Putin Says Russia Will Push Further Into Ukraine After ‘Chaotic’ Fall of Avdiivka

Putin Says Russia Will Push Further Into Ukraine After ‘Chaotic’ Fall of Avdiivka
Russia's President Vladimir Putin listens to Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu during a meeting in Moscow, Russia, on Feb. 20, 2024. (Sputnik/Alexander Kazakov/Pool via Reuters)

MOSCOW—President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday Russian troops would push further into Ukraine to build on their success on the battlefield after the fall of the town of Avdiivka where he said Ukrainian troops had been forced to flee in chaos.

The town, which once had a population of 32,000, fell to Russia on Saturday, Mr. Putin’s biggest battlefield victory since Russian forces captured the city of Bakhmut in May 2023.

Television footage released by Russia’s defence ministry showed that almost every house in Avdiivka had been branded with war.

Mr. Putin said on Tuesday the Ukrainian order to withdraw from the town had been announced after Ukrainian troops had already begun to flee in chaos. He said that all captured Ukrainian soldiers should be accorded their rights under international conventions on prisoners.

“As for the overall situation in Avdiivka, this is an absolute success, I congratulate you. It needs to be built on,” Mr. Putin told Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu in the Kremlin.

“But that development must be well-prepared, provided with personnel, weapons, equipment and ammunition,” Mr. Putin said. “It seems to be self-evident, but nevertheless I draw your attention to it.”

Months of Fighting

Ukraine claimed it withdrew its soldiers to save them from being fully surrounded after months of fierce fighting. The Ukrainian military claimed there had been casualties, but that the situation had stabilized somewhat after the retreat.

Each side said the other had suffered huge losses.

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

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appointed a new commander last week to run the war.

Avdiivka, called Avdeyevka by Russians, has endured a decade of conflict. It holds particular symbolism for Russia as it was briefly taken in 2014 by separatists, but was then recaptured by Ukrainian troops who built extensive fortifications.

Avdiivka sits in the industrial Donbas region, 15 km (9 miles) north of the Russian-controlled Ukrainian city of Donetsk. Before the war, Avdiivka’s Soviet-era coke plant was one of Europe’s biggest.

Mr. Shoigu claimed Russian forces had also taken control of the village of Krynky in Ukraine’s southern Kherson region. Ukraine’s southern military command claimed its troops had held their positions on the left bank of the River Dnipro and that Russian attacks were unsuccessful.