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Avdiivka fallout: Ukraine's withdrawal from Lastochkyne and Russia's new targets

Avdiivka fallout: Ukraine's withdrawal from Lastochkyne and Russia's new targets Ukrainian military have left the village of Lastochkyne for a new defensive line (Photo: Getty Images)

Russian forces have not stopped at the capture of Avdiivka and continue to advance with significant strength. The occupiers are pressing on surrounding villages, and, as it became known, Defense Forces have left the settlement of Lastochkyne.

More details on this and how the situation west of Avdiivka may unfold can be found in the material by RBC-Ukraine.

In preparing the material, data from the Ukrainian DeepState project, the American Institute for the Study of War (ISW), statements by the commander of the Tavria operational-strategic group Oleksandr Tarnavskyi and spokesperson Dmytro Lykhoviy, as well as comments from experts Oleksandr Kovalenko and Oleksandr Musiienko were used.


Ukrainian Forces withdraw from Lastochkyne: What is known

After the Ukrainian Defense Forces left Avdiivka, many expected the Russian advance to halt. However, the enemy almost immediately launched a large-scale attack, and the first settlement to fall was Lastochkyne, located a few kilometers from Avdiivka. It borders its western outskirts, particularly the industrial zone of the coke-chemical plant.

The capture of Lastochkyne was announced by Russian propaganda on February 24, showing photos from the central part of the village. Within a few hours, the Ukrainian DeepState project updated its map, marking it as occupied. However, the next day, the spokesperson for the Tavria operational-strategic group, Dmytro Lykhoviy, refuted the capture, stating that as of February 25, the Defense Forces had only withdrawn to the western outskirts.

"This is what it was like in the morning. But the situation is dynamic; it can change," he said, emphasizing that Ukrainian forces had withdrawn to pre-prepared positions under artillery and aviation pressure.

Meanwhile, BILD expert Julian Röpcke compared footage from the front with the local terrain map and concluded that Russian troops had entered Lastochkyne. The day before, a video appeared online confirming that the village was occupied by invaders and Russian tricolor flags were raised. Ukrainian soldiers also confirmed this, according to DeepState.

Avdiivka fallout: Ukraine's withdrawal from Lastochkyne and Russia's new targetsPhoto: The village of Lastochkyne became the first captured settlement to the west of Avdiivka (

According to a report by the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), over the weekend, Russians advanced west of Avdiivka and began clearing Lastochkyne. Today, Lykhoviy confirmed the withdrawal from the village. The commander of the Tavria group, Oleksandr Tarnavskyi, described the situation in his area of responsibility. The enemy is increasing the number of air raids and assaults, artillery shelling, and kamikaze drone strikes. Just in the Maryinka direction, there were 40 attempts to break through the Ukrainian defense in a day, 6 in the Zaporizhzhia direction, and 25 near Avdiivka.

"We are strengthening the defense line on the Avdiivka direction, organizing the defense of settlements west of Avdiivka to prevent further Russian advances and inflict maximum losses on them," the general added.

What is known about the defense of Lastochkyne and the reasons for the withdrawal

Before the full-scale invasion of Lastochkyne, there were about 600 residents in the village. The settlement is located on the banks of the Durna River (a tributary of the Vovcha River, in the Dnipro basin) on the western slopes of the Donetsk Upland at an elevation of 180-190 meters above sea level.

Oleksandr Musiienko, head of the Сenter of Military Law Researches, notes that risks for the Ukrainian grouping on the outskirts of Avdiivka arose immediately after the Russians entered the city.

"The enemy acted and continues to act on the flanks from the direction of Berdychiv and Peremaisk, moving through the center, as in this case in the area of Lastochkyne. Our forces are holding the defense, inflicting maximum losses, but it was difficult to hold Lastochkyne because the village was devastated by the fire of Russian forces, and there was nowhere special to take cover," he says in an interview with RBC-Ukraine.

Analysts from DeepState write that holding out in Lastochkyne was difficult because the military had to consolidate along the course of the fighting, retreating from Avdiivka. All this time, the enemy continued to press with a large number of infantry and equipment, continuing the tactic of human wave assaults. On the other hand, there is an opinion that the defense of Lastochkyne was not strong enough, and accordingly, the withdrawal was only a matter of time.

Avdiivka fallout: Ukraine's withdrawal from Lastochkyne and Russia's new targets Lack of ammunition could have been one of the reasons for the loss of Lastochkyne (Photo: Getty Images)

Military and political expert of the Information Resistance Group, Oleksandr Kovalenko, is not ready to assess the quality of the defense.

"I know that we have a big problem with the lack of ammunition in sufficient quantities. We don't have enough of them. And no matter how good the defense is, without a proportional distribution of ammunition, even the most reliable fortifications are almost impossible to hold. Moreover, there is a direct road from Avdiivka to Lastochkyne, route T0542, so we can talk about the fact that the Russians had a direct path to the village," he says.

As Musiienko emphasizes, there were no dominant heights in Lastochkyne, and there was no time to turn it into an impregnable fortress. According to him, the enemy has the advantage in terms of heights, advancing from Avdiivka and trying to develop success further to the west.

"It is clear that they will use this advantage. Taking this and the general situation into account, the decision to withdraw was correct," the expert notes.

Behind Avdiivka, plains open up, where there is not always something to hold onto. The landscape is not in favor of the Defense Forces, so it is not excluded that they may withdraw from other populated areas. The Russians maintain momentum and the ability to advance. On the one hand, this is a challenge for the Ukrainian forces, which urgently need to arrange additional lines of defense. On the other hand, it is a challenge for the occupiers, as the further they go, the more they stretch their logistical lines, which essentially allows the Ukrainian Armed Forces to strike at logistics and hinder the deployment of forces, Musiienko adds.

Security buffer: What does Lastochkyne have to do with it and what will happen next on the Avdiivka front

Experts polled by RBC-Ukraine agree that shortly, the Avdiivka front may gradually stabilize. To achieve this, reliable defense lines need to be built, but the main issue is to address the problem of guided bomb strikes.

"It's very troublesome for our troops; right now, it's one of the priority tasks - combating guided bomb strikes and destroying aircraft. Hopefully, our partners will support us with missiles," says Musiienko.

However, this does not guarantee that there will be no withdrawal of Ukrainian forces from other populated areas beyond Lastochkyne. According to Oleksandr Kovalenko, the Russians are pressing to create a security buffer for their grouping in Avdiivka, which will include surrounding villages such as Stepove, Berdychi, Severne, Tonenke, Orlivka, and Semenivka.

Avdiivka fallout: Ukraine's withdrawal from Lastochkyne and Russia's new targetsRussia will try to form a "security buffer" for itself near Avdiivka (Photo:

"It's a kind of semi-circle near Avdiivka, 3-5 kilometers away, which allows not only to consolidate in the city but also to provide the possibility of regrouping, redeployment of units, and restoring combat capability," he explains.

The Russians are learning from their mistakes, particularly those made near Bakhmut. After the fall of the Bakhmut fortress to Ukrainian forces in the summer of 2023, they quickly transitioned to counterattack actions. This forced the enemy to retreat from the southwestern sector around Klishchiivka and Andriivka.

"To prevent a repeat of this near Avdiivka, they are creating a security buffer. Of course, they need an operational pause to restore their offensive potential. But they are using all opportunities and advancing where they can," Kovalenko adds.

Defense line has shifted westward. Will Stepove and Sieverne be next?

As stated by the spokesperson for the Tavria group, Dmytro Lykhovyi, the maneuver of withdrawing from Lastochkyne is necessary to organize defense along the Berdychi-Orlivka-Tonenke line. However, looking at the map, it is unclear whether the Ukrainian Armed Forces will be able to maintain a presence in Stepove and Sieverne, which are located slightly to the east. It is entirely possible that soon, more bad news may come from the Avdiivka front.

"It's logical because Stepove has been in the gray zone for several months now, quickly finding itself there, although the Russians have not been able to fully capture it yet. And Sieverne is directly accessible from Vodiane. The Russians have consistently pressed through Vodiane in an attempt to seize Sieverne. It's important for them to establish this buffer based on these villages. So, it's not unlikely that Sieverne and Stepove will also be lost," believes Kovalenko, adding that these villages are at risk and are not part of the defense line named by the military.

Avdiivka fallout: Ukraine's withdrawal from Lastochkyne and Russia's new targets

The withdrawal to the defense line of Berdychi-Orlivka-Tonenke poses a threat of capturing Stepove and Sieverne (Photo:

A possible withdrawal from Stepove is a foreseeable scenario, says Musiienko.

"The enemy managed to capture Avdiivka, and now we're seeing the consequences - not only the withdrawal from the city but potentially also from Stepove. Real combat actions will show how long our forces can hold out," he notes in his comment to RBC-Ukraine.

According to him, the Ukrainian forces have shifted to maneuverable defense, involving active movement between fortified areas and borders. The goal is to weaken the enemy, reduce their offensive potential, and block further advancement. It's worth noting that natural obstacles such as highlands and a cascade of water bodies began after Orlivka and Tonenke. It is here that the Defense Forces are preparing to halt the Russian army's breakthrough.

Is there currently a threat of an advance on Pokrovsk, and when will Russia take a pause?

The summary of the General Staff and analytical reports confirms concerns. Over the past day in the area of Sieverne, Stepove, Berdychi, and Nevelske, there have been at least 25 attacks. The occupiers unsuccessfully attempted to advance on Stepove, and there was an "unpleasant moment" with a breakthrough toward Berdychi, but it was also repelled. According to DeepState, the Russians are trying to consolidate in the outermost buildings in Orlivka, the vicinity of Tonenke, and have achieved partial success to the south of Sieverne.

In theory, a breakthrough could provide favorable conditions for an advance toward Selydove, Novohrodivka, and Pokrovsk. In addition to reaching the administrative borders of the Donetsk region, the areas of Kurakhove and Vuhledar are threatened to be trapped. However, expert Musiienko believes that the situation is stabilized in the Maryinka direction, and the most dangerous scenario is currently being avoided.

"Let's see how the situation develops, but our forces are confidently holding back the enemy there. As for the northern Donetsk region, it is clear that Russian plans include advancing towards Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, including from the Lyman direction, where they have been conducting offensive actions since November. Therefore, all the aforementioned areas are being fortified by our forces," he adds.

Oleksandr Kovalenko believes that after capturing Lastochkyne and potentially Stepove or Sieverne, the Russians will halt their advance.

"At most, they are capable of reaching Berdychi, Semenivka, and Orlivka. The command wants to ensure a buffer; they are exhausted from the battles for Avdiivka, limited in resources, and do not have enough potential for such a deep advance (towards Pokrovsk)," he concludes.