Ukraine retreats from Avdiivka after months of Russian siege

This was the biggest victory for Russia since Kiev’s unsuccessful counterattack last summer.

The Ukrainian army left Avdiivka, a city on the eastern front that had been under a strong Russian attack for months.

This was the biggest victory for Russia since Kiev’s unsuccessful counterattack last summer.

President Volodimir Zelensky said that the withdrawal was a fair decision to protect soldiers. He wrote in a Telegram message early in the morning that they had left Avdiivka for positions that were ready beforehand.

Since October, the Ukrainian soldiers had fought back the Russian assaults on this town in the Donbas mining basin, where the situation had worsened in the last few days.

The previous day, General Tarnavski admitted that there was street fighting in the city, that his troops had left some positions and that they had built defensive structures to fall back to if needed.

“In the situation where the enemy moves forward on the bodies of its own soldiers and it has ten times more shells (…) This is the only good solution,” Tarnavski explained when he announced the withdrawal.

The general emphasized that his forces avoided being trapped by the enemy and were already in new defense lines near this mostly ruined industrial city.

The withdrawal from Avdiivka is the first major military decision of Kiev’s new commander-in-chief, Oleksander Sirski, who was appointed on February 8.

Avdiivka had been a symbol of the resistance of Kiev forces as the second anniversary of the invasion started by Moscow against this former Soviet republic on February 24, 2022 gets closer. The city was briefly occupied in July 2014 by pro-Russian separatists but came back to the control of Kiev, which had kept it all this time despite its closeness to Donetsk, a separatist stronghold in eastern Ukraine for a decade.

Avdiivka is the most important advance for Russia since the takeover of Bakhmut in May 2023, after months of intense fighting that killed thousands. Even though it was mostly destroyed, some 900 civilians still live there, according to local authorities.

Russia expects that its capture will make it harder for Ukraine to bomb Donetsk.

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