Ukrainian troops withdrew from the town of Avdiivka

by Yuliia Dysa and Tom Balmforth

KYIV (Reuters) – Ukrainian troops have withdrawn from the devastated eastern town of Avdiivka, Ukraine’s new army chief said in the early hours of Saturday, paving the way for Russia’s biggest advance since May 2023, when it captured the town of Bakhmut.

Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated his troops after the withdrawal, announced as Ukraine faces a serious ammunition shortage and US military aid has been delayed for months by Congress.

Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky, who took over as head of Ukraine’s military in a major reshuffle last week, said Ukrainian forces had retreated to safer positions outside the city, which 32,000 inhabitants before the war.

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“I decided to withdraw our units from the city and switch to defense from more favorable lines in order to avoid encirclement and preserve the life and health of the soldiers,” he said in a statement.

The loss of the city, nearly two years after the launch of the Russian invasion, strengthened President Volodimir Zelensky’s arguments for urgent military aid during the Munich security conference.

Ukraine’s president praised his troops for “exhausting” Russian forces at Avdiivka and said he agreed with the withdrawal order, in order to save lives.

US President Joe Biden said 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 Congressional opposition to a new military aid program.

Joe Biden telephoned Volodimir Zelensky on Saturday, who expressed the hope that the American Congress would make the “wise decision” to approve an aid package for his country.

The capture of Avdiivka is essential for Russia as it seeks to secure full control of the two provinces in the industrial Donbass region, and thus give President Vladimir Putin a victory on the battlefield as he seeks to assert himself. get re-elected next month.


Avdiivka bore the brunt of increasing offensive pressure from Russian forces in the east.

“We are taking measures to stabilize the situation and maintain our positions,” Oleksandr Syrsky said.

Russia intensified its offensive on Avdiivka in October and Ukraine’s positions had looked increasingly fragile for weeks.

The Third Assault Brigade, a large Ukrainian infantry unit, was rushed to the city to help reinforce troops this week, as other Ukrainian forces withdrew from the southeast of the city.

The fighting there is “hell,” the brigade said, adding on social media that Ukrainian forces were outnumbered by Russian soldiers by a ratio of around six to a hundred in some places.

Russia has not given details of its losses in the fighting for Avdiivka, but Ukrainian officials and Western military analysts say its advances have come at the expense of large numbers of troops and armored vehicles.

The town, where fewer than 1,000 residents remain, is just north of the Russian stronghold of Donetsk, which Ukraine lost control of in 2014.

(Reporting by Yuliia Dysa in Gdansk and Tom Balmforth in Kyiv, with contribution from Maria Ponnezhath in Bangalore, French version Kate Entringer)

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