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Key Donbass city of Avdeevka liberated – Moscow

Russian forces have “completely captured” the city of Avdeevka, the Russian Defense Ministry announced on Saturday. Some 1,500 Ukrainian troops were killed as they retreated, leaving their weapons and equipment behind, the ministry said.

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The seizure moves the front line further away from the city of Donetsk, thereby shielding its civilian population from bombardment by Ukrainian forces. Situated around 20km away, Avdeevka had been fortified and used as a staging ground for such attacks since 2014.

“Under the continuous fire of Russian troops, only individual scattered formations of Ukrainian militants” managed to escape the city, the ministry said, stating that Kiev had lost 1,500 men in the 24 hours before the city was liberated. Those that fled left their weapons and equipment behind them, it added.

“Measures are being taken to fully clear the city of militants,” the defense ministry said, adding that Russian forces would soon move to block Ukrainian units holed up in a coke plant on the city’s outskirts.

After appointing a new commander-in-chief, who surged elite Western-trained units into Avdeevka in a failed bid to hold the city, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky conceded on Saturday that the order had been given to retreat. With the bastion almost completely encircled by Russia’s ‘Center’ group of forces, Zelensky called the order “absolutely logical.”

Following the capture of Avdeevka, Russian forces will continue their offensive to “further liberate the Donetsk People’s Republic from Ukrainian nationalists,” the ministry’s statement concluded.

READ MORE: Zelensky explains Avdeevka retreat

A Ukrainian defeat at Avdeevka had been predicted by officials in Washington and Western journalists for several weeks. Earlier this week, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby blamed the loss of the city on the drying up of Western aid, while Zelensky echoed this excuse on Saturday, accusing his Western patrons of creating “an artificial shortage of weapons.” 

In a briefing to reporters on Friday, a Pentagon official told reporters that the situation in Avdeevka could soon be repeated in “many other locations along the forward line,” and that “Ukraine’s defense will likely collapse” if American lawmakers fail to authorize a new $60 billion military aid package for Kiev.

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