With Ukrainian forces routed, Russian soldiers are clearing the last pockets of resistance from the city
Russian forces have “completely captured” the city of Avdeevka, the Russian Defense Ministry announced on Saturday. Some 1,500 Ukrainian troops were killed as they retreated, leaving their weapons and equipment behind, the ministry said.
The seizure moves the front line further away from the city of Donetsk, thereby shielding its civilian population from bombardment by Ukrainian forces. Situated around 20km away, Avdeevka had been fortified and used as a staging ground for such attacks since 2014.
“Under the continuous fire of Russian troops, only individual scattered formations of Ukrainian militants” managed to escape the city, the ministry said, stating that Kiev had lost 1,500 men in the 24 hours before the city was liberated. Those that fled left their weapons and equipment behind them, it added.
“Measures are being taken to fully clear the city of militants,” the defense ministry said, adding that Russian forces would soon move to block Ukrainian units holed up in a coke plant on the city’s outskirts.
After appointing a new commander-in-chief, who surged elite Western-trained units into Avdeevka in a failed bid to hold the city, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky conceded on Saturday that the order had been given to retreat. With the bastion almost completely encircled by Russia’s ‘Center’ group of forces, Zelensky called the order “absolutely logical.”
Following the capture of Avdeevka, Russian forces will continue their offensive to “further liberate the Donetsk People’s Republic from Ukrainian nationalists,” the ministry’s statement concluded.
A Ukrainian defeat at Avdeevka had been predicted by officials in Washington and Western journalists for several weeks. Earlier this week, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby blamed the loss of the city on the drying up of Western aid, while Zelensky echoed this excuse on Saturday, accusing his Western patrons of creating “an artificial shortage of weapons.”
In a briefing to reporters on Friday, a Pentagon official told reporters that the situation in Avdeevka could soon be repeated in “many other locations along the forward line,” and that “Ukraine’s defense will likely collapse” if American lawmakers fail to authorize a new $60 billion military aid package for Kiev.
Ukrainian troops are pulling back to avoid encirclement and destruction, the president has said
The Ukrainian military’s decision to withdraw from the Donbass stronghold of Avdeevka under relentless Russian pressure was “absolutely logical,” President Vladimir Zelensky has said. He explained that by doing so, Kiev is avoiding heavy casualties.
The announcement of the retreat was made on Friday by General Aleksandr Syrsky, Ukraine’s recently appointed commander-in-chief, who said that the decision sought “to stabilize the situation” and help Kiev maintain its positions.
His remarks came on the heels of reports from the front line suggesting that Ukrainian troops in Avdeevka were in dire straits. A senior commander of the Ukrainian 3rd Assault Brigade, which was recently urgently redeployed to the sector, described the situation as “critical” on Friday, adding that parts of the unit had been encircled. Several media reports also suggested that Russian troops had managed to cut the main logistics route to the embattled town.
Speaking at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, Zelensky attempted to downplay the latest developments, explaining that “in order to avoid encirclement, it was decided to withdraw to other positions.” This was done to “keep the maximum number of Ukrainians safe,” the president said, insisting that it was the right call.
He also noted that it “does not mean that people have withdrawn kilometers back, and Russia has captured anything.” Zelensky claimed that Moscow had succeeded “only in destroying several small settlements and towns,” with most of the damage being to Ukrainian lives.
Despite the latest setback, the Ukrainian leader insisted that Kiev would still win, arguing that it was limited only by a lack of adequate weaponry. “It depends not only on us. And the situation in Avdeevka confirms this. Unfortunately, keeping Ukraine in an artificial shortage of weapons… allows [Russian President Vladimir] Putin to adapt to the intensity of hostilities,” he complained.
Avdeevka has been a frontline city since 2014 when hostilities first erupted in Donbass following a Western-backed coup in Kiev. The area was often used by the Ukrainian military to shell residential districts in Donetsk, located just 20km from the city.
Meanwhile, an unnamed Pentagon official suggested on Friday that Ukraine might soon be unable to hold the line against Russia unless Congress approves a new funding request. Recently, the US House of Representatives failed to pass an additional $60 billion in aid for Ukraine, after Republicans demanded more provisions to improve security on the US southern border.
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