Ukrainian forces are rallying today to save a key eastern city from Russian attack amid ammunition and manpower shortages.
Ahead of the second anniversary of the Russian invasion, kyiv said on Friday it would send reinforcements to Avdiivka, a prime Moscow target on the front where fighting has been bloody and intense for months.
Facing a worrying shortage of ammunition and outnumbered on the battlefield, Ukraine could be forced to withdraw from the eastern city, which has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance against the Russian attack.
Russian forces launched a costly attempt to seize Avdiivka last fall, resulting in massive damage to the city and heavy casualties, reminiscent of the Battle of Bakhmut.
The Ukrainian military said it was reinforcing units, with troops “maneuvering along threatened axes”, adding: “Ukrainian defenders continue to hold back the enemy who are still trying to encircle Avdiivka.” “Ukrainian soldiers stand firm.”
Ukrainian forces are rallying today to save a key eastern city from Russian attack amid ammunition and manpower shortages. Pictured: Ukrainian soldiers stand atop an armored vehicle near Avdiivka on February 14, as fighting rages through the city.
Russia has been trying to capture Avdiivka for months and has managed to surround the industrial center on three sides, at the cost of thousands of lives.
Its fall would be an important 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 3rd Assault Brigade spokesman Oleksandr Borodin, adding that the fighting in Avdiivka was comparatively “more difficult” because Russian forces are now better off. equipped.
A Ukrainian army unit said Thursday it had sent even more troops to defend Avdiivka and described the situation there as “extremely critical.”
There are concerns that the Russians could completely surround the city in the coming days and weeks, thus cutting off Ukraine’s escape route.
A Russian victory at Avdiivka would be the most significant territorial gain for Moscow since it seized Bakhmut last May after months of bloody fighting.
“Fierce battles are being fought inside 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 the Ukrainian and Russian militaries showed Russian forces approaching Avdiivka, assuming positions occupied by Ukrainian forces the previous day.
“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 with “stabilizing the situation.”
An aerial view of the destroyed buildings of Avdiivka on February 15, 2023. Almost all buildings in the city have been damaged or destroyed, according to the Center for Information Resilience.
Facing a worrying shortage of ammunition and outnumbered on the battlefield, Ukraine could be forced to withdraw from the eastern city (pictured), which has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance against the Russian attack.
The fighting intensified when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived in Berlin to rally Western support.
He will then travel to Paris and address the Munich Security Conference on Saturday.
On Thursday night, Zelensky promised that his government would do “everything possible” to save lives in the city.
The battle for the industrial center, less than six miles north of the Russian-held 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 active troop rotation and is throwing new forces and resources into the city,” the Ukrainian 3rd Separate Assault Brigade said.
Ukraine’s army general staff said separately that troops “continue to hold back the enemy, which continues to try to encircle Avdiivka,” adding that Russia launched 34 strikes in the area on Wednesday.
Nearly all buildings have been damaged or destroyed, according to the Center for Information Resilience.
Despite daily shelling, nearly 1,000 residents have remained in the city, which was once home to more than 30,000 people, its mayor Vitaly Barabash said in early February.
A Ukrainian military spokesman said bringing supplies to the city and evacuating those who want to leave had become “complicated.”
A Ukrainian serviceman from the 82nd Separate Air Assault Brigade drives a Challenger 2 tank at an undisclosed location near the front line in the Zaporizhzhia region, February 12, 2024.
Avdiivka’s fate has also raised concern in Washington, Ukraine’s main backer.
“Avdiivka is at risk of falling under Russian control,” US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Thursday.
Democratic President Joe Biden and the Republican-led House of Representatives are deadlocked over a White House request for $60 billion in military aid to help defend Ukraine as the Russian invasion enters in his third year.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg warned on 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 ensure security guarantees for his country when the war ends.
The German government said Scholz would sign a bilateral security pact covering 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 details on its content.
This photo taken and released by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Service on December 29, 2023 shows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky recording a video speech in front of a sign that reads “Avdiivka is Ukraine.” Fighting broke out in the city today as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived in Berlin to rally Western support.
In addition to the delay in American aid, the European Union has admitted that it will only be able to send half of the million artillery shells it had originally promised would be sent in March.
The EU recently agreed to a €50 billion aid package for Ukraine, and another $60 billion aid package in the United States is currently being delayed.
But even if aid packages reach kyiv, questions remain about its supplies of ammunition and equipment, and where more could come from.
Analysts fear that without greater support from the West, Russia’s overwhelming numbers – and Putin’s willingness to send so many of his soldiers to their deaths – could soon turn the tide of the war in Putin’s favor.