Monday Briefing: Avdiivka Falls to Russia

Russia’s army is using its sheer size to overwhelm the smaller Ukrainian military. Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

Avdiivka falls to Russia

Ukrainian forces retreated from Avdiivka, which had been a stronghold in the Donetsk region for more than a decade, giving Russia its first significant victory in almost a year. Now, Ukraine’s outgunned troops may be in their most precarious position since the first months of the war almost two years ago.

The fall of Avdiivka, Russia’s largest territorial advance since taking Bakhmut last May, is the latest sign that Russia has firmly gained the upper hand after Ukraine’s summer counteroffensive fell short of most of its goals. It could bring Russia closer to its goal of capturing the entire Donetsk region and boost President Vladimir Putin as he seeks election to a fifth term in March.

The city saw some of the war’s most horrific fighting. Soldiers lived through near-constant bombardment. So did about 900 civilians, many of whom lived underground and survived on food and supplies brought in by aid workers. It’s not clear how many of them got out.

Geographic challenges: Ukraine’s problems are exacerbated by the flat and unforgiving terrain outside the city. Without dominant hills, larger rivers or fortifications of the kind it built around Avdiivka over the better part of a decade, Ukraine will probably have to cede more ground.

In Europe: Leaders are realizing that they need to step up their defenses against Russia — especially as the U.S. wavers on aid.

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