Outgunned and outnumbered Ukrainian troops pull out of Avdiivka as America dithers over artillery supplies

Outgunned and outnumbered Ukrainian troops pull out of Avdiivka as America dithers over artillery supplies

Outnumbered and outgunned Ukrainian troops retreated from a key city as America dithers over artillery supplies to stop Russian advances.

Vladimir Putin’s forces on Monday claimed full control of the vast Soviet-era coke plant in ruined Avdiivka, cementing the biggest gain in nine months after one of the most intense battles of the war which reportedly saw more than 1,000 Russian soldiers killed or wounded in just 24 hours.

Russia’s defence ministry said its troops had advanced about five miles in that part of the 620-mile front line in the Donetsk province of eastern Ukraine, and that Russian troops were pressing forward.

Ukraine said it had withdrawn its soldiers to save troops from being fully surrounded after months of fierce fighting.

“The positions that we were holding were just annihilated,” said Rodion Kudriashov, deputy commander of the 3rd Assault Brigade.

The Ukrainian troops were so short of ammunition that they “had to choose between targets,” he added.

Outnumbered and outgunned, they pulled back to previously prepared positions, he explained.

The sides were deeply uneven in favour of the Russian forces, he stressed, quoting Ukrainian intelligence assessments. “If we are talking about infantry, it’s 1 to 7. If we are talking about military vehicles it’s 1 to 8 and in terms of artillery, it’s 1 to 11,” he said.

Some Western military analysts believe that Ukraine could counter Russia’s attempt to build up on its Avdiivka success by trying to erect new defence lines in the immediate area and deploying fresh units to hold back Kremlin’s forces.

Even so, the threat of ammunition shortages hangs over Ukraine’s military, with Russia aiming to exploit the moment as the United States struggles to get political agreement for more aid and Europe strives to increase production.

Britain has urged allies to do more to support Kyiv, as some Republicans have been blocking the proposed $61 billion (£48 billion) US aid package for Ukraine which is seen as crucial to push back Putin’s army.

Without US funding, Ukraine is likely to start losing the war, analysts say.

“Delays in Western security assistance to Ukraine are likely helping Russia launch opportunistic offensive operations along several sectors of the front line in order to place pressure on Ukrainian forces along multiple axes,” the Institute for the Study of War said in an assessment late Sunday.

Apart from Avdiivka, Russia is pushing harder in the northeastern Kharkiv region and in southern Zaporizhia, the Washington-based think tank added.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky said his country “is “doing everything possible and impossible” to defeat Russia.

The fall of Avdiivka comes almost two years to the day since Putin triggered a full-scale war by ordering the invasion of Ukraine.

Colonel-General Oleksandr Syrskyi, Commander-in-Chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, said his troops had moved back to more secure positions outside the town “to avoid encirclement and preserve the lives and health of servicemen”.

Meanwhile, Ukraine claimed on Monday to have downed a Russian Su-34 fighter bomber and an Su-35S fighter.

They are the latest Russian aircraft to be shot down as Putin’s air force’s range has reportedly been slightly pushed back.

But the Russian president hailed the fall of Avdiivka as an important victory and congratulated Russian troops.

“The ‘Centre’ grouping of troops, taking the offensive, took full control of the coke plant in Avdiivka,” Russia’s defence ministry said in a statement alongside video showing a series of blasts in what appeared to be the plant.

“Russian flags were hoisted on the administrative buildings of the plant,” the ministry added.

Russian state television showed blue-and-yellow Ukrainian flags being taken down in Avdiivka and Russia’s white, blue and red tricolour flag raised, including over the coke plant.

After the failure of Ukraine to pierce Russian lines last year in a summer offensive, Moscow has been trying to grind down Ukrainian forces just as Kyiv ponders a major new mobilisation.