Ukraine Russia war US warns Avdiivka could fall

Ukraine-Russia war: US warns Avdiivka could fall

  • By Jaroslav Lukiv
  • BBC News

February 16, 2024, 02:21 GMT

Updated 52 minutes ago

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“I will die here”: Evacuation “angels” help the last residents of the frontline city escape

The US has warned that Russia could seize the key city in eastern Ukraine, Avdiivka – scene of some of the fiercest fighting in recent months.

“Avdiivka is at risk of falling under Russian control,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said, citing Ukraine’s ammunition shortage.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky promised to do everything to “save as many Ukrainian lives as possible.”

Russian troops have made advances in Avdiivka and are threatening to encircle it.

The almost completely destroyed city is considered a gateway to nearby Donetsk, Ukraine's regional capital, which was captured by Russian-backed fighters in 2014 and later illegally annexed by Moscow.

Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022.

At Thursday's news conference in Washington, Mr. Kirby said Avdiivka could largely fall “because Ukrainian forces on the ground are running out of artillery ammunition.”

“Russia is sending wave after wave of conscripts to attack Ukrainian positions,” he said.

“And because Congress has not yet passed the supplemental legislation, we have not been able to provide Ukraine with the artillery shells it desperately needs to deter these Russian attacks.”

“Russian forces are now reaching the Ukrainian trenches in Avdiivka and are beginning to overwhelm the Ukrainian defenses.”

Ukraine urgently relies on arms supplies from the United States and other Western allies to continue fighting Russia – a much larger force with an abundance of artillery ammunition.

NATO Secretary General Jen Stoltenberg warned on Thursday that the US refusal to authorize further military aid to Ukraine is already having an impact on the battlefield.

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Smoke rises over an industrial site in Avdiivka on Thursday

In his video address late Thursday, President Zelensky said: “We are doing everything we can to ensure that our warriors have sufficient management and technological capabilities to save as many Ukrainian lives as possible.”

On Friday, Mr. Zelensky visits Berlin and Paris, where he is expected to sign security agreements with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Late Thursday, Ukrainian General Oleksandr Tarnavsky admitted that “fierce fighting” had taken place “within” Avdiivka.

“We value every piece of Ukrainian land, but the highest value and priority for us is preserving the life of a Ukrainian soldier,” he said.

Ukrainian military spokesman Dmytro Lykhoviy acknowledged that Ukrainian troops in Avdiivka were forced to “sometimes move to more advantageous positions… and in some places leave positions.”

In its update on Friday, the military general staff said that “the planned reinforcement of units” was being carried out and that “troop maneuvers in vulnerable directions” were being carried out.

Some Ukrainian soldiers have privately admitted that the city could fall at any moment.

“We are angry,” Ukrainian officer Oleksii of Ukraine's 110th Mechanized Brigade in Avdiivka Oblast told the BBC earlier this week as he stood next to a huge mobile artillery piece as Russian guns boomed in the distance.

“Currently we have two mussels, but we don't have any [explosive] Charges for them… so we can't fire them. “Right now we’re out of shells,” Oleksii said. He noted that the shortage was widespread and was having a dramatic impact on the fighting in Avdiivka.

“We feel a great responsibility that our people who are currently fighting in the city are only armed with assault rifles.”

Ukraine's newly appointed commander-in-chief, Oleksandr Syrskyi, visited the Avdiivka Oblast front this week and acknowledged that the situation there was “difficult.”

He said the Russian military “did not count casualties” and used its troops as cannon fodder.

Kiev announced that an elite Ukrainian brigade had now been sent to Avdiivka and reserve artillery had been stationed.

In unconfirmed reports, Russian military bloggers said Thursday that a key Ukrainian defense position in southern Avdiivka – known as Zenit – was now under Moscow's control.