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Ukrainian Troops Ordered To Retreat From Avdiivka, Ammunition Shortage Critical

Withdrawal from the eastern city marks the biggest change on the frontlines since the fall of Bakhmut last year. 

On Saturday, Ukrainian army chief Oleksandr Syrskyi posted on Facebook, claiming he had withdrawn troops from Avdiivka to “preserve the lives and health of servicemen” and move them back to more defensible positions.

In response to the Russians' encirclement, Ukrainian forces announced their retreat. This setback comes at a time when the country is suffering from acute shortages of ammunition, a situation made worse by the delaying of US military aid by Congress.

It's been almost two years since Russian forces invaded Ukraine, and Ukraine's state is slowly being worn down by Russian attacks. Before the war, Avdiivka’s population stood at around 30,000. Now almost all the residents have left.

According to the Institute for the Study of War, Ukrainian forces may have to conduct counterattacks to stabilize the frontline.

Although the Russian capture of Avdiivka is a significant movement on the frontlines, the victory is mostly symbolic, with the small city holding little strategic value by itself. Russia briefly occupied Avdiivka in 2014, but Ukraine retook it.

In December, it was estimated by US officials that Russia had suffered over 13,000 casualties in just a few weeks along the Avdiivka-Nova Pavlova axis. In the end, however, Russian numbers, along with aerial superiority, proved too much for the Ukrainians to hold on to the territory, with their troops being outnumbered seven to one.

Over 300,000 Russians have been killed in the entire conflict, according to US officials.

Ukraine has also suffered heavy casualties, although so far these have been kept secret.

The future implications of Ukraine’s defeat in Avdiivka are so far unknown. On the one hand, it could strengthen Ukrainian resolve and the support of Western allies, who will increase the amount of military aid going to Ukraine. Alternatively, it could strengthen the argument of anti-war politicians who say Ukraine cannot win the war and that Western aid is only prolonging the conflict.

British Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron has argued that allies must “do more” to help Ukraine defend itself and “outmatch” Russia. In particular, he singled out the US, which he suggested was not doing enough.

Speaking to Sky News, he said, “I know that Britain is doing what it can; the European Union has voted through its package to give massive support for Ukraine; we now need the US Congress to do the same.”

This argument holds little sway, however, with radical Republicans in the US, who have for months been blocking aid to Ukraine.

Previously, David Cameron had caused outrage among some Republicans for urging the US not to “show the weakness displayed against Hitler in the 1930s.”

Republican congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene said in response to Cameron’s appeal, “I really couldn’t care less what Lord Cameron has to say... They need to worry about their own problems and leave our country alone.”

This raises questions about what a Republican victory would look like in 2024 and what it would mean for Ukraine. The most likely Republican candidate, Donald Trump, has previously argued that the US has given an unfair amount of aid to Ukraine compared with European countries.

With Western unity under strain, Russia already has the upper hand in the war. But the situation could tip even more in their favor if the US continues to delay sending aid. Currently, the Ukrainians are having to ration ammunition and are suffering from low morale. Without further aid from the West, it is possible that Russia could advance further, capturing more territory from Ukraine.

Unlike previous wars this century, the Russia-Ukraine War is being shaped more by global politics and changing attitudes in the US about its role as a superpower. Rather than having a duty to uphold the Western values of liberty, democracy, and national sovereignty, the US increasingly sees foreign conflicts as less important than domestic concerns such as the economy, crime, and immigration.

Such isolationist attitudes are particularly likely to be held by young people who have no memory of the Cold War. According to the Pew Research Center, young Americans are less likely to believe the US should be active in world affairs and less likely to express confidence in Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

This is not just the case in the US; in the UK too, young adults are less likely to believe Russia is a threat. According to Savanta polling, only 21 percent said the Russia-Ukraine War was the most significant foreign policy issue. For the rest of the British public, 27 percent believe the Russia-Ukraine War is the most significant issue, compared to 23 percent saying the Israel-Gaza war was most important.


With Ukrainian forces struggling against Russian advances and the West losing interest, the war looks set to get worse before it gets better for Ukraine. Whether or not the loss of Avdiivka marks a turning point in the war, only time will tell.

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