Ukrainian forces pull back from Avdiivka to dodge encirclement, army chief says

Ukrainian troops are being moved to ‘more favourable lines’

Stuti Mishra
Saturday 17 February 2024 06:19 GMT
Related: ‘History is watching’ Biden warns House over Ukraine funding after Navalny death

Ukraine is pulling back its soldiers from the embattled town of Avdiivka after the White House warned it was “at risk of falling into Russian control” due to an ammunition shortage.

Ukraine’s commander-in-chief Oleksandr Syrskyi said the troops were being withdrawn after four months of fight “to avoid encirclement and preserve the lives and health of service personnel”.

He added that the troops were moved to “more favourable lines”.

“Our soldiers performed their military duty with dignity, did everything possible to destroy the best Russian military units, inflicted significant losses on the enemy in terms of manpower and equipment,” Mr Syrskyi wrote on Facebook early morning on Saturday.

“We are taking measures to stabilise the situation and maintain our positions.”

The decision comes as Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine completes two years on 24 February with the Kremlin looking for a morale boost ahead of the presidential election in March.

A soldier with a shoulder bag with a drone FPV jammer on the road to the city, on the outskirts of Avdiivka (Getty Images)

Avdiivka, a gateway to the Russian-seized city of Donetsk, has been engulfed in heavy fighting for four months and was seen as critical for Ukraine to stop Russia from advancing further.

But in recent days, Ukrainian troops have been facing a deteriorating situation in the town.

Ukraine’s 3rd Assault Brigade wrote on social media that Russian warplanes have been dropping about 60 bombs a day, relentlessly shelling the area and launching assaults with armour and infantry.

A day before the withdrawal order, Rodion Kudriashov, the brigade’s deputy commander, said that while the troops were holding out against attacks, the situation could “soon become critical”.

“The enemy is trying to penetrate our defence and in some places to bypass our positions,” he told The Associated Press.

Earlier on Thursday, White House national security spokesman John Kirby said Avdiivka could fall largely “because the Ukrainian forces on the ground are running out of artillery ammunition”.

After four months of fighting and shelling, the town has been almost destroyed, with fewer than a thousand people remaining out of its pre-war population of 31,000, according to Vadym Filashkin, the Donetsk regional governor.

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