Ukraine pulls back from three villages in east as Russia claims gains

Update by Ukraine’s top commander comes as outgunned Kyiv waits for new delivery of US weapons.

Ukrainian servicemen fire an anti-aircraft cannon near Bakhmut, Ukraine [File: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty/Serhii Nuzhnenko via Reuters]Published On 28 Apr 202428 Apr 2024

Ukraine’s top commander has said Kyiv’s outnumbered troops fell back to new positions west of three villages on the eastern front, where Russia has concentrated significant forces in several locations.

Sunday’s statement by Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskii reflected Ukraine’s deteriorating position in the east, which Kyiv hopes it can stabilise once it takes delivery of United States weapons under a $61bn aid package approved in the US this week.

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“The situation at the front has worsened,” Syrskii wrote on the Telegram app, describing the “most difficult” areas as west of occupied Maryinka and northwest of Avdiivka, the town captured by Russian forces in February.

Kyiv’s troops, he said, had taken up new positions west of the villages of Berdychi and Semenivka, both north of Avdiivka, and Novomykhailivka, further south near the town of Maryinka.

“In general, the enemy achieved certain tactical successes in these areas, but could not gain operational advantages,” Syrskii said, adding that Russia had committed four brigades to the assault.

Freshly rested Ukrainian brigades were being rotated in those areas to replace units that had suffered losses, he said.

His statement did not mention the status of Novobakhmutivka, another village near Berdychi, which Russia’s Ministry of Defence said on Sunday that its forces had captured.

Superior ammunition and air power

Al Jazeera’s John Holman, reporting from Kyiv, said Russian forces are concentrating on several different points on the front line.

“This gives them the initiative on the battlefield,” Holman also said, adding that the Russian side has superior ammunition and air power.

He said the Ukrainian army personnel on the front lines told Al Jazeera that “they are out-shelled six or seven to one”.

Holman added that the Ukrainian military is waiting for the recently approved US aid to arrive and use it to close the firepower disparity between the sides.

Ukrainian officials say the aid is critical to holding off Russia’s two-year-old invasion.

Moscow’s troops have been slowly advancing since capturing the bastion town of Avdiivka, taking advantage of Ukrainian shortages of artillery shells and manpower.

Online battlefield maps produced by open-source intelligence analysts suggest they have advanced more than 15km (9.3 miles) in the direction of the village of Ocheretyne since capturing Avdiivka.

Further up the front, the Ukrainian-held town of Chasiv Yar is a key emerging battleground because of its position on elevated ground that could serve as a gateway to the cities of Kostiantynivka, Sloviansk and Kramatorsk.

Syrskiy described Chasiv Yar and the village of Ivanivske to its northeast as the “hottest spots” on that part of the front. Russia’s Ministry of Defence said it had repelled Ukrainian counterattacks near Chasiv Yar.

Meanwhile, in what could prove a worrying development for Ukraine, Syrskii said his forces were closely monitoring an increase in the number of Russian troops in the area of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city.

The northeastern city of 1.3 million – located just 30km (18.6 miles) from the Russian border – has been hammered by air attacks in recent months in what Kyiv has said is a deliberate effort by Moscow to make Kharkiv uninhabitable.

Syrskii said there were signs that Russia was directly preparing for an offensive in the north of the country.

“In the most threatening directions, our troops have been reinforced by artillery and tank units,” he said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies