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Ukraine said Friday there was fierce fighting in the beleaguered frontline city of Avdiivka, which has become a main Russian target ahead of the second anniversary of its full-scale invasion.

What's happening?

There’s intense fighting going on in Avdiivka, a city in Ukraine that’s become a key target for Russian forces. The Ukrainian military reports that there are bitter battles happening inside the city, with troops holding their ground and preparing new defensive positions.

“Fierce battles are taking place within the city,” Oleksandr Tarnavsky, a Ukrainian general in the east, said on social media.

“Our troops are using all available forces and means to restrain the enemy,” he said.

“New positions have been prepared and powerful fortifications continue to be prepared, taking into account all possible scenarios,” added Tarnavsky.

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Tarnavsky called the situation in Avdiivka “difficult but controlled” and said commanders have been tasked to “stabilize the situation.”

The Ukrainian military said on its social media that Ukrainian troops were being reinforced and were “standing their ground.”

Why it matters?

Avdiivka is strategically important, and its capture would be a significant victory for Russia, especially as the anniversary of the invasion approaches. The situation is dire, with civilians being evacuated as the risk of the city falling to Russian control increases.

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The ratio is roughly one to seven

Oleksandr Borodin, press officer for the 3rd Separate Assault Brigade, said on Thursday, Feb. 15, that the balance of forces in Avdiivka heavily favors the Russians, with about seven times more Russian troops than Ukrainian forces. This situation is considered critical.

Borodin explained that unlike in previous scenarios, where Ukrainian forces faced a mix of “prisoners” and “special forces,” the current opposition includes linear mechanized brigades from Russia and specialized GRU units.

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“The ratio is about one to seven. This poses a significant challenge. In comparison to Bakhmut, where we faced a defensive scenario against Wagner forces, here we encounter linear mechanized brigades of the Russian Federation and GRU specialists,” he explained.

Ukrainian troops are facing a tough defense situation, with some units needing to cover all angles, making it challenging to defend against potential attacks from any direction.

“Some of our units are operating in a 360-degree defensive format, signifying the severity of the situation. While this doesn’t imply complete encirclement, it does mean that the enemy can strike from nearly all directions in certain areas.”

On Friday morning, Feb. 16, Borodin reported that the Russian army used phosphorus in Avdiivka.

“The enemy has started using phosphorus. The use of guided bombs (KAB) has escalated. KABs are far more devastating than artillery. These are aerial bombs weighing 250 kg and half a ton each. This amounts to 50 or more aerial bombs per day. There’s a significant number of them being deployed on such a small bridgehead that we're holding,” Borodin said, speaking on national TV.

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The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) notes that Russian troops are maneuvering through Avdiivka, potentially putting pressure on Ukrainian forces to abandon their positions in the village.

Recent footage shows that Russian forces have taken control of a fortified Ukrainian position south of Avdiivka, a target they’ve long aimed for. There are also claims from Russian military bloggers that Ukrainian positions south of Avdiivka have been encircled by Russian troops.

What’s being done?

Ukraine is urgently reinforcing its troops in Avdiivka and seeking international support.

President Zelensky is traveling to Berlin and Paris to secure more military aid.

However, challenges remain, including delays in US congressional approval for aid and limitations on EU assistance.

On Tuesday, Ivan Sekach, a spokesperson for the 110th Separate Mechanized Brigade, disclosed on Radio Svoboda that some units of the brigade were being replaced in Avdiivka by other Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) formations.

“We don’t have enough capability to hold the city, but reinforcements are coming, and we’re counting on friendly units,” he said.

Sekach reported that, for the first time in almost two years of operation, some units of the 110th Brigade were fully withdrawn from combat for rest and rotation.

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“Reinforcements have arrived. I won’t say what kind of unit it is. But it’s powerful support, and we felt slightly calmer when it arrived,” Sekach remarked.

He said that fighting for the city and the surrounding areas continues in Avdiivka. Russian forces are attempting to sever the supply lines and outnumber AFU troops.

A crucial challenge for Syrsky

Avdiivka poses a crucial challenge for Ukraine’s new military chief, Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky. The Washington Post reported on Thursday, Feb.15, that Ukrainian Defense Forces had begun withdrawing from Avdiivka, signaling an imminent retreat from the city.

As the commander-in-chief newly appointed by President Volodymyr Zelensky, Syrsky faces the daunting task of deciding when and how to acknowledge defeat and pull back from Avdiivka.

The White House said that Avdiivka’s potential fall to Russian control is largely attributable to Ukraine’s shortage of artillery ammunition and the absence of financial aid from the United States.

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