Russian victory in Avdiivka a sign of things to come as US funding ends, official says

Eastern Ukrainian city encircled by Russian troops as Kyiv's forces run out of ammunition

Residential buildings in Avdiivka, Ukraine, in November last year. Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty / Reuters
Powered by automated translation

Russia's seemingly imminent capture of a strategically important city in eastern Ukraine could be a harbinger of additional military defeats for Kyiv as Washington fails to provide additional funding, a senior US defence official said on Friday.

Ukrainian forces in Avdiivka in Donetsk are running out of ammunition in the face of the Russian offensive.

The US Senate this week approved a $95 billion foreign aid bill that includes $60 billion for Ukraine, but the Speaker of the House of Representative is refusing to allow a vote on the package, starving Kyiv of money for its fight against Russia's invasion.

A senior defence official said the Pentagon is watching Avdiivka “very closely”.

“We do see that Ukrainians are running short on critical supplies, particularly ammunition, and we see this as something that could be the harbinger of what is to come if we do not get this supplemental funding,” the official told reporters.

“Without supplemental funding, we will not be able to continue to supply air defences and we will see the result in cities being bombarded and we will see more civilians dying.”

The four-month battle for Avdiivka appeared to be coming to a head as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Friday made another trip to Europe, hoping to press his country’s western allies to keep providing military support.

Putin says Russia's goals in Ukraine have not changed – video

Putin says Russia's goals in Ukraine have not changed

Putin says Russia's goals in Ukraine have not changed

Street fighting was under way in the bombed-out city, where Ukrainian troops are outnumbered seven to one, Oleksandr Borodin, press officer of the 3rd Assault Brigade of the Ukraine Armed Forces, told the Associated Press.

Rodion Kudriashov, the brigade’s deputy commander, said Ukrainian troops were for now holding out against the onslaught of about 15,000 Russian soldiers, in his estimate, but that he expected the situation would “soon become critical”.

“The enemy is trying to penetrate our defence and in some places to bypass our positions,” he told AP.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on Thursday that Russian forces are beginning to overwhelm Ukrainian defences in Avdiivka.

The senior US official said about 315,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or wounded in the two years since Russian President Vladimir Putin's ordered the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The official did not provide an estimate of Ukrainian troop losses.

Since February 2022, Ukrainian forces have sunk, destroyed or damaged at least 20 medium to large Russian naval vessels and one tanker in the Black Sea, the official said.

Two years of the Russia-Ukraine war – in pictures

Updated: February 16, 2024, 8:57 PM