Ukraine’s embattled Avdiivka at risk of falling to Russian forces, says White House

By Isaac M February 16, 2024

The White House said Ukraine’s besieged city Avdiivka facing onslaught from Russian forces for months now was at risk of falling as Ukrainian soldiers lacked artillery ammunition to fight back.

“Unfortunately, we’re getting reports from the Ukrainians that the situation is critical, with the Russians continuing to press Ukrainian positions every single day. Avdiivka is at risk of falling into Russian control,” White House spokesperson John Kirby said.

“In very large part, this is happening because the Ukrainian forces on the ground are running out of artillery ammunition,” he said, calling the situation in the warzone “incredibly intense”.

This comes hours after Ukraine said it was pulling out troops from some parts of the eastern town to better positions after months of heavy fighting.

Avdiivka has been a flashpoint of the frontline since the Russians launched a mechanised offensive last October, but up to now Ukrainian defences had held strong. Russia, meanwhile, has lost hundreds of vehicles and tens of thousands of soldiers.

“In Avdiivka a manoeuvre is underway in some places to withdraw our units to more advantageous positions, in some places to force (the Russians) out of positions,” Ukrainian military spokesperson Dmytro Lykhoviy said in televised comments.

“Therefore the key announcement with regards to all this is that supplies to Avdiivka and evacuations from there are difficult.”

He added that the military had activated a “reserve logistics artery” that had been prepared in advance. The difficult situation was confirmed by president Volodymyr Zelensky in his evening video address on Thursday.

“The situation on the front – Avdiivka, the east in general. We are doing everything possible to ensure that our soldiers have sufficient managerial and technological capabilities to preserve as many Ukrainian lives as possible,” he said.

Russian forces have fixated their resources and energy on capturing the Ukrainian town in Donetsk as its latest territorial gain in its continuing full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Any complete seizure of territory could give Russia full control of the two provinces that make up the industrial Donbas region. Ukraine has deployed the battle-hardened reserve fighters from Third Assault Brigade – a crack team known to be one of its most prominent fighting units – to now defend the last swathes of the city.

The brigade, which comprises assault infantry, said the situation in Avdiivka was “hell” and “threatening and unstable”, but that it had conducted a raid against Russian forces in parts of the town and inflicted heavy casualties.

The brigade took part in a counteroffensive in eastern Ukraine last summer and fought in the battle of Bakhmut, another town in eastern Ukraine that held out for many months before being captured last May.

“The enemy is continuing the active rotation of its troops (around Avdiivka) and is deploying new forces and equipment to the town,” the brigade said on the Telegram messenger.

“The situation at the moment the brigade was brought in was extremely critical.”

The unit’s deputy commander, Maksym Zhorin, said the fighting was much fiercer than the battle of Bakhmut and that Kyiv’s forces were outnumbered and outgunned in Avdiivka.

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