Ukraine

Avdiivka, Longtime Stronghold for Ukraine, Falls to Russians

Author: Carlotta Gall, Marc Santora and Constant Méheut Source: N.Y Times
February 18, 2024 at 03:03
Ukrainian soldiers from the 71st Jaeger Brigade in the area of Avdiivka, Ukraine, on Wednesday.Credit...Tyler Hicks/The New York Times
Ukrainian soldiers from the 71st Jaeger Brigade in the area of Avdiivka, Ukraine, on Wednesday.Credit...Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

With Ukraine’s forces at risk of encirclement, the top military commander ordered a retreat. In startlingly candid accounts, soldiers described disarray and despair.

By Carlotta GallMarc Santora and Constant Méheut
Carlotta Gall reported from Kharkiv, Ukraine; Marc Santora from Kyiv, Ukraine; and Constant Méheut from Paris.


 

Ukraine ordered the complete withdrawal from the decimated city of Avdiivka before dawn on Saturday, surrendering a position that had been a military stronghold for the better part of a decade, in the face of withering Russian assault.

“Based on the operational situation around Avdiivka, in order to avoid encirclement and preserve the lives and health of servicemen, I decided to withdraw our units from the city and move to defense on more favorable lines,” Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky, Ukraine’s top military commander, said in a statement issued overnight. 

The fall of Avdiivka, a city that was once home to some 30,000 people but is now a smoking ruin, is the first major gain Russian forces have achieved since May of last year. After rebuffing a Ukrainian counteroffensive in the summer and fall, Russian forces in recent weeks have been pressing the attack across nearly the entire length of the 600-mile-long front.

The Ukrainian withdrawal on Saturday follows a bloody endgame that saw some of the fiercest fighting of the two-year-old war. Relying on its superiority in personnel and weaponry, Russia pounded the city with aerial bombardments and ground assaults, even as its fighters suffered a staggering amount of casualties.

Outgunned Ukrainian forces had begun withdrawing from positions in the southern part of the city on Wednesday, and since then have been engaged in a desperate battle to avoid encirclement inside the city as Russian forces advanced from multiple directions. As Russian bombers pummeled Avdiivka, Ukraine said its forces had targeted and shot down three Russian warplanes.

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