Russian Forces Seize Control of Avdiivka Following Ukrainian Troop Pullback

Russian Forces Take City Of Avdiivka After Ukrainian Troop Withdrawal

Russia announced on Saturday that its forces had gained full control of a city in eastern Ukraine after months of intense combat, a development that could serve as a morale boost as the second anniversary of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine approaches, despite the war largely stalemated.

The Russian Defense Ministry declared the achievement on the same day Ukraine’s military chief disclosed the withdrawal of troops from the city of Avdiivka, where outnumbered defenders had resisted a Russian assault for four months.

According to officials, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu informed the Kremlin that Russian forces were in the process of eliminating final pockets of resistance at the Avdiivka Coke and Chemical Plant. Social media videos on Saturday appeared to show soldiers hoisting the Russian flag over one of the plant’s buildings.

Russian Forces Seize Control of Avdiivka Following Ukrainian Troop Pullback
Russian Forces Seize Control of Avdiivka Following Ukrainian Troop Pullback (Credits: NBC News)

Russian President Vladimir Putin conveyed personal congratulations to his troops in the city, as reported by the state news agency Tass. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described the capture of Avdiivka as a “significant victory.”

As the anniversary of the invasion approaches on February 24th, Russia is also gearing up for a presidential election in March, widely expected to secure Putin another six-year term. The Kremlin, having stifled dissent throughout the conflict, faced the silence of its most formidable opposition figure, Alexei Navalny, following his death in prison on Friday.

Ukraine finds itself once again on the defensive against Russia in the nearly two-year-old war, hampered by low ammunition supplies and a shortage of personnel.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy cautioned allies about an “artificial deficit” of arms for Ukraine, warning that it could provide Russia with breathing space and enable Putin to adjust to the current intensity of the conflict.

Zelenskyy emphasized that Ukrainian actions were constrained only by their strength, citing the situation in Avdiivka. The withdrawal of troops was announced by the commander of Ukraine’s armed forces to prevent encirclement and safeguard soldiers’ lives.

President Joe Biden, following a call with Zelenskyy, expressed confidence that Congress would ultimately approve additional funding for Ukraine. However, when asked about the timing of such funding, Biden admitted uncertainty, asserting, “I’m not [confident].”

White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson attributed the withdrawal to “the cost of Congressional inaction.”

Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi, in a statement posted on Facebook, outlined the troop movement to “more favorable lines,” asserting the soldiers’ dignified performance in their military duties and their efforts to inflict significant losses on the enemy.

The withdrawal marked a significant test for Syrskyi, who was appointed as Ukraine’s new army chief earlier this month. In his previous role as commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, he faced criticism for maintaining control of the city of Bakhmut for nine months, the site of the war’s longest and bloodiest battle.

Recent reports indicated a deteriorating situation for Ukrainian troops in Avdiivka, with Deputy Commander Rodion Kudriashov stating that they were still resisting an onslaught of about 15,000 Russian soldiers. However, he anticipated a critical situation soon.

The 3rd Brigade, in a social media post, described the relentless bombing and shelling by Russian forces in Avdiivka. The city, heavily fortified with tunnels and concrete fortifications, lies in the northern suburbs of Donetsk, a city partially occupied by Russian forces.

Despite the symbolic significance of capturing Avdiivka, analysts at the Institute for the Study of War in Washington suggested that it wouldn’t bring substantial changes to the front line, which has remained largely static. They argued that the potential capture would offer Russia immediate informational and political victories rather than operational significance.

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