Key town of Avdiivka could fall into Russian control, US warns Ukraine

Zelenskyy will visit Germany and France to seek vital military assistance

UKRAINE-RUSSIA-CONFLICT-WAR A Ukrainian serviceman of the 47th Mechanized Brigade prepares for combat a Bradley fighting vehicle, not far away from Avdiivka | AFP

The US has warned Ukraine that the key eastern town of Avdiivka could soon fall into Russian control as Ukrainian forces on the ground run out of artillery ammunition. 

Avdiivka, a gateway to nearby Donetsk, has been witnessing fierce fighting for the weeks as Russia seeks to encircle the embattled town to seize full control of the two provinces that make up the industrial Donbas region.

"The Ukrainian city of Avdiivka is at risk of falling to Russian forces," White House spokesperson John Kirby said on Thursday. "Avdiivka could fall largely because the Ukrainian forces on the ground are running out of artillery ammunition. Russia is sending wave after wave of conscript forces to attack Ukrainian positions," he said.

"And because Congress has yet to pass the supplemental bill, we have not been able to provide Ukraine with the artillery shells that they desperately need to disrupt these Russian assaults. Russian forces are  now reaching Ukrainian trenches in Avdiivka, and they're beginning to overwhelm Ukrainian defences," Kirby added.

Kirby's remarks comes as Ukraine said its troops were withdrawing from some parts of the eastern town to better positions after months of heavy fighting. "In Avdiivka a manoeuvre is underway in some places to withdraw our units to more advantageous positions, in some places to force (the Russians) out of positions," Ukrainian military spokesman Dmytro Lykhoviy said in televised comments. "Therefore the key announcement with regards to all this is that supplies to Avdiivka and  evacuations from there are difficult."

He said the military had activated a "reserve logistics artery" that had been prepared in advance.One of Ukraine's most prominent fighting units, the Third Assault Brigade, said it had been rushed to Avdiivka to reinforce Kyiv's troops there.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Vlodomyr Zelenskyy is visiting Berlin and Paris where he is expected to sign security pacts with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron. This is also his first foreign trip since he replaced his popular army chief and reshuffled his military command, a big gamble at a difficult juncture in the war that he said was needed to face shifting battlefield challenges.

Though Zelenskyy is likely to sign pacts with both countries, the details of the agreements are not yet known. But, Kyiv has said it wants to use the first deal signed with Britain in January as a framework, reported Reuters.

The report added that the deal with France included economic and financial elements and was not restricted to military ones. "The logic behind it is support for Ukraine over the long term, in order to make Russian aggression fail," one French official told Reuters. "Some figures will be mentioned in the deal," the official said, stressing that the quality of the material provided to Ukraine was at least as important as the quantity.

German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said his country envisaged 3.5 billion euro for ammunition supplies this year and would deliver three to four times more in 2024 compared to 2023.

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