relentless shelling and weeks of hand-to-hand fighting on the streets of Severodonetskthe penultimate city in Ukrainian hands in the province of Lugansk, kyiv seems to give her up for lost. The Ukrainian authorities have ordered their troops to withdraw from the city before the advance of the Russian military in the area.

“The Armed Forces will leave Severodonetsk. Our defenders have already received the order,” said the governor of Lugansk, Serhiy Haidai, who pointed out that the Russian forces “have almost destroyed” the town, according to the Ukrainian news agency Ukrinform. Haidai has underlined that he no longer makes sense to defend this enclave together with the Siversky River Donetsk, where about 100,000 Ukrainians lived before the start of the war. The town is now severely beaten. 90% of the city has suffered damage and about “80% of residential buildings will have to be demolished”, according to the governor, a picture that places Severodonetsk almost at the same level as Mariupolthe quintessential symbol of the indiscriminate brutality of the Kremlin’s offensive.

The fall of Severodonetsk could allow Russia to concentrate its forces on taking neighboring Lysychansk, the last city in the province under Ukrainian control, increasingly susceptible to being strangled in a pincer maneuver. Also the adjacent towns are progressively changing hands. The Russian Defense Ministry said Friday that its troops have captured a dozen villages and towns in the province in the past five days, while cornering some 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers.

Candidate to the European Union

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The bad news for Ukraine in the military field comes a day after the heads of state and government of the European Union granted Ukraine (and Moldova) the status of candidate countries. It is the first step on the road to the accession of these two countries, a process that may be reversible if they do not comply with the reforms that the EC has demanded of them in terms of judicial independence, the fight against corruption and organized crime, or when applying the law that limits the power of the oligarchs.

the ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskythanked European leaders for granting this status: “This is a unique and historic moment in relations with the EU. I am very grateful to (the President of the European Council) Charles Michel; to (the President of the European Commission , Ursula) Von der Leyen, and EU leaders for their support,” Zelensky said in a message on Twitter.

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