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21 Feb, 2024 09:29

Russia captured up to 1,000 Ukrainian POWs in Avdeevka – NYT

The newspaper claims the “chaotic” nature of the retreat by Kiev’s forces contributed to the high numbers
Russia captured up to 1,000 Ukrainian POWs in Avdeevka – NYT

Russian forces may have captured up to 1,000 Ukrainian troops during the chaotic retreat from Avdeevka over the weekend, the New York Times has reported, citing anonymous Ukrainian and Western sources. The newspaper described the withdrawal from the former Ukrainian stronghold in Donbass as a “devastating loss” for Kiev that “could deal a blow to already weakening morale.”

On Friday, Ukraine’s newly appointed top military commander, General Aleksandr Syrsky, revealed that his forces had retreated from the strategic town located less than 10km from the outskirts of Donetsk. The following day, the Russian Defense Ministry confirmed the capture of Avdeevka, claiming to have inflicted massive casualties on Kiev’s military in the process.

Reporting on Tuesday, the NYT quoted two unnamed Ukrainian service members as putting the number of POWs and missing soldiers at anywhere between 850 to 1,000. Anonymous Western officials have characterized this range as accurate, the newspaper claimed.

While US officials supposedly do not consider the loss of Avdeevka to be strategically significant for Ukraine, the NYT reported that the “capture of hundreds of soldiers, especially those with battlefield experience,” could pose a serious problem. The Ukrainian military has for months been grappling with a lack of manpower, the newspaper added, noting that Kiev’s failed summer counteroffensive had already made recruitment difficult.

Anonymous Ukrainian soldiers blamed poor planning for the apparently high number of POWs. Kiev’s forces were also taken aback by the sheer speed with which Moscow’s troops advanced last week, with attempts by elite Ukrainian units to slow it down proving ineffective, the NYT wrote.

According to the article, poor communication between various Ukrainian units who are using different radio equipment may have been a factor.

On Saturday, General Aleksandr Tarnavsky, the commander of Ukrainian forces operating in the area, claimed that the retreat had gone according to plan. He did, however, acknowledge that “some Ukrainian servicemen fell into captivity,” without providing numbers. His spokesperson, Dmitry Lykhovy, dismissed reports of hundreds of Ukrainian POWs as misinformation.

During a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said Avdeevka had been taken with minimal losses among Russian troops. He claimed that during their retreat, Ukrainian forces had left behind significant numbers of wounded soldiers, as well as military hardware and equipment.