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Ukraine admits major defeat

Russian troops have taken over the town of Liman in the northern Donetsk region, the government in Kiev revealed, on Thursday evening. Ukrainian forces have reportedly withdrawn west-southwest towards Slavyansk.

“We have lost the town of Liman,” Alexey Arestovich, a key adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, admitted in a livestream on Thursday. 

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Though Arestovich cited “unconfirmed reports,” Russian military correspondent Alexander Kots posted a video of Russian troops in the city shortly thereafter, captioned “Liman is ours.” Ukrainian troops “fled” west and southwest, Kots added, while covering their retreat with artillery fire.

The storming of Liman lasted less than a week, with Russian forces entering the city on May 23. There were unconfirmed reports, on Telegram channels, that as many as 500 Ukrainian troops had surrendered. By Wednesday, three quarters of Liman was allegedly under Russian control, with the remaining Ukrainian troops said to be fortifying the industrial zone on the southwestern edge of town.

However, an unverified video posted on TikTok on Wednesday purported to show a group of Ukrainian soldiers clinging to an armored vehicle driving at high speed away from the town, amid an artillery bombardment.

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Liman was among the first towns in the Donetsk region to be taken over by militia opposed to the government in Kiev after the 2014 Maidan coup. Ukrainian “anti-terrorist” forces captured it in early June that year, and used their positions to lay siege to Slavyansk, where the separatist militia held on for another month.

News of the Ukrainian defeat at Liman comes amid the ongoing advance of Russian forces from Popasnaya, which threatens to completely cut off thousands of troops loyal to Kiev in the Severodonetsk-Lisichansk pocket.

Russia attacked the neighboring state in late February, following Ukraine’s failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow’s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German- and French-brokered protocols were designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.

The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.

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