NEWS

Ukraine’s Forces Retreat From Two Settlements Near Avdiivka

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Ukrainian forces have reportedly pulled back from two settlements near the Donetsk city of Avdiivka, which the Russian military captured earlier this month.

Dmytro Lykhovii, spokesperson for Ukraine’s “Tavria” operational-strategic group, said during a Ukrainian television broadcast that the villages of Stepove and Severne had been abandoned following battles with recently expanded Russian forces on Tuesday, according to The Kyiv Independent.

While only around 100 people lived in the villages prior to Russia’s invasion two years ago, the settlements are strategically located near Lastochkyne, a village just west of Avdiivka. Russian forces took control of Lastochkyne after the Ukrainian military retreated on Monday.

The British Defense Ministry said in an intelligence update last week that Russia was intensifying attacks along the front lines to “stretch Ukrainian forces,” an effort that may be paying dividends, as Ukraine has withdrawn from multiple settlements near Avdiivka this week.

Ukraine Retreats Two Villages Near Avdiivka Donetsk
Ukrainian troops are pictured on the outskirts of the Donetsk city of Avdiivka, Ukraine, on February 14. A Ukrainian military spokesperson said on Tuesday that troops had withdrawn from the villages of Stepove and Severne,…


Vlada Liberova/Libkos

Newsweek reached out for comment to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense via email on Tuesday.

Lykhovii said during the broadcast on Tuesday that prior to the retreat from the villages, Russian forces “suffered great losses” during “fierce fighting” that occurred on Monday night and Tuesday morning,” according to Ukrainian news agency Interfax-Ukraine.

Russian sources previously claimed that Moscow had already captured Stepove and Severne by Sunday, according to a report from U.S.-based think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW). Geolocated footage cited by ISW on Monday showed Russian forces entering the southeastern part of Severne on the same day.

ISW suggested that the recent Russian advances were evidence of Moscow establishing a “theater-wide initiative” that could result in disaster for Ukraine in the absence of any changes in military strategy, such as Kyiv launching a new counteroffensive effort.

Some experts have suggested that Ukraine’s recent misfortunes on the battlefield are linked by the flow of foreign military aid slowing to a trickle this year. Around $60 billion in aid from the U.S., as requested by President Joe Biden, remains stalled in Congress over partisan disputes.

Leon Hartwell, senior associate at the London School of Economics think tank LSE IDEAS, previously told Newsweek that Russia capturing Avdiivka was due in part to “a substantial disparity between Western promises of support for Ukraine and their actual delivery.”

“Ukrainian troops have been operating with an overwhelming disadvantage, being outgunned five-to-one on the frontline, with Avdiivka being a dire example,” Hartwell said. “In light of these circumstances, how did we even expect Ukrainians to hold Avdiivka for this long?”

Russia’s success appears to have come at a heavy price. Last week, Lykhovii claimed that Moscow lost over 47,000 troops in the months-long battle for Avdiivka, including 17,000 deaths and 30,000 service-ending injuries. In comparison, an estimated 15,000 Soviet troops were killed during the entirety of the Soviet Union’s 1979-1989 war in Afghanistan.