Russian forces tighten grip on Avdiivka as Ukrainians suffer ammunition shortage

Ukrainian troops in Avdiivka struggled on Friday with severe ammunition shortages as Russian forces tightened the noose around the strategic eastern city in an intense Kremlin push for a battlefield win.

The timing is critical as Russia is looking for a morale boost ahead of the second anniversary on February 24 of Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine and the March presidential election in Russia.

The four-month battle in Avdiivka appeared to be coming to a head as Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky made another trip to Europe on Friday, hoping to press his country’s Western allies to keep providing military support.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said on Thursday that Russian forces are beginning to overwhelm Ukrainian defences in the eastern city.

Russia Ukraine War
A Ukrainian marine of 35th brigade fires an automatic grenade launcher towards Russian positions on the outskirts of Avdiivka (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka, File)

The United States is Ukraine’s biggest single supporter but some 60 billion US dollars (£47.6 billion) for Kyiv is being held up by political disagreements among American lawmakers.

Street fighting was underway in the bombed-out city, where Ukrainian troops are outnumbered seven-to-one, according to Oleksandr Borodin, press officer of the 3rd Assault Brigade of the Ukraine Armed Forces.

The 3rd Brigade said on its social media account on Friday that its soldiers are holding out at the huge Avdiivka coke plant.

A video showed dense black smoke over the factory, said to be caused by burning fuel oil reservoirs.

The post said: “Poisonous smog spreads all over the plant.”

Russian troops conducted 33 assaults in Avdiivka over the previous 24 hours, Ukraine’s general staff said on Friday.

The Russians have been trying to capture the city since last October but made only incremental progress before a recent push.

The Ukrainian defenders have prepared for “any possible scenarios”, according to Brigadier General Oleksandr Tarnavskyi, head of the Ukrainian forces in Avdiivka.

Ukrainian officials have not ruled out a withdrawal from the city.

Heavily fortified with a web of tunnels and concrete fortifications, Avdiivka lies in the northern suburbs of Donetsk, a city in a region of the same name that Russian forces partially occupy.

Capturing Avdiivka could be a timely boost for Moscow and serve as a possible springboard for Russia to drive deeper into the region.

Fewer than 1,000 people remain in the city, according to the Donetsk regional governor, Vadym Filashkin.

The city, with a prewar population of about 31,000, is today a bombed-out shell of what it once was.

The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think tank, said that taking Avdiivka would be more of a symbolic win for the Kremlin and would not bring significant changes to the 930-mile front line that has barely budged in recent months.

“The potential Russian capture of Avdiivka would not be operationally significant and would likely only offer the Kremlin immediate informational and political victories,” the institute said in an assessment late Thursday.”

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