Saturday, April 20, 2024

Ukraine army chief announces troops withdrawal from front-line city of Avdiivka

Ukrainian forces have withdrawn from the front-line city of Avdiivka, the new army chief has announced, after months of heavy fighting and little progress in repelling Russian troops in the country’s eastern front.

“I decided to withdraw our units from the town and move to defence from more favourable lines in order to avoid encirclement and preserve the lives and health of servicemen,” Oleksandr Syrskii said on Saturday, days after taking the helm of the Ukrainian military in a major shake-up.

The battle for the industrial hub, less than 10km (six miles) north of the Russian-controlled city of Donetsk, has been one of the bloodiest of the two-year war. Many compare it with the battle for Bakhmut, in which tens of thousands of soldiers were killed.

Russia has been trying to capture the city since October and has surrounded it on three sides, leaving limited resupply routes for Ukrainian forces.

Avdiivka had about 34,000 inhabitants before the Russian invasion. Most of the city has been since destroyed but an estimated 1,000 residents remain, according to local authorities. Videos on social media showed a town left in rubble.

“In a situation where the enemy is advancing over the corpses of their own soldiers with a 10-to-one shelling advantage, under constant bombardment, this is the only right decision,” stated Oleksandr Tarnavsky, the army’s commander of the Avdiivka area.

Before issuing orders to pull out of Avdiivka, Tarnavsky on Friday said several Ukrainian soldiers had been captured by Russian forces.

The city has important symbolic value and Moscow hopes its capture will make Ukraine’s bombing of Donetsk more difficult. The withdrawal comes ahead of Russian presidential elections scheduled for March in which incumbent Vladimir Putin is set to win a fifth term, allowing him to continue leading the invasion of Ukraine.

Avdiivka lies in the Donetsk region of Ukraine, which the Kremlin has claimed to be part of Russia since a 2022 annexation that remains unrecognised by nearly all United Nations members.

On Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed security pacts with France and Germany to lock in support for Kyiv. He is also expected to make further pleas for financing and armaments at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday.

All 27 European Union countries this month agreed on an additional 50-billion-euro ($54bn) aid package for Ukraine.

United States President Joe Biden said on Thursday that Avdiivka risked falling to Russian forces because of ammunition shortages following months of Republican congressional opposition to a new US military aid package for Kyiv.

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