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Ukraine reinforces 'critical' frontline town of Avdiivka

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Ukraine reinforces 'critical' frontline town of Avdiivka


A view shows an area near the Avdiivka Coke and Chemical Plant in the town of Avdiivka in the course of Russia-Ukraine conflict, as seen from Yasynuvata (Yasinovataya) in the Donetsk region, Russian-controlled Ukraine, February 15, 2024.

A view shows an area near the Avdiivka Coke and Chemical Plant in the town of Avdiivka in the course of Russia-Ukraine conflict, as seen from Yasynuvata (Yasinovataya) in the Donetsk region, Russian-controlled Ukraine, February 15, 2024.
| Photo Credit: REUTERS

Ukraine has rushed soldiers to the embattled eastern town of Avdiivka, surrounded on three sides by Russian forces, where the military said the situation was “extremely critical”.

The announcement of reinforcements came as a Ukrainian rocket strike on the Russian border city of Belgorod killed at least six persons, officials there said.

Both sides are escalating aerial attacks as the war nears the end of its second year. Ukraine’s position around Avdiivka in the eastern Donetsk region has grown increasingly precarious.

“The Third Separate Assault Brigade confirms that it was urgently redeployed to strengthen Ukrainian troops in the Avdiivka area,” the brigade said in a Telegram post.

It described the situation as “extremely critical,” “threatening” and “unstable”, adding that Russia was “throwing new forces and resources into the town”.

Russian troops, who have managed to almost encircle the town through a series of bloody attacks launched last year, have made progress in recent days.

Bringing in supplies and evacuating the few hundred civilians who remained was “complicated,” a Ukrainian army spokesman said Thursday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said in late January that Russian troops had reached the city’s outskirts. They have also cut a key access road, according to reports from both Ukrainian and Russian military bloggers.

Ukraine’s new army chief Oleksandr Syrsky acknowledged that his troops were outnumbered on the battlefield and facing “extremely difficult” conditions after a visit Wednesday to troops around Avdiivka.

The battle for the industrial hub, less than 10 km north of the city of Donetsk, has been one of the bloodiest of the two-year war.

It has drawn comparisons with last year’s grinding fight for Bakhmut, in which tens of thousands of soldiers were killed.

Should Russian forces punch through Ukraine’s stretched defences, it would be the most significant territorial gain for Moscow since it seized Bakhmut last May.

Belgorod strike

Both sides have escalated aerial attacks in a bid to hit targets away from the entrenched frontlines.

A Ukrainian rocket strike killed at least six people and wounded another 17 in the Russian city of Belgorod on Thursday, Russia’s health ministry said.

Images of the aftermath showed a blown-out shopping centre and scattered debris. One showed a body covered with a blanket nearby.

Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said a one-year-old girl was among those killed.

Russia’s foreign ministry blasted a “monstrous crime against civilians” and called for international condemnation of Ukraine.

There was no immediate comment from Kyiv.

Belgorod city lies about 30 kilometres (19 miles) from the border with Ukraine and has been repeatedly struck by what Moscow says is indiscriminate shelling by Kyiv’s forces.

Russia’s defence ministry said its air defences intercepted 14 Ukrainian rockets at the time of the attack. Officials did not say if any hit the city or if the damage had been caused by falling debris.

On the diplomatic front, concern is growing in Kyiv and Western capitals over Ukraine’s ability to hold out against intensifying Russian attacks without more Western military support.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday the delay in passing new US aid for Ukraine was already hurting Kyiv’s forces on the battlefield.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky will travel to Berlin and Paris on Friday for meetings with Olaf Scholz and Emmanuel Macron, his office announced.

Kyiv has been pressing Europe to deliver more much-needed artillery shells, amid frontline shortages.

Zelensky will then meet US Vice President Kamala Harris at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, Kyiv said.

Overnight attacks

Both sides had earlier launched a wave of overnight aerial attacks.

Russia fired 26 missiles, killing at least one person and destroying multiple homes, Ukraine said.

Russia blamed a Ukrainian drone attack overnight for a blaze at an oil depot in the western Kursk region, close to the border with Ukraine.

Kyiv has struck multiple Russian energy facilities over the winter in what it has called “fair” retribution for Moscow’s own attempts to cripple Ukraine’s power grid.

Russia’s overnight attack killed one person in the northeastern city of Chuguyiv, the prosecutor’s office said, wounding six in the southern Zaporizhzhia region and three in the western Lviv region.

Russia’s defence ministry said it had targeted Ukraine’s military facilities and weapons factories.

Ukraine’s air force said its air defences had shot down 13 of the 26 Russian missiles.

Ukrainian police also raised the death toll from strikes on the Donetsk region on Wednesday to eight. The victims included a pregnant woman and a nine-year-old child.



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