Wednesday, 21 February 2024 02:55

What to know after Day 727 of Russia-Ukraine war

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RUSSIAN PERSPECTIVE

Moscow reveals details on capture of Avdeevka

The key Donbass town of Avdeevka has been liberated with minimal losses among Russian troops, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu told President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday. While fleeing the town, Ukrainian forces left behind many wounded soldiers, military hardware and equipment, as well as heavily mined positions, the minister said.

The president congratulated the minister on the success in Avdeevka, noting that the Ukrainian forces were forced to flee the heavily-fortified town, while their announced withdrawal was a purely political attempt to cover up the true position and portray it as an “organized retreat.”

“The situation in Avdeevka is certainly a success but it needs to be advanced further. Its development must be well-prepared, provided with personnel, weapons, equipment, and ammunition,” Putin told the minister.

A northern suburb of Donetsk, Avdeevka has served as a pivotal stronghold for Kiev since the early stages of conflict in then-Ukrainian Donbass. Over the past nine years, the site has remained on the conflict frontline and has been the launching point for multiple Ukrainian attacks on Donetsk in which, local officials estimate, thousands of civilians have died. 

It had also been heavily reinforced, with vast underground bunkers and tunnels built by the Ukrainian military, Shoigu noted.

The operation to capture the town has been prepared by the General Staff since last fall, the minister revealed. The Russian command used high-precision strikes against key points in the Ukrainian positions, Shoigu stated, adding that over 450 such strikes were carried out daily during the operation.

Russia seized control of Avdeevka on Saturday, inflicting heavy casualties on Ukrainian troops amid their retreat, reportedly reaching up to 1,500 in a single day. The Ukrainian command, however, has insisted the rout was actually an organized withdrawal on the order of Kiev’s freshly-appointed top general, Aleksandr Syrsky.

** Russian defense chief points to significant increase in drones, ammunition

The number of unmanned aerial vehicles in use by the Russian army has increased 17-fold, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said in an interview with TASS Editor-in-Chief Mikhail Petrov.

"We have increased the number of tanks almost six-fold; we are improving and upgrading them. The number of unmanned aerial vehicles has grown 17-fold and the number of both artillery and jet shells has risen 17.5-fold. It certainly allows us to face the future with confidence even though the job is challenging," Shoigu noted.

About 540,000 people entered military service under contract in Russia in 2023, making it possible to create a reserve army of six divisions, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said.

"We recruited almost 540,000 people for contract service last year alone, which allowed us to create a reserve army of six divisions. Today, they are well-trained professional troops who constitute a strong force. As many as 50,000 people have entered military service under contract since the beginning of this year, and they keep coming," he pointed out.

he Ukrainian army failed to reach even the first line of Russia’s defenses during its large-scale counteroffensive, Shoigu said.

"[Russian forces] started to do careful work on an everyday basis, using all resources, including the Aerospace Forces, army aircraft, attack aircraft, paratroopers, marines and high-precision weapons, because we had to hit vehicles carrying military equipment and ammunition on the distant approaches, along with training centers and troops. This is how, step by step, we made sure that the enemy failed to reach even the first line of defense despite using huge forces. And there are two more defense lines," he pointed out.

 

WESTERN PERSPECTIVE

Putin says Russia will push further into Ukraine after 'chaotic' fall of Avdiivka

President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday Russian troops would push further into Ukraine to build on their success on the battlefield after the fall of the town of Avdiivka where he said Ukrainian troops had been forced to flee in chaos.

The town, which once had a population of 32,000, fell to Russia on Saturday, Putin's biggest battlefield victory since Russian forces captured the city of Bakhmut in May 2023.

Television footage released by Russia's defence ministry showed that almost every house in Avdiivka had been branded with war.

Putin said on Tuesday the Ukrainian order to withdraw from the town had been announced after Ukrainian troops had already begun to flee in chaos. He said that all captured Ukrainian soldiers should be accorded their rights under international conventions on prisoners.

"As for the overall situation in Avdiivka, this is an absolute success, I congratulate you. It needs to be built on," Putin told Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu in the Kremlin.

"But that development must be well-prepared, provided with personnel, weapons, equipment and ammunition," Putin said. "It seems to be self-evident, but nevertheless I draw your attention to it."

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told CNN that Avdiivka would not have fallen had Kyiv received weapons held up by the U.S. Congress' failure to approve a large aid package.

"We wouldn't (have lost) Avdiivka if we had all the artillery ammunition that we needed to defend it. Russia does not intend to pause or withdraw...Once Avdiivka is under their control, they undoubtedly will choose another city and begin to storm it," Kuleba said.

Ukrainian troops, he said, were "making miracles...but the reason they have to sacrifice themselves and die is that someone is still debating a decision. I want everyone to remember that every day of debate in one place means another death in another place."

The U.S. Senate this month passed a $95 billion aid package that includes funds for Ukraine, but House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson has declined to bring it up for a vote on the floor of the House.

MONTHS OF FIGHTING

Ukraine said it withdrew its soldiers to save them from being fully surrounded after months of fierce fighting. The Ukrainian military said there had been casualties, but that the situation had stabilised somewhat after the retreat.

Each side said the other had suffered huge losses.

After the failure of Ukraine to pierce Russian front lines in the east and south last year, Moscow has been trying to grind down Ukrainian forces just as Kyiv ponders a major new mobilisation.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy appointed a new commander last week to run the war.

Putin sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine in February 2022, triggering full-scale war after eight years of conflict in eastern Ukraine between Ukrainian forces on one side and pro-Russian Ukrainians and Russian proxies on the other.

Avdiivka, called Avdeyevka by Russians, has endured a decade of conflict. It holds particular symbolism for Russia as it was briefly taken in 2014 by Moscow-backed separatists who seized a swathe of eastern Ukraine, but was then recaptured by Ukrainian troops who built extensive fortifications.

Avdiivka sits in the industrial Donbas region, 15 km (9 miles) north of the Russian-controlled Ukrainian city of Donetsk. Before the war, Avdiivka's Soviet-era coke plant was one of Europe's biggest.

Shoigu said Russian forces had also taken control of the village of Krynky in Ukraine's southern Kherson region. Ukraine's southern military command said its troops had held their positions on the left bank of the River Dnipro and that Russian attacks were unsuccessful.

Neither side gives death tolls for the war.

** Avdiivka, a Ukrainian town taken by Russia, shown in ruins

The trees are splintered, the houses wrecked, the surviving civilians live in basements, NATO ammunition has been abandoned - this is the picture shown by footage released by Russia from the ruins of the Ukrainian town of Avdiivka.

The town, once with a population of 32,000, fell to Russia on Saturday, President Vladimir Putin's biggest victory since Moscow captured the city of Bakhmut in May 2023.

Television footage released by Russia's defence ministry showed that almost every house in Avdiivka was branded with war. An unidentified Russian soldier walked past a wasteland of rubble, describing a chaotic Ukrainian retreat.

The cupola of a church was in pieces, roads were strewn with the detritus of war including a wrecked armoured vehicle and whole apartment blocks hung down broken, seeping out lives long abandoned into the snow.

The soldier showed baked beans and chilli military rations supplied by Canada, brand new NATO 7.62 mm M118 cartridges, 120 mm mortars and a box with "Choctaw Defense Manufacturing Group" printed on them.

Reuters was able to confirm the location of some of the footage released by the defence ministry by the structure and design of nearby buildings, a bridge and train tracks which matched file and satellite imagery. Reuters was not able to independently verify when the video was taken.

Beside dogs, a woman named Tatiana, one of just a few hundred civilians still living in the ruins, told of a life huddling in basements and running to collect water in plastic containers during any lull in the fighting.

"It was scary of course - very scary," Tatiana said in Russian in the footage. "We are so happy that you have come."

"We live in the basements. We don't live in flats. All our flats are wrecked. After the start of the special operation we went down into the basements."

 

RT/Reuters

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