Russia takes control of Avdiivka after Ukrainian troops withdraw

A Ukrainian soldier fires during battle in Avdiivka, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Aug. 18, 2023.
A Ukrainian soldier fires during battle in Avdiivka, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Aug. 18, 2023. Copyright AP Photo/Libkos
By Euronews, AP
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Experts are saying the capture of the city in the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine is not a significant operation victory for Moscow.

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Russia said its forces took complete control Saturday of a city in eastern Ukraine that was the focus of intense combat for months, a development that Moscow could use to boost morale as the second anniversary of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine approaches with the war largely at a stalemate.

The Russian Defence Ministry's announcement came the same day Ukraine’s military chief said he was withdrawing troops from the city of Avdiivka, where the outnumbered defenders had battled a Russian assault for four months.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told the Kremlin that Russian forces were working to clear final pockets of resistance at the Avdiivka Coke and Chemical Plant, officials said in a statement. Videos on social media Saturday appeared to show soldiers raising the Russian flag over one of the plant’s buildings.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a personal message of congratulation to his troops in the city, state news agency Tass reported. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described Avdiivka’s capture as an “important victory.”

Heavily fortified with a web of tunnels and concrete fortifications, Avdiivka lies in the northern suburbs of Donetsk, a city in a region of the same name that Russian forces partially occupy. Capturing Avdiivka could be a timely boost for Moscow and serve as a possible springboard for Russia to drive deeper into the region.

Fewer than 1,000 people remain in the city, according to the Donetsk regional governor, Vadym Filashkin. The city, with a prewar population of about 31,000, is today a bombed-out shell of what it once was.

In a short statement posted on Facebook, Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrskyi said the Ukrainian troops were moving to “more favorable lines."

“Our soldiers performed their military duty with dignity, did everything possible to destroy the best Russian military units, inflicted significant losses on the enemy in terms of manpower and equipment.

“We are taking measures to stabilize the situation and maintain our positions,” the statement read.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appealed to the country's Western allies over the weekend to continue to supply weapons to the war-torn country, which is now back on the defensive due to low ammunition supplies and a shortage of personnel.

The Ukrainian leader warned that an "artificial deficit" in weapons was giving Russia some breathing space.

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