Russia says its forces move forward after Ukraine withdraws from
Russia says its forces move forward after Ukraine withdraws from

Russia says its forces move forward after Ukraine withdraws from Avdiivka

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia said on Saturday that its forces had inflicted a series of defeats on Ukrainian forces along the 1,000-km (620-mile) front line just as Ukrainian troops withdrew from the devastated eastern town of Avdiivka.

The Ukrainian withdrawal from Avdiivka paves the way for Russia’s biggest victory since the May 2023 capture of Bakhmut after a deadly battle that left thousands dead in a devastated city with barely a building intact.

After the failure of Ukraine to pierce Russian lines last year, Moscow has been trying to grind down Ukrainian forces just as Kyiv ponders a major new mobilisation and President Volodymyr Zelenskiy appoints a new commander to run the war.

Russian forces made inroads against Ukrainian troops along the front lines in a number of different directions, according to the Russian defence ministry.

“Avdiivka, as a major node of resistance for the armed forces of Ukraine, has fallen,” pro-Russian military blogger Yuri Podolyak said on Telegram.

Avdiivka, which had a pre-war population of around 32,000 and is called Avdeyevka by Russians, was briefly taken in 2014 by Moscow-backed separatists who seized a swathe of eastern Ukraine but was recaptured by Ukrainian troops who built extensive fortifications.

Avdiivka sits in the industrial Donbas region, 15 km (9 miles) north of the Russian-occupied city of Donetsk. Before the war, its Soviet-era coke plant was one of Europe’s biggest.

“It is not yet fully clear whether the enemy, covered from two sides by Avdiivka coke, is surrendering or not,” said Podolyak. “In general the situation is already clear — sooner or later we will take it. Since without this, it is pointless to continue strategically advancing here.”

Both Russian and Ukrainian officials say the battle for Avdiivka cost many thousands of lives, though neither side has given any casualty figures.

The West routinely gives estimates of Russian casualties in the war but rarely speaks about Ukrainian casualties which Moscow says are vast. Western intelligence assessments say hundreds of thousands of men on both sides have been killed or wounded in the war.

Avdiivka is the key to Russia’s aim of securing full control of the two eastern “Donbas” provinces – Donetsk and Luhansk. These are among the four Ukrainian regions Russia says it has annexed but does not fully control.

Avdiivka is seen as a gateway to Donetsk city, whose residential areas Russian officials say have been shelled by Ukrainian forces, sometimes from Avdiivka.

The New York Times reported that there had been chaotic scenes as Ukrainian forces retreated, with some of their wounded abandoned and soldiers starved of ammunition.

Russian forces control a little under one fifth of Ukraine’s internationally recognised territory. In the month to Feb. 13, Russian forces added 35 square miles of territory while Ukraine added just one square mile, according to the Belfer Center’s Russia-Ukraine War Report Card.

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Giles Elgood)

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