Putin cheers as Russia captures Avdiivka: 'An important victory'

Ukraine was outnumbered by the aerial superiority and mass of Russian troops

UKRAINE-RUSSIA-WAR-CONFLICT Ukrainian servicemen pile up earthbags to build a fortification not far from town of Avdiivka in the Donetsk region, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine | AP

Russian President Vladimir Putin has congratulated the Russian troops for the successful capture of the Eastern town of Avdiivka after four months of relentless attacks left Ukrainian troops outgunned and outnumbered. 

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

The fall of Avdiivka also hints at how the tide of the war has turned in Moscow's favour after a Ukrainian counteroffensive failed to break through Russian lines last year, analysts said. It will also help Moscow tighten its hold on the regional centre of Donetsk, about 20 km to the east, held by Russian and pro-Russian forces since 2014.

This comes as the U.S. warned this week that Avdiivka could fall to Russian forces because of ammunition shortages. The House Republican had refused to pass the U.S. military aid package for Kyiv, leaving Ukraine in severe ammunition shortage. After the withdrawal, 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."

Ukraine's 3rd Assault Brigade, deployed in Avidiivka, was being attacked by Russian infantry in all directions and the Ukrainian troops were outnumbered by as many as seven to one. A senior military official compared this to "fighting two armies." 

Before he was removed as the military chief, Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, General Valery Zaluzhnyi, too said Russia could concentrate its forces, including artillery and aviation, in one direction or another. "And they can make it so that in two-three months the town [Avdiivka] will have the same fate as Bakhmut," he said. 

On Friday, Ukraine’s new commander in chief, General Oleksandr Syrskyi, ordered a withdrawal from Avidiivka, unable to defend themselves from the mass and aerial superiority of Russian forces. "To preserve life and encirclement, I have withdrawn our units from Avdiivka," he said.

However, there are reports that Russia still does not have full control of the Avdiivka Coke and Chemical plant on the northwestern edge of the town. Ukraine's largest coke producer before the war and now in ruins, it has been the Avdiivka's last stronghold.  "Measures are being taken to completely clear the city of militants and to block Ukrainian units that have left the city and are entrenched at the Avdiivka Coke and Chemical Plant," Russian Defence Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a video published on the ministry's Telegram channel. 

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