Sunday, 19 May 2024
WorldUkraine withdraws from the city of Avdiivka in the largest Russian advance...

Ukraine withdraws from the city of Avdiivka in the largest Russian advance since the capture of Bakhmut a year ago

Ukrainian troops withdrew early Saturday from the eastern city of Avdiivka, army chief Oleksandr Syrskyi said, marking the biggest development on the front since Russian forces captured Bakhmut in May last year.

In a Facebook post published this Saturday, the newly appointed Syrskyi stated that the decision was intended to “preserve the life and health of the military,” stabilize the situation and transfer troops to more favorable defense lines.

“Our soldiers fulfilled their military duty with dignity, they did everything possible to destroy the best Russian military units, [e] They inflicted significant losses on the enemy in terms of manpower and equipment,” he declared. “The life of military personnel is [de] the highest value.”

The city of Avdivka had become one of the great epicenters of the war today and the focus of a fierce battle that has drawn comparisons with the costly fight for Bakhmut last year.

Since last October, the Russian Army had intensified pressure to take this Ukrainian bastion located a few kilometers from the city of Donetsk – in the hands of Vladimir Putin’s troops. The city, one of the key points in the Russian attempt to take over Donbas, has been on the front line since 2014 and its capture is considered to reinforce Russian control over the city of Donetsk. It would also be a symbolic victory for Putin ahead of the upcoming presidential elections.

Avdivka Mayor Vitali Barabash had said this week that about 900 civilians remained in the city, down from the population of about 32,000 who lived there before the war. As he explained, no building has been unscathed by the fighting.

Moscow’s advances in this area represent the first litmus test for the newly appointed head of the Ukrainian Army, Oleksandr Sirski, who has sent reinforcements to Avdivka in recent days. “The operational situation is extremely difficult and tense. The Russian occupiers continue to increase their efforts and have a numerical advantage in personnel,” he acknowledged this Wednesday after visiting the area. Ukraine’s Third Assault Brigade confirmed this Thursday that it has been “urgently” redeployed to Avdivka and added that the situation in the area is “extremely critical.”

The commander of the Tavria Group of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Oleksandr Tarnavski, confirmed on Friday that after many months of fighting, the forces had withdrawn from the ‘Zenit’ position on the southeastern outskirts of Avdivka.

As the Russian invasion approaches two years, Ukrainian troops are under pressure along the front line, with ranks depleted and exhausted and a shortage of artillery shells worsening. due to the stagnation of an important US financing package.

US President Joe Biden had warned on Thursday that Avdiivka was at risk of falling into the hands of Russian forces due to a shortage of ammunition, after months of Republican opposition in Congress to the aid package.

The Russians have been bombing Avdiivka for months, but only in recent weeks have they made significant progress, with small groups of advance troops managing to enter the city itself.

Zelensky asks for help

The loss of the city almost two years after the Russian invasion has given Zelensky stronger arguments to ask the West for more urgent military help in his speech this Saturday morning at the Munich Security Conference, in which he described Avdivka’s withdrawal as “very logical and professional.”

“Since October they have been attacking poor Avdivka with all their weapons and all the strength they have, with thousands of their soldiers dying; With tens of thousands dead, what has Russia achieved? The exhaustion of their army,” Zelensky declared.

The president of Ukraine has acknowledged that his Army does not have the weapons it needs. “We do not have long-range weapons and Russia has them,” Zelensky said. He also stressed that Ukraine needs more air defenses to put an end to Russian air dominance and thus be able to guarantee the security of more areas of the country and make it possible for its soldiers to return. to move forward.

“We will be able to surprise them this year with our drone systems, with our radio-electronic warfare systems,” he said about the self-produced material that Ukraine is developing.

Zelensky seeks to seal new security agreements in Munich with France and Germany, the main providers of military aid to Ukraine amid the uncertainty of the continuity of US assistance to kyiv.

Ukraine faces a shortage of manpower and ammunition reserves, while US military aid has been delayed for months by Republicans in Congress blocking it.

The US feared the fall

On Thursday, US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Avdivka was “at risk of falling under Russian control,” largely because Kiev forces “are running out of artillery ammunition.” Russia, Kirby explained in a press conference, is sending wave after wave of conscript forces to attack Ukrainian positions. “They are reaching the Ukrainian trenches in Avdivka, and they are starting to overwhelm the Ukrainian defenses.”

“The situation in Avdivka seems critical,” noted analyst Michael Kofman said on X (formerly Twitter) on Thursday. “The rotation in the third round stopped the envelopment, but the current trajectory is quite negative. There is also the issue of the defensive lines, which do not seem well established behind the bag.” Kofman believes that “it is clear” that Ukrainian forces are withdrawing, as he indicated in another tweet this Friday.

For his part, Emil Kastehelmi, an open source intelligence analyst and expert in military history, explains that the Russians have continued to advance in the city and have penetrated the coke plant area, while ‘Zenit’ “has fallen.” , and “it seems that most of the defenders managed to withdraw.” “Remaining supply routes are seriously threatened,” he said in a tweet Thursday. “The situation is becoming more difficult, Avdivka will most likely fall soon if effective stabilizing measures are not taken.”

In the opinion of ISW researchers, the Russian capture of Avdivka will have “no operational significance and would probably only offer the Kremlin immediate informational and political victories.” They believe it offers Putin’s troops limited avenues for future rapid advances: they recall that Ukrainian forces have fortified many of the surrounding towns, and add that the Russian military has expended considerable manpower and material in its effort to capture city ​​and “will likely need to engage in an extended period of consolidation, reconstitution and rest before attempting a new offensive effort.”

Taking Avdivka “would give the Kremlin a battlefield victory, albeit a tactical one, to promote to the domestic public ahead of the Russian presidential election in March 2024,” adds the ISW. “Putin is likely to try to sell out the Russian ultranationalist community and the general Russian public the possible capture of Avdivka as a significant victory that consolidates control over the occupied city of Donetsk.

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