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Ukrainian Troops Pull Back Again as Russia's Onslaught Pushes Ahead in Eastern Ukraine
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By Associated Press
Published 2 months ago on
February 26, 2024

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Russian forces capture Lastochkyne, west of Donetsk city.

Ukraine’s Defense Minister criticizes delayed Western military support.

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy calls for increased joint production of weapons.


KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian troops have pulled out of a village in the east of the country, an army spokesman said Monday, as Russian forces display advantages in manpower and ammunition on the battlefield at the start of the war’s third year.

The latest setback for Kyiv’s soldiers was in the village of Lastochkyne, where they fell back to nearby villages in an attempt to hold the line there, Dmytro Lykhovii, a spokesman for one of the Ukrainian troop groupings, said on national television.

Loss of Lastochkyne

Lastochkyne lies to the west of Avdiivka, a suburb of Donetsk city that the Kremlin‘s forces captured on Feb. 18 after a four-month battle. The outnumbered defenders were overwhelmed by Moscow’s military might, and Ukraine chose to pull out its troops and mount a defense elsewhere.

Russia’s Ministry of Defense said its troops had “liberated” Lastochkyne.

Russian state-owned news agency RIA Novosti quoted local commander Andrei Mordvichev as saying troops had pushed Ukrainian forces back by 10 kilometers (6 miles) and were continuing with their offensive. The agency said a key Ukrainian supply route ran through Lastochkyne.

It was not possible to independently verify each side’s claims.

Challenges for Ukraine

Though not in itself a major loss, abandoning the village illustrates the battlefield challenges Ukraine is currently facing. The new phase of the war has brought some bleak developments for Ukraine.

Moscow’s troops are driving on, smashing towns and cities with their superior firepower, despite suffering high losses of troops and equipment, Ukraine says.

Western analysts say the Russians are attacking in strength along four parallel axes in the northeast, aiming to press deeper into the Ukraine-held western part of the Donetsk region and also penetrating into the Kharkiv region north of it.

Western Support

Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustan Umerov complained Sunday that half of promised Western military support to Ukraine fails to arrive on time. That, he said, makes it hard to undertake proper military planning and ultimately costs the lives of soldiers.

Western leaders have sworn to stand by Ukraine as long as they need to defeat Russia’s full-scale invasion of Feb. 24 2022, and Bulgarian Prime Minister Nikolay Denkov arrived in Kyiv on Monday to show his support.

More than 20 European heads of state and government and other Western officials were due to meet in Paris on Monday to discuss the war at what French President Emmanuel Macron called a “critical” juncture. He says Kyiv needs more military resources and likely will require them over an extended period of time.

Call for Increased Support

Addressing the summit via video, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy emphasized the need to increase joint production of weapons and ammunition, improve Ukrainian air defenses and put pressure on Russia via sanctions and confiscation of assets.

“We have to prove that we can deprive Russia of its advantage in the sky, in financing aggression, and in the political sphere. This is the task of the year,” Zelenskyy said.

U.S. President Joe Biden was also seeking to remove political roadblocks on providing more aid to Ukraine, convening the top four congressional leaders at the White House on Tuesday.

Other Developments

In other developments, Moscow-installed officials in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region claimed that Russian troops had destroyed a U.S.-made Abrams tank for the first time since they were deployed in Ukraine last fall, RIA Novosti reported.

A drone strike on the Russian city of Belgorod near the Ukraine border killed three people and wounded three more, regional Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov said Monday evening.

Russia launched seven missiles of various types and 14 Shahed drones over Ukraine early Monday morning. Ukraine’s Air Force said it intercepted nine drones and three missiles.

A guided aerial bomb killed a married couple at home in the northeastern Sumy region of Ukraine, regional authorities said.

Day of Resistance to the Occupation of Crimea and Sevastopol

Also on Monday, Zelenskyy marked the Day of Resistance to the Occupation of Crimea and Sevastopol. The annual holiday commemorates a 2014 demonstration by thousands of Crimean Tatars against the Russian occupation of Crimea.

In a video address published on Monday evening, Zelenskyy said the day Russia occupied the peninsula ten years ago was the day “the future fate of international security and international relations was determined.”

“It all started with Crimea — this Russian revanchism, this Russian war. And it is there, in Crimea, that Russian evil must suffer its key defeat,” Zelenskyy said.

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