Did Russia Take Avdiivka Or Did Ukraine Abandon It? – OpEd


Ukraine’s Third Assault Brigade, deployed in Avdiivka has effectively “Wiped Out Russia’s 74th and 114th motorized rifle brigades”! Russia’s estimated losses are 4,200 troops killed or wounded, according to the report. Being a military man it is nearly difficult to believe this Ukrainian open media report.

On the other hand, Colonel-General Oleksandr Syrskyi, who took command of the Ukrainian military in a major shake-up last week after the failure of Ukraine to pierce Russian lines last year, said Ukrainian forces had moved back to more secure positions outside the heavily devastated eastern town of Avdiivka! “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. Our soldiers performed their military duty with dignity, did everything possible to destroy the best Russian military units, and inflicted significant losses on the enemy in terms of manpower and equipment.” Ukraine’s Third Assault Brigade confirmed on Feb 15 that it was “Urgently redeployed as the situation grows Extremely Critical.”

The Commander of Ukrainian forces in the Donetsk region, said some Ukrainian soldiers were captured during the withdrawal, but he did not specify how many. He added that Ukraine would appeal for the humane treatment of its soldiers via humanitarian organizations and other countries.

President Zelensky praised his troops for “Exhausting Russian forces in Avdiivka” and said he agreed with the decision to withdraw in order to save lives. Earlier on Feb16, General Oleksandr Tarnavskyi said the “Situation in Avdiivka is difficult but Under Control. Fierce fighting is taking place within the city.” Later the same day, Tarnavskyi announced that Ukrainian troops had pulled back from Zenit, a position on Avdiivka’s southeastern outskirts that had served as Ukraine’s strongpoint since 2014. Contradictory statements! Avdiivka is a strategic hub in Donetsk, one of the four Ukrainian regions that Russia illegally claimed to annex in 2022.This is now believed to be Russia’s biggest advance since it captured the city of Bakhmut last May.

Despite Russian advances, the Avdiivka campaign has been extremely costly to Russia in terms of manpower and equipment. Tarnavskyi said that only, “since Jan 1, Moscow had lost over 20,000 troops, 199 tanks, and 481 armored fighting vehicles”. Ukraine’s National Resistance Center reported that due to high casualties, Russia is using abandoned schools as morgues for its soldiers.

The Russian Version

Russia on Feb 18, said it had full control of the Ukrainian town of Avdiivka after Ukrainian troops withdrew, though Moscow said that some were still holed up in a Soviet-era coke plant after one of the most intense battles of the war. Russia’s defence ministry said its troops had advanced about 9 km in that part of the 1,000-km front line, and that Russian troops were pressing forward after an deadly urban battle. “Measures are being taken to completely clear the town of militants and to block Ukrainian units that have left the town and are entrenched at the Avdiivka Coke and Chemical Plant.” 

President Putin has hailed the fall of Avdiivka as an important victory and congratulated Russian troops. Putin congratulated the Russian commander in charge of the assault on Avdiivka, Colonel-General Andrei Mordvichev. “Eternal glory to the heroes who fell in fulfilling the tasks of the Special Military Operation” Putin said in a telegram. The fall of Avdiivka is Russia’s biggest gain since it captured the city of Bakhmut in May 2023.Avdiivka has strategic and logistical value for Moscow. The Defense Ministry said  that capturing Avdiivka would push the front line of the war farther from Donetsk city, making it more difficult for Ukraine to stage attempts to reclaim the regional capital.

Russia terms the Ukrainian withdrawal as rushed and chaotic, with some soldiers and weapons left behind. The Ukrainian military said there had been casualties but that the situation had stabilised somewhat after the retreat.

Global Security Conference in Munich 

Zelensky urged allies at a global security conference in Munich on Feb 17, to plug a shortage of weapons and said stalled US aid was imperative. He praised his troops for “exhausting” Russian forces in Avdiivka, and suggested the withdrawal was partly caused by a lack of weapons. “Now, they will wait for the relevant weapons, of which there simply weren’t enough, simply aren’t enough,” he said. “Russia has long-range weapons, while we simply don’t have enough.”

Ukrainian Defence Minister Rustem Umerov said Avdiivka showed the need for modern air defence systems to counter guided bombs and long-range weapons to destroy enemy formations. He said artillery shells were also needed.

Ukraine’s withdrawal from Avdiivka comes as a roughly $60 billion aid package proposed by President Biden remains blocked by Republicans in Congress. The Ukraine’s defeat in the city was the “Result of Congressional Inaction.” 

War of Claims

The withdrawal of Ukraine’s troops set off a war of claims between Ukraine and Russia, as Ukrainian officials tried to put a positive spin on the pullout and Russian officials rushed to frame it as a symbolic victory. The Avdiivka withdrawal marks a significant defeat for Ukraine and comes as Kyiv is struggling with shortages of weapons, ammunition and troopsamid a softening in support from its allies. The withdrawal will also boost Russian morale ahead of the second anniversary of the war on Feb 24 and reinforce concerns about Ukraine’s dwindling military supplies and personnel.

Losses of the War. Neither Russia nor Ukraine have given details of their losses in the war or in the intense battle for Avdiivka. Western intelligence assessments say hundreds of thousands of men on both sides have been killed or wounded in the war.

The Kyiv Independent news desk asks to support independent journalism in Ukraine. “Join us in this fight.” However, the real truth of the war is not coming out in the open public domain since the war began. In any war Truth is the first casualty and so has it been in this Russia-Ukraine war.

The important question now is that will this capture of Avdiivka, having strategic and logistical value for Moscow by the Russian forces, lead to expediting the aid packages to Ukraine by the US and NATO? As mentioned above, Zelensky has claimed that the “withdrawal was partly caused by a lack of weapons.”

Patial RC

Patial RC is a retired Infantry officer of the Indian Army and possesses unique experience of serving in active CI Ops across the country and in Sri Lanka. Patial RC is a regular writer on military and travel matters in military professional journals. The veteran is a keen mountaineer and a trekker.

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