Ukraine’s top general orders retreat from Avdiivka

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Ukraine’s new commander-in-chief General Oleksandr Syrsky has ordered his forces to pull out of the critical eastern town of Avdiivka, stressing the importance of preserving the lives of his outmanned and outnumbered troops.

“Based on the operational situation around Avdiivka, in order to avoid encirclement and preserve the lives and health of servicemen, I decided to withdraw our units from the city and move to defence on more favourable lines,” Syrsky said in a statement posted to Facebook shortly after midnight on Saturday.

The withdrawal from Avdiivka will hand the Kremlin its first big battlefield win and territorial grab since its destruction and capture of the city of Bakhmut in May 2023.

Ukrainian units in Avdiivka have been forced to drastically reduce their firepower in recent weeks due to a shortage in western artillery ammunition. The US has struggled to deliver a promised $60bn aid package in the face of opposition in Congress.

On Friday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed 10-year bilateral defence accords with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin and President Emmanuel Macron in Paris that aim to boost support for Ukraine.

Zelenskyy in Paris said: “I am sure these accords in Europe will help the process along in the US by encouraging [lawmakers] to prioritise aid to Ukraine rather than electoral considerations.”

Prior to announcement of the withdrawal, Oleksandr Tarnavskyi, the commander of Ukraine’s south-eastern sector, said that Russia was “throwing all reserves at its assault” on the industrial city that serves as a crucial gateway to the Moscow-controlled city of Donetsk. 

He said that “several of our soldiers were captured” in the battle on Friday. “Evacuation of the wounded is complicated by continuous shelling, but is being carried out.”

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