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Photo credit: 110th Mechanized Brigade

​Withdrawal From Avdiivka, Ukraine: What Was and Could've Been Done

Photo credit: 110th Mechanized Brigade
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Ukraine's defensive operation in Avdiivka lasted for 723 days, during this time russian forces managed to advance about 6 kilometers in the direction of the city itself

February 17th morning the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Colonel-General Oleksandr Syrskyi announced the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from the semi-surrounded city of Avdiivka, eastern Ukraine. Operationally semi-encircled, the city held strong under the new wave of offensive started back in October 2023.

The 3rd Assault Brigade which apparently was tasked with covering the forces in preparation for a retreat and had been fighting in the city since March 2022, prior to the withdrawal noted they were repelling the russian forces coming from all 360°.

Read more: After Years of Heroic Defense of Avdiivka, Ukrainian Troops Retreated to More Favorable Positions
BM-21 Grad of Ukrainian forces wards russians away from Avdiivka, February 2024
BM-21 Grad of Ukrainian forces wards russians away from Avdiivka, February 2024 / Photo credit: 110th Mechanized Brigade

Now the Ukrainian military, according to the Commander-in-Chief, will continue fighting from "more favorable positions."

Worth noting, russia had been trying to execute the encirclement of Avdiivka since the very first day of its larger invasion of Ukraine. In spring 2022, russian forces tried to penetrate the Ukrainian defense lines north of the city. As of August 2022, the battles for towns Krasnohorivka in the north and Pisky in the south were underway.

Withdrawal From Avdiivka, Ukraine: What Was and Could've Been Done
Infographics credit: DeepStateUA

Winter 2022–2023, fighting draws closer to the flanks of the city, and the situation starts becoming threatening for Ukrainian forces. As of April 2023, the russians only managed to advance 5 km from the south, and 10–12 km from the north of Avdiivka.

Withdrawal From Avdiivka, Ukraine: What Was and Could've Been Done
Infographics credit: DeepStateUA

Ukrainian Defense Forces attempted to alleviate the situation near Opytne and Vodiane (see the map below) but in October russians launched a new offensive aiming to complete the encirclement. From October 1st, 2023, to January 1st, 2024, russian advance progressed another 3 km facing west of Krasnohorivka and crossed the railway embankment.

Withdrawal From Avdiivka, Ukraine: What Was and Could've Been Done
Infographics credit: DeepStateUA

Then, russia started to apply pressure to the city garrison from all available directions, including frontal strikes. One of the notorious episodes was when russian troops crawled through an underground pipe to try and capture the position with the call sign "Tsarska ohota" in the eastern outskirts of Avdiivka. Also, the russians managed to seize a spoil tip prior to that, a crucial high ground towering over the city.

By February 1st, the situation worsened from threatening to critical, the only possible choice was to withdraw, an alternative would be to stay in the surrounded city, playing into the russians' hands.

Withdrawal From Avdiivka, Ukraine: What Was and Could've Been Done
Infographics credit: DeepStateUA

Essentially, the battle for Avdiivka continued since the early days of the russian invasion, and according to the latest data from DeepStateUA, the new line of defense is the Stepone–Sieverne line. During these 723 days of active assault on the city, the russian army advanced only 6 km toward the city itself, that would be about 8 meters a day on average. Each of those meters is paved with hundreds of russians killed in action. The overall casualties are yet to be calculated but they certainly would be measured in not just brigades but whole divisions.

Take note, such a long and difficult defensive mission on the Ukrainian side was happening against the background of military aid from the United States taken hostage of political disputes since October 2023, and when European countries cannot comply with own commitments of ammunition supplies, which collectively led to Ukrainian forces falling short of resources to continue defensive operations.

The entire operation fell on the shoulders of soldiers, officers, and all the servicemen fighting for Avdiivka, their operational skill and resilience allowing them to cover up for the lack of bullets and shells to repel waves of cannon fodder thrown at them.

Outskirts of Avdiivka, November 2023
Outskirts of Avdiivka, November 2023. "Avdiivka is Ukraine" / Photo credit: 110th Mechanized Brigade
Read more: ​Critical Problems of Ukrainian Frontline, What Can Improve Situation