Ukraine withdraws from Avdiivka, Putin hails 'important victory'

February 18, 2024 4:43 pm

[Source: Reuters]

Russian President Vladimir Putin called the capture of Avdiivka “an important victory”.

This is after Ukraine’s military chief said on Saturday that his troops withdrew from the devastated town in the east of the country after months of intense combat.

Although the Russian defence ministry said that Ukrainian units were still entrenched at the town’s coke plant, the advance on Avdiivka was Moscow’s biggest advance since it took the city of Bakhmut last May.

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It came days before the second anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion on Ukraine and amidst Ukraine’s acute shortages of ammunition with fresh U.S. military aid delayed for months in Congress.

It is also the clearest sign yet of how the tide of the war has turned in Moscow’s favour after a Ukrainian counteroffensive failed to break through Russian lines last year.

“The head of state congratulated Russian soldiers on this success, an important victory,” the Kremlin said in a statement on its website.

U.S. President Joe Biden warned this week that Avdiivka could fall to Russian forces because of ammunition shortages following months of Republican congressional opposition to a new U.S. military aid package for Kyiv.

A White House statement on Saturday said Biden called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Saturday to underscore the U.S. commitment to continue supporting Ukraine and reiterated the need for Congress to urgently pass the package to resupply Ukrainian forces.

The White House said the withdrawal had been forced upon Ukraine “by dwindling supplies as a result of congressional inaction,” that had forced Ukrainian soldiers to ration ammunition and resulted in “Russia’s first notable gains in months.”

Capturing the city is likely to provide a morale boost for Russia ahead of Putin’s bid for re-election next month, which he is almost certain to win.

It is also seen as another step towards securing Moscow’s hold on the regional centre of Donetsk, about 20 km (12 miles) to the east, held by Russian and pro-Russian forces since 2014.