Ukraine shuts ‘post-apocalyptic’ battlefield town to civilians
KYIV — Ukraine shut the eastern town of Avdiivka to non-military personnel on Monday, describing it as a post-apocalyptic wasteland, as Kyiv tried to break the back of Russia’s flagging winter offensive before a counter-assault of its own.
A Ukrainian general said Kyiv was planning its next move after Moscow appeared to shift focus from the small city of Bakhmut, which Russia has failed to capture after several months of the war’s bloodiest fighting, to Avdiivka further south.
The Ukrainian Armed Forces General Staff said in a Monday evening update that Russian forces were still trying to storm Bakhmut and had shelled the city and surrounding towns.
Front lines in Ukraine have barely budged for more than four months despite a Russian winter offensive. The Ukrainian military aims to wear down Russian forces before mounting a counteroffensive.
Ukrainian ground forces commander Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi, who said last week the counterattack could come “very soon”, visited frontline troops in the east and said his forces were still repelling Russian attacks on Bakhmut.
Defending the small city in the industrialized Donbas region was a “military necessity”, Syrskyi said, praising Ukrainian resilience in “extremely difficult conditions”.
Last week, the Ukrainian military warned that Avdiivka, a smaller town 90 km (55 miles) further south, could become a “second Bakhmut” as Russia turns its attention there.
Both towns have been reduced to rubble in fighting that both sides have called a “meat grinder”. Russian forces say they are fighting street by street.
“I am sad to say this, but Avdiivka is becoming more and more like a place from post-apocalyptic movies,” said Vitaliy Barabash, head of the city’s military administration. Only around 2,000 of a pre-war population of 30,000 remain and he urged them to leave.
Ukrainian military video showed smoke billowing from ruined apartment blocks and dead soldiers on open ground and in trenches in Bakhmut.
Kyiv also said Russian forces again shelled Vuhledar, further south in the Donetsk region, where they have tried to advance for weeks with what the Ukrainian military says are heavy losses.
Two people were killed and 32 wounded on Monday after Russian forces fired two S-300 missiles at the eastern city of Sloviansk northwest of Bakhmut, according to regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko. Moscow denies targeting civilians.
In Russia, residents of Kireyevsk, 220 km (140 miles) south of Moscow, reacted angrily to damage from what the defense ministry said was a Ukrainian drone it downed there on Sunday.
The ministry said three people were injured and apartment blocks were hit. It was among the closest such incidents to the Russian capital so far.
“We were used to seeing these things only online but now we’ve felt it ourselves. Now we know how it is,” 62-year-old Kireyevsk resident Yuri Ovchinnikov told Reuters as Russian soldiers combed the area around the damaged buildings.
There was no official comment from Kyiv. Ukrainian officials generally do not respond to reports of attacks within Russia, though they have sometimes celebrated them without accepting culpability.
Ukraine’s Avdiivka becoming ‘post-apocalyptic’, city shuts down–official
Russia presses along Ukraine front after reports of Bakhmut slowdown
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