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War in Ukraine: Fall of Avdiivka Symbolic or Catastrophic?

Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky, Ukraine’s top military commander, in a statement on the Facebook Page announced that Ukranian troops were pulling out of Avdiivka to prevent encirclement and cut the losses.

The Facebook post stated, “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 defense on more favorable lines.

Our soldiers performed their military duty with dignity, did everything possible to destroy the best russian military units, inflicted significant losses on the enemy in terms of manpower and equipment.

We are taking measures to stabilize the situation and maintain our positions.

The life of military personnel is the highest value.

We will still return Avdiivka.


The seizure of Avdiivka is Russia’s biggest gain since the city of Bakhmut fell in May 2023. The fall is symbolic given that it comes days after Moscow launched the so called Special Military Operation for the seizure of control over Ukraine.

This campaign has dragged with both sides locked into frontal combat at multiple locations over the past two years.

Having stalled the Russian advance, Ukraine armed forces launched a counter offensive that was the hall mark of the year 2023 of the campaign but could make only limited headway in frontal assaults on the multi layered defence adopted by the Russian forces in occupied territories.

Russia prepared for a grand offensive in 2024, having seen exhaustion in the Ukraine ranks with depletion of manpower as well as material reserves.

Russian defence industry has been revived while military aid has been secured from unlikely sources as North Korea and Iran mainly artillery munition and drones which have been used extensively by the two sides but more so by Russia.

Seizure of Avdiivka will expand Russia’s control over Donetsk, 20km  to the east, held by Russian and pro-Russian forces since 2014.

The town also provides an operational advantage opening axis of advance to the North and the West.

The fall of Avdiivka is symbolic coming prior to the second anniversary of the war and will boost morale in Moscow while Kyiv may feel the heat even as the newly appointed Ukraine military commander Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky attempts to gain command over dwindling manpower resources after the controversial exit of his predecessor.

For Russian President Vladimir Putin Avdiivka will be a sign that the campaign in Ukraine has been successful even as he faces Presidential elections where his success is never in doubt but the margin may only increase.

Despite the symbolism it is a long way ahead for both sides.

Avdiivka is a classic defensive holding battle the likes of which and Bakhmut will remain the way ahead as the Ukraine adopts a defensive posture. Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky is known to be a master of the craft of defence.

Yet Ukraine will have to mobilise resources nationally while continue to seek support from the West which is facing multiple challenges in the future.

Will the fall of Avdiivka induce Ukraine’s backers to stand behind it or give up as a lost cause remains to be seen?

The first round of the pre-spring battles has gone Russia’s way, now Ukraine will have to put its shoulder to the formidable military task of avoiding a catastrophe as the Russian are opening another front in the North in Kharkiv Oblast.

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