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Withdrawal of Armed Forces from Avdiivka: Expert opinions on impact at front

Withdrawal of Armed Forces from Avdiivka: Expert opinions on impact at front Photo: experts spoke about the withdrawal of the Ukrainian Armed Forces from Avdiivka (Getty Images)

Ukrainian military forces have withdrawn from the city of Avdiivka after four months of intense Russian assaults near the occupied Donetsk. The decision was made by the Chief Commander of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Oleksandr Syrskyi, to preserve the lives of soldiers and prevent their encirclement.

The significance of Avdiivka for Ukraine and Russia, and the potential impact of the Ukrainian Armed Forces' withdrawal on the frontline situation, are discussed in this material. Military experts Oleksandr Musiienko and Oleksii Hetman provided comments during the preparation of the material.

What is known about the withdrawal from Avdiivka

Avdiivka, located just a few kilometers from Donetsk, has been defending against Russian invaders since 2014.

After the start of the full-scale invasion in February 2022, Ukrainian forces in Avdiivka continued to hold the defense. The main battle for the city began four months ago when Russian occupiers launched their powerful offensive.

After months of fierce fighting for Avdiivka, during which the Russians used "human wave attacks," deployed dozens of pieces of equipment into battle, and bombed with dozens of airstrikes, the Ukrainian command decided to withdraw troops from the city.

This happened after Ukrainian forces in Avdiivka were at risk of being surrounded.

"In a situation where the enemy advances over the bodies of its own soldiers with a ten-to-one advantage in shells, under constant bombardment - this is the only right decision. Encirclement was prevented, personnel were withdrawn, our soldiers took up defense at designated positions," explained Oleksandr Tarnavskyi, Commander on this front.

Withdrawal of Armed Forces from Avdiivka: Expert opinions on impact at frontPhoto: the situation in Avdiivka as of February 16 (

Significance of Avdiivka

According to military expert Oleksandr Musiienko, Avdiivka had both political and military importance for the parties involved, but for Russia, it was primarily political.

"For them, it's another populated area that they can call a 'great victory,' especially on the eve of elections in Russia. Putin will be able to talk about 'liberating Donbas' and 'protecting Donetsk from shelling.' The propaganda effect is significant," he explained.

Additionally, the Russians could advance further from Avdiivka, for example, to Pokrovsk. However, as Musiienko noted, they will need to pause today to replenish their strength and resources after colossal losses. As for Ukraine, the defensive operation in Avdiivka, added the expert, allowed achieving one of the objectives discussed by Chief of Staff Syrskyi - destroying the enemy's combat potential by inflicting the greatest possible losses on them.

At the same time, as military expert Oleksii Hetman commented to RBC-Ukraine, Avdiivka was strategically advantageous for Ukrainian forces.

"We could control the city of Donetsk with artillery fire. We didn't shell it, but the Russians knew we could. That's why the Russians didn't build warehouses or military hubs there," he explained.

Will the withdrawal of Ukrainian Armed Forces from Avdiivka affect the front line?

According to Hetman, after the withdrawal of Ukrainian forces from Avdiivka, significant changes on the front line are not expected.

"It will be our tactical setback, but if we analyze the entire eastern front, there won't be significant changes. Most likely, the Russians will stop because Avdiivka is a dominant height, and beyond it, there are lowlands and the next hills where defense can be maintained, about 15-20 kilometers west of Avdiivka. Most likely, the main Ukrainian forces will withdraw there, while the stretch between Avdiivka and the next hills will be under Ukrainian military control to monitor Russian actions," he told.

As the expert noted, further advancement is unlikely and disadvantageous for the Russians because they would be under Ukrainian fire control. Additionally, the enemy needs to regroup and organize units that have suffered significant losses under Avdiivka.

"It will be a situation similar to Bahmut, where the Russians also claimed they would advance further immediately, but then stopped. In the near future, there should be no expectation of new Russian advances; they have completed the task before the so-called presidential elections. So, I don't think they have such plans," explained Hetman.

Meanwhile, Musiienko believes that the withdrawal from Avdiivka may affect the situation on neighboring sections of the front, such as Vuhledar and Maryinka.

"It is possible that from some positions there, we may also have to retreat to avoid endangering our units. We will have to make some maneuver to align the front line and not leave any danger for our positions," he added.