Avdiivka: Ukraine Commander Says Russia Has Captured Soldiers As Kiev Forces Pull Out Of Main City

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Smoke rises from the Avdivka Coke and Chemical Plant on February 15.



CNN

According to the commander of Ukraine's southern forces, Russia captured some Ukrainian soldiers as Kiev's forces withdrew from the main town of Avdiivka.

Ukraine announced its withdrawal from the city, northwest of Donetsk, on Friday, following some of Russia's fiercest fighting in Ukraine.

The withdrawal came after Moscow stepped up attacks on the area in recent weeks, sending a wave of airstrikes and ground attacks by artillery and armored vehicles and soldiers.

Withdrawal is “the only correct solution,” Oleksandr Tarnovsky, the commander of Ukraine's southern forces, said in a Telegram post on Friday, adding that some Ukrainian troops had been captured during the operation.

“In a situation where the enemy is advancing with a 10-to-1 shell advantage over the corpses of their own soldiers, under continuous bombardment, this is the only proper solution,” he said. Tarnovsky added that Russian troops were “numerically superior in terms of personnel, artillery and aviation.”

Moscow's forces have launched 20 airstrikes and more than 150 artillery strikes in the area in the past 24 hours, he said, as the Russians “practically wipe the city off the face of the earth”.

The decision comes days after Ukraine's new army chief Oleksandr Chirsky and Defense Minister Rustem Umerov visited the front lines in Avdiyvka, with the army chief pledging to send reinforcements to “prevent the enemy from advancing deeper into our territory”.

By Thursday, however, Ukrainian forces were struggling to hold the city “Hell” conditions And the enemy “comes from all sides”.

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In a Facebook post on Friday, Chirsky ordered the withdrawal to move troops to protect “the most favorable routes” to “avoid encirclement and protect the lives and health of soldiers.”

He said Ukrainian soldiers had “done everything possible to destroy the best Russian military units and inflicted significant losses on the enemy in terms of manpower and equipment in the area.”

Ukraine is “taking measures to stabilize the situation and maintain positions,” he said, adding that “the lives of servicemen are of the highest value.”

Russia also suffered heavy losses in the attack on Avdiivka, but Moscow seems to have calculated that they were worth it given its numerical advantage.

Avdivka, a few kilometers north of Donetsk airport, was captured by Russian forces in early 2015 after months of heavy fighting. It has remained firmly in Moscow's crosshairs ever since.

With Russia's presidential election just weeks away, its capture would have given Moscow added value.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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