Russian forces advancing on Ukrainian town from all sides
Russian forces are intensifying their drive to capture the eastern Ukrainian town of Avdiivka, trying to advance on all sides after weeks of fighting, the town's top official was quoted as saying on Monday.
Russian troops have been pressing land and air-based attacks on Avdiivka, since mid-October as the focal point of their slow-moving push through eastern Ukraine's Donbas region in the 21-month-old war.
The latest push, reported by Vitaliy Barabash, head of Avdiivka's military administration, followed reports last week that Ukrainian troops had made some headway in halting and pushing back the Russian advance.
"Things in the Avdiivka sector have become even tougher. The intensity of clashes has been increasing for some time," Barabash told the media outlet Espreso TV.
"The Russians have opened up two more sectors from which they have begun making assaults - in the direction of Donetsk ... and in the so-called industrial zone. The enemy is attempting to storm the city from all directions."
Officials say not a single building remains intact after months of battles in the town noted for a vast coking plant. Fewer than 1,500 residents remain of 32,000 before the war.
Much of the fighting has focused on the industrial zone and the coking plant.
Barabash earlier said that Ukrainian forces had in recent days pushed back Russian forces near Stepove, a village northwest of Avdiivka, pinning them down near a rail line.
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Ukrainain and Western military analysts say Russia has incurred heavy losses, although the battle for the town is rarely mentioned in official Russian military dispatches.
Russian military bloggers also reported Ukrainian gains near Avdiivka last week. On Monday, Russian reports said Moscow's troops had secured control of the industrial zone and were attempting to storm the coking plant.
Reuters could not verify reports from either side.
Avdiivka was briefly captured in 2014 by Russian-financed separatists who seized large chunks of eastern Ukraine.
Fortifications were later built around the town - seen as a gateway to the Russian-held regional centre of Donetsk - and it has resisted attacks since Moscow began its full-fledged invasion in February 2022.
Ukraine launched a counteroffensive in June but has made only marginal gains in both the east and the south. President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has acknowledged the slow progress but denies any suggestion the war is at a "stalemate".
Ukrainian military spokesperson Oleksandr Shtupun told the news outlet liga.net that wintry weather and strong winds were affecting the use of drones by both sides.
Shtupun said Russian forces had suffered heavy losses near Avdiivka and nearby Maryinka, another largely destroyed town where control has been contested for months.
"Our defenders are holding their ground," Shtupun told liga.net. "We are fighting and will continue to fight despite the weather."
West ‘screwed over’ Ukraine – ex-Zelensky aide
The West has essentially thrown Ukraine under the bus in its conflict with Russia by failing to provide Kiev with the necessary amount of military aid, Aleksey Arestovich, a former aide to President Vladimir Zelensky, has claimed.
Writing on Telegram on Sunday, Arestovich weighed in on the differing views of Ukrainian officials as to why Kiev’s conflict with Moscow is still in full swing despite several major attempts at peace.
According to the former presidential aide, the West bears most of the blame for the situation.
The real responsibility lies with those who promised Ukraine real support for waging a real, big war and did not provide it. In other words, they screwed us over.
Arestovich claimed that Ukraine “had won its war” by managing to survive in the first few months of the conflict. “This war of ours could have well ended with the Istanbul Agreements,” he suggested, referring to the talks in the Turkish city in the spring of 2022, which initially made some progress but stalled after then-British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s visit to Kiev. The negotiations collapsed but Russia maintains it is open to diplomatic engagement with Kiev.
After the Istanbul talks, the conflict entered another phase in which Ukraine had no chance of winning without securing massive Western arms supplies, including warplanes and long-range missiles, the former official continued. “But nothing came. We paid a huge price for that.”
Arestovich suggested that the West would now try to force Ukraine to accept the loss of several regions, which overwhelmingly voted to join Russia in a series of public referenda last autumn.
He also suggested that, while Kiev found itself in a tough spot mostly due to the West’s inaction, the Ukrainian leadership’s “stupidity and corruption has given them many formal and informal reasons to screw us over.”
Arestovich’s remarks came amid Ukraine’s faltering counteroffensive, which has been underway since early summer but has failed to gain any significant ground. Last month, Moscow said Kiev had lost more than 90,000 troops since the start of the push, with Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu claiming that Ukrainian casualties had reached more than 13,000 soldiers in November alone.
Earlier this month, Valery Zaluzhny, Ukraine’s top general, admitted that hostilities had reached a stalemate, an assessment rejected by Zelensky. Meanwhile, on Sunday, Mariana Bezuglaya, a senior Ukrainian MP, blasted Zaluzhny over the lack of a strategic plan for 2024 and called on the military leadership to step down.
** Russian forces wipe out Ukrainian command post in DPR over past day
Russian forces destroyed a Ukrainian command post in the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) over the past day in the special military operation in Ukraine, Russia’s Defense Ministry reported on Monday.
"A command post of the Ukrainian army’s 5th assault brigade was destroyed near the settlement of Krasnoye in the Donetsk People’s Republic," the ministry said in a statement.