Russia claims “total control” of Avdiïvka: 24 hours after the Ukrainian withdrawal, kyiv delivers a first bitter assessment

Nicolas Tonev (special correspondent in Ukraine) with AFP / Photo credits: CHRIS MCGRATH / GETTY IMAGES EUROPE / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP
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7:08 a.m., February 18, 2024

Russia on Saturday claimed “total control” of Avdiivka, in eastern Ukraine, with the White House linking this symbolic success conceded to Russia by the Ukrainians and the blocking of additional military aid to Kiev by the American Congress. “An important victory,” according to Vladimir Putin.

The Ukrainian army announced on the night of Friday to Saturday its withdrawal from Avdiïvka after months of tough fighting and intensification of Russian attacks with a view to seizing this largely ruined city. And this despite very high losses in men and equipment.

Faced with a growing lack of resources due in particular to the blocking of American military aid, Ukraine could hardly avoid this withdrawal in the face of Russia which was pushing its troops, more numerous and with more ammunition, to achieve success on the battlefield a few days before the second anniversary of the start of the invasion, February 24.

Without Western help, the Ukrainian army cannot hold out

A withdrawal which, according to Ukrainian generals, allows many soldiers’ lives to be saved for future battles. But Russian troops still managed to capture Ukrainian soldiers in the battle. The kyiv General Staff recognizes this: “It’s a hard blow”, because these soldiers will become a valuable bargaining chip.

The withdrawal is also a concrete demonstration that the Ukrainian army cannot hold out without Western help. Lack of cannons, lack of ammunition, lack of planes… The repercussions on the ground are now very rapid and the coming months, due to American procrastination, risk being extremely difficult.

Ukraine retreats

The Ukrainian army has no choice but to strengthen its defense lines by moving them back. New trenches are already being dug. On the side of the Russian troops, the benefit of the capture of Avdiïvka is not enormous: it is the capture of a ruin at the cost of gigantic losses. The main strategic interest is the protection of the large city of Donetsk which will now be a little more sheltered from Ukrainian artillery.

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