Russia takes control of a city in eastern Ukraine after Ukrainian troops withdraw

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A Ukrainian soldier sits in his position in Avdiivka, Donetsk region, Ukraine, on Aug 18, 2023.

KYIV, Ukraine, Feb 18, (AP): Russia said its forces took complete control Saturday of a city in eastern Ukraine that was the focus of intense combat for months, a development that Moscow could use to boost morale as the second anniversary of its full-scale invasion of Ukraine approaches with the war largely at a stalemate.
The Russian Defense Ministry’s announcement came the same day Ukraine’s military chief said he was withdrawing troops from the city of Avdiivka, where the outnumbered defenders had battled a Russian assault for four months.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told the Kremlin that Russian forces were working to clear final pockets of resistance at the Avdiivka Coke and Chemical Plant, officials said in a statement. Videos on social media Saturday appeared to show soldiers raising the Russian flag over one of the plant’s buildings.
Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a personal message of congratulating to his troops in the city, state news agency Tass reported. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described Avdiivka’s capture as an “important victory.”
Along with the invasion’s upcoming anniversary on Feb 24, Russia also is preparing for a March presidential election that is all but guaranteed to give Putin another six-year term. The Kremlin has cracked down heavily on dissent during the war, and the death Friday of imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny has silenced the voice of Putin’s most formidable foe.
Ukraine is back on the defensive against Russia in the nearly 2-year-old war, hindered by low ammunition supplies and a shortage of personnel. Speaking at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy warned his country’s allies that an “artificial deficit” of arms for Ukraine risked giving Russia breathing space and allowing “Putin to adapt to the current intensity of the war.”
“Our actions are limited only by … our strength,” Zelenskyy said, pointing to the situation in Avdiivka after the commander of Ukraine’s armed forces said he was withdrawing troops from the city to prevent their encirclement and to save soldiers’ lives.

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