Ukrainian soldiers expect more assaults after Russian forces capture eastern town

By Thomson Reuters Feb 21, 2024 | 5:18 PM

By Inna Varenytsia

NEAR AVDIIVKA, Ukraine (Reuters) – Ukrainian soldiers dug in around new positions outside of Avdiivka say Russian forces who captured the eastern Ukrainian town last week are pressing on toward nearby towns and villages.

“It doesn’t end with them taking Avdiivka. They continue assaulting (our positions),” said Andriy, a Ukrainian drone pilot of the 47th Mechanised Brigade, sitting quietly in a darkened area.

“After Avdiivka, the villages nearby are next. And then, Myrnohrad and Pokrovsk, the nearest larger towns.”

Russian forces secured Avdiivka after months of bombardment reduced the town to rubble. It was Russia’s biggest battlefield victory since its forces captured Bakhmut in May 2023.

The capture of Avdiivka, after months of little change in the front lines, indicated a change of momentum as the second anniversary of the Russian invasion nears. President Vladimir Putin says Russian troops will push further into Ukraine.

Russian forces, Andriy said, have “a lot of manpower. There is lots of shelling. And KABs (guided aerial bombs) still bomb us as they used to. Well, perhaps there is a little less, but still a lot.”

A member of the unit launches an FPV (First Point View) drone from a wooded area and, wearing goggles, controls its trajectory on a monitor.

The whine of the drone eventually turns into a slight thud, indicating that an explosion has occurred. The drone flies headlong into a dugout.

Andriy and his fellow unit member, identifying himself as Huk, follow the progress of drones.

Footage shows the vast coke and chemical plant on the edge of Avdiivka, once one of Europe’s largest, and the area around it. Two blurred figures, Russian soldiers, are seen walking through an open area.

Maksym Zhorin, Deputy Commander of Ukraine’s Third Assault Brigade, wrote on Telegram on Wednesday: “The situation on the Avdiivka front is quite clear. The Russians will advance as far as their strength allows, depending on who among them survives.”

Andriy and Huk harbour no illusions of what lies ahead.

“It seems like things are calmer, but they are continuing their attempts to capture Lastochkyne. They are moving towards it,” Huk says, referring to a village to the northwest.

“I think they are now taking a small break to gather their forces so as to continue attacking us.”

Neither is demoralised by the decision to move out of the town, once home to 32,000 people. But some relief would be welcome.

“What will happen further? I don’t know. I just live day by day, or at least I try to,” Andriy said.

“We will keep working. That it our duty. And first of all, we are waiting to be replaced. We would like at least part of our ranks to rotate out. We don’t just want our ranks to be replenished.”

(This story has been refiled to fix garbled text in the byline)

(Writing by Ron Popeski; Editing by David Gregorio)