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26 Dec, 2023 19:12

Ukraine confirms retreat from key Donbass town

Kiev’s top general has acknowledged Russia’s capture of Maryinka, saying his forces pulled back to the outskirts
Ukraine confirms retreat from key Donbass town

Ukrainian commander-in-chief Valery Zaluzhny has confirmed the retreat of his troops to the outskirts of Maryinka, a key Donbass town, where Russian forces claimed victory on Monday after months of fierce fighting for the stronghold.

Speaking at a press briefing on Tuesday, Zaluzhny acknowledged the pullback of Ukrainian troops from Maryinka, located to the west of Donetsk. He likened the heavy fighting for the town in recent months to Ukraine’s loss earlier this year of Artyomovsk (known as Bakhmut in Ukrainian).

“This is exactly the same as it was in Bakhmut – street by street, block by block, and our soldiers were being targeted – and the result is what it is,” Zaluzhny said. “This is a war, so the fact that we have now retreated to the outskirts of Maryinka and set up positions behind Maryinka in some areas is nothing that can cause any public outcry. Sadly, this is what war is like.”

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu announced on Monday that Moscow’s forces had fully liberated Maryinka. Ukrainian troops had dug in for nearly a decade, using the town as a key hub in their battles with Donbass separatists and later the Russian Army. President Vladimir Putin said the victory pushed Ukrainian units further away from Donetsk and would provide Russian troops wider operational freedom in future maneuvers.

Ukrainian officials have denied Russia’s claim of capturing Maryinka, saying that fighting for the town continued. However, Zaluzhny said Kiev’s troops remained only on the northern outskirts of the town. He added that although every inch of territory is important to Ukraine, “the lives of our soldiers are even more important to us.”

Kiev’s top general has clashed increasingly in recent months with President Vladimir Zelensky, whose office rebuked Zaluzhny in November for telling a Western media outlet that the conflict with Russia had reached a “stalemate.” Zelensky repeatedly hyped a long-awaited summer counteroffensive that cost Ukraine around 160,000 casualties and failed to make any significant battlefield gains.

Russian forces achieved their main 2023 goal by thwarting the counteroffensive, Shoigu said on Tuesday. He added that the Russian military was steadily making strides toward overall victory in the conflict, “constantly taking more advantageous positions and expanding territories under its control in all directions.”