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War in Ukraine: Ukrainian army withdraws from positions near Avdiivka

The situation in Avdiivka is becoming critical for Ukraine. Kyiv announced on Friday that its army had withdrawn “with minor losses” from a position it held south of the eastern city, where the situation has deteriorated significantly in recent days amid increased attacks from Russia.

Ukraine risks abandoning the area, which is now largely destroyed, facing increasing resource constraints due in part to the blocking of American military aid, while Russia, which has more men and ammunition, can hope to conquer within a few a few days before the second anniversary of the start of the invasion on 24 February. In this case, it will be Russia’s greatest symbolic victory since the failure of Kyiv’s counteroffensive last summer.

“The decision to withdraw was made to save personnel and improve the operational situation,” wrote the Ukrainian general commanding the area, Alexander Tarnavsky, in a Telegram. The withdrawal from this fortified position occurred “with minor losses,” he added, while ensuring that the army would continue to “hold the city” and continue sending reinforcements and additional ammunition to Ukrainian forces on the ground.

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, during a European tour, said from Berlin that he is in constant contact with the military command, whose main task, according to him, is to preserve the lives of soldiers and “minimize losses.”

“Extreme” pressure

According to Kyiv, the Russian army has been building up assault waves since October to take the industrial city, despite very significant human losses. The situation is reminiscent of the Battle of Bakhmut, a city that Moscow conquered in May 2023 after ten months of fighting at the cost of tens of thousands of deaths and injuries.

“The pressure from the Russians is simply extraordinary,” Alexander Borodin, a spokesman for the 3rd Assault Brigade, a Ukrainian unit sent in recent days as reinforcements to defend the city and which was already fighting at Bakhmut, said on television Friday night.

After the failure of the Ukrainian summer counter-offensive, it was the Russians who went on the attack, facing a Ukrainian army that was struggling to replenish its ranks and was low on ammunition.

Symbolic meaning

The White House, for its part, noted that “Avdiivka is at risk of falling under Russian control,” even as military aid promised by the United States was blocked for months by Republican rivals of President Joe Biden, risking playing into the hands of Vladimir Putin.

This city has an important symbolic meaning. It briefly fell into the hands of Moscow-led separatists in July 2014 before returning to Ukrainian control and remaining so despite the February 24, 2022 invasion and its proximity to Donetsk, a pro-Russian stronghold for a decade.

It is now largely destroyed, but according to local authorities, about 900 civilians remain there. Moscow hopes that its capture will complicate the Ukrainian bombing of Donetsk.

Source: Le Parisien

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