News

Ukraine’s forces rally to save Avdiivka city from Russian troops as manpower and ammo shortages following US aid delays give Putin a potentially hugely symbolic victory


Ukraine’s forces today are rallying to save a key eastern city from Russia‘s onslaught amid shortages of ammo and manpower.

Ahead of the second anniversary of the Russian invasion, Kyiv said on Friday that it was sending reinforcements to Avdiivka – a main target for Moscow on the front lines where fighting has been bloody and intense for months.

Facing a concerning shortage of ammunition and outnumbered on the battlefield, Ukraine may be forced to withdraw from the eastern town, which has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance against the Russian attack.

Russia’s forces launched a costly bid to seize Avdiivka last fall, resulting in massive damage to the town and heavy casualties, reminiscent of the battle for Bakhmut.

The Ukrainian army said it was reinforcing units, with troops ‘manoeuvring on threatened axes,’ adding: ‘Ukrainian defenders continue to hold back the enemy who keeps trying to encircle Avdiivka. The Ukrainian soldiers are standing their ground.’

Ukraine's forces today are rallying to save a key eastern city from Russia's onslaught amid shortages of ammo and manpower. Pictured: Ukrainian soldiers stand on top of an armoured vehicle near Avdiivka on February 14, as fighting rages for the city

Ukraine’s forces today are rallying to save a key eastern city from Russia’s onslaught amid shortages of ammo and manpower. Pictured: Ukrainian soldiers stand on top of an armoured vehicle near Avdiivka on February 14, as fighting rages for the city

Russia has been trying to capture Avdiivka for months, and has managed to surround the industrial hub on three sides – at the cost of thousands of lives.

Its fall would be a significant symbolic victory for Russia ahead of the February 24 anniversary of the start of the invasion.

One official said the situation was even more challenging than Bakhmut.

‘It was difficult there (in Bakhmut) but now it is extremely difficult,’ said the spokesman of the 3rd Assault Brigade, Oleksandr Borodin, adding the Avdiivka fight was comparatively ‘more difficult’ because Russian forces are now better equipped. 

A Ukrainian army unit said Thursday it had piled yet more troops in to defend Avdiivka, describing the situation there as ‘extremely critical’.

There are concerns that Russian could surround the city entirely in the coming days and weeks, thus cutting off the Ukrainian escape route.

A Russian victory in Avdiivka would be the most significant territorial gain for Moscow since it seized Bakhmut last May after months of bloody fighting.

‘Fierce battles are taking place within the city,’ Oleksandr Tarnavskiy, a Ukrainian general in the east, said on social media on Friday.

Online maps of troop movements prepared by military bloggers close to both the Ukrainian and Russian armies showed Russian forces closing in on Avdiivka, taking over positions held by Ukrainian forces the day before.

‘New positions have been prepared and powerful fortifications continue to be prepared, taking into account all possible scenarios,’ Tarnavskiy said.

He called the situation in Avdiivka ‘difficult but controlled’ and said commanders have been tasked to ‘stabilise the situation.’

An aerial view of Avdiivka's destroyed buildings on February 15, 2023. Almost every building in the city has been damaged or destroyed, according to the Centre for Information Resilience

An aerial view of Avdiivka’s destroyed buildings on February 15, 2023. Almost every building in the city has been damaged or destroyed, according to the Centre for Information Resilience

Facing a concerning shortage of ammunition and outnumbered on the battlefield, Ukraine may be forced to withdraw from the eastern town (pictured), which has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance against the Russian attack

Facing a concerning shortage of ammunition and outnumbered on the battlefield, Ukraine may be forced to withdraw from the eastern town (pictured), which has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance against the Russian attack

The fighting raged as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived in Berlin to rally Western support. 

He will later travel to Paris and address the Munich Security Conference on Saturday.

Speaking on Thursday night, Zelensky vowed that his government would do ‘everything’ to save lives in the town.

The battle for the industrial hub, less than six miles north of the Russian-controlled city of Donetsk, has been one of the bloodiest of the two-year war.

Ukraine’s top commander admitted Wednesday that Ukraine was outnumbered on the battlefield.

‘The objective situation in Avdiivka remains threatening and unstable. The enemy continues the active rotation of troops and is throwing new forces and resources into the city,’ Ukraine’s Third Separate Assault Brigade said.

The general staff of Ukraine’s army said separately that troops ‘continue to hold back the enemy, who keeps trying to surround Avdiivka’, adding that Russia launched 34 attacks in the area on Wednesday.

Almost every building has been damaged or destroyed, according to the Centre for Information Resilience.

Despite daily shelling, almost 1,000 residents have remained in the town, once home to over 30,000 people, its mayor Vitaly Barabash said in early February.

A Ukrainian army spokesman said bringing in resupplies to the town and evacuating those who want to leave had become ‘complicated’.

A Ukrainian serviceman of the 82nd Separate Air Assault Brigade drives a Challenger 2 tank in an undisclosed location near frontline in Zaporizhzhia region, on February 12, 2024

A Ukrainian serviceman of the 82nd Separate Air Assault Brigade drives a Challenger 2 tank in an undisclosed location near frontline in Zaporizhzhia region, on February 12, 2024

The fate of Avdiivka has also drawn concern in Washington, Ukraine’s key backer.

‘Avdiivka is at risk of falling into Russian control,’ US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Thursday.

Democratic President Joe Biden and the Republican-led House are at an impasse over a White House request for $60 billion in military aid to help Ukraine’s defence as the Russian invasion enters its third year.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg had warned Thursday that the delay was already limiting Ukraine’s battlefield capacity.

During Friday’s talks with Chancellor Olaf Scholz and President Emmanuel Macron, Zelensky will seek to lock down security guarantees for his country when the war is over.

The German government said Scholz would sign a bilateral security pact that covered Ukraine’s ‘long-term security commitments and support’.

The French presidency also confirmed that a security agreement would be signed with Ukraine, but did not provide any specifics on its content.

This handout photograph taken and released by Ukrainian Presidential Press Service on December 29, 2023, shows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky recording a video address in front of a sign reading 'Avdiivka is Ukraine'. Fighting raged in the town today as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived in Berlin to rally Western support

This handout photograph taken and released by Ukrainian Presidential Press Service on December 29, 2023, shows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky recording a video address in front of a sign reading ‘Avdiivka is Ukraine’. Fighting raged in the town today as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived in Berlin to rally Western support

On top of the US aid hold-up, the European Union has admitted that it will only be able to send half of the one million artillery shells it had originally promised would be despatched by March.

The EU recently agreed a €50 billion aid package for Ukraine, and a further $60 billion aid package is currently being held up in the United States.

But even if the aid packages did make their way to Kyiv, questions remain over its supplies of ammo and equipment – and where more could come from.

Analysts fear that without increased support from the West, Russia’s overwhelming numbers – and Putin’s willingness to send so many of his soldiers to their deaths – could soon change the tide of the war in Putin’s favour.



Source link

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button