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Ukraine pulls back from Severodonetsk

Ukraine signaled on June 24 its troops were withdrawing from the city of Severodonetsk. (Video: Reuters)
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Ukraine will withdraw its forces from Severodonetsk, the eastern city that is the locus of Russia’s war effort, regional governor Serhiy Haidai said early Friday. The move comes after months of grinding artillery bombardments. Russian troops are advancing toward the neighboring city of Lysychansk, he said.

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The retreat “may take some time,” the head of the Severodonetsk regional administration told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. The Pentagon sought to downplay the significance of the withdrawal. A senior U.S. defense official said Friday that the Ukrainians are moving to a “position where they can better defend themselves.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on Friday accused the E.U. and NATO of assembling a “coalition” for “war.” Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov played down the E.U.'s decision Thursday to grant Ukraine and Moldova candidate status while cautioning that Russia’s relationship with Europe was at a low ebb.

At a news conference after a meeting of top officials from around the world in Berlin on Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that “Russia has already lost.” He cited Moscow’s failure to take away Ukraine’s sovereignty and the predicted further shrinking of Russia’s economy because of Western sanctions.

E.U. has backed candidate status for Ukraine. Here’s what that means.

Here’s what else to know

  • Blinken is in Berlin for a gathering of foreign ministers on food security — an issue that has been exacerbated by the war in Ukraine and Russia’s blockade of key ports.
  • A Ukrainian official said Friday that the country would require at least a decade to removes mines and explosives that riddle the country, Reuters reported.
  • The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency warned Friday that conditions have become “untenable” at the nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia in southern Ukraine, which Russian forces took over in March.