The 1 Error Ukraine Committed During the Withdrawal from Avdiivka

Kremlin is trying to exploit the situation

Shankar Narayan
7 min readFeb 21, 2024

Ukraine made a mistake during the early hours of their Avdiivka withdrawal. There was confusion and chaos during a brief period, but the situation was quickly stabilized. The Kremlin is now actively trying to extract as much misinformation value as possible from it, and the Western media are playing right into their hands.

The Institute of Study of War reported today: Russian Defense Minister “Shoigu briefed Putin about the seizure of Avdiivka and the wider Russian war effort in Ukraine in a February 20 meeting during which Putin and Shoigu both amplified an information operation that the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) began on February 19 that aims to sow resentment and distrust against the Ukrainian command for an allegedly chaotic Ukrainian withdrawal from Avdiivka”.

The Collapse of the Zenit Stronghold Occurred Amidst Chaos

For nearly a decade, the Soviet Air Force bunker in Zenit, located at the southwestern entrance of Avdiivka, formed the core of the town’s defense.

The Russian army attempted numerous times to breach the Zenit stronghold in order to gain a foothold but were repelled each time. However, around February 13th, Russia made a breakthrough, not by entering Zenit, but by cutting off one of the supply routes running through the city.

Ukrainian troops defending the Zenit stronghold were already low on ammunition, and now they’ve lost a vital supply route. Ukraine should have either ordered the troops at the other end of the supply route to evacuate or mounted a counterattack to alleviate the pressure. The loss of this supply route made logistics in the city extremely challenging for Ukraine. With the Zenit pocket positioned at the far end of the town, daring the Russian troops, the situation quickly escalated from threatening to critical within Zenit.

Russians were still not able to enter the Zenit stronghold directly. They started moving behind it. It was at this point I published the following in image in one of my stories.

However, Ukraine failed to issue the retreat order from the Zenit pocket in a timely manner. They allowed the Russian army to encircle the pocket from all four directions. The troops stationed there were likely anticipating either an emergency evacuation or waiting for a counterattack to alleviate the pressure.

The NYTimes interviewed a few soldeirs who were defending Zenit:

Viktor Biliak of the 110th Brigade, which has been defending the city for the past two years, described his evacuation on Thursday of the garrison known as Zenit, in a southern pocket of the city.

Mr. Biliak, who uses the call sign Hentai, said his unit was left no time for an orderly exit — neither to evacuate weapons and equipment, nor to burn papers and lay mines in the way of attacking Russian troops.

Ten men made a failed attempt to leave on Wednesday night, he said. They had to fight their way forward in a gun battle, but then came under artillery fire.

“Only three wounded made it back,” Hentai wrote on Instagram. He helped rescue one of the wounded men the next morning, he said, a dangerous movement in daylight that cost the unit four more wounded, including himself.

The troops made another attempt Thursday night, and the severely wounded were told to wait for an armored vehicle to take them.

“Groups were leaving, one after the other,” Hentai wrote. Still able to walk, he decided not to wait for the evacuation vehicle and led a group out.

“There was zero visibility outside. It was just plain survival. A kilometer across the field,” he wrote. “A bunch of blind cats led by a drone. Enemy artillery. The road to Avdiivka is littered with our corpses.”

The evacuation vehicle never came for the wounded, he said. The last group left the bunker, and he overheard a wounded soldier asking over the radio about the evacuation vehicle. The commander replied that no vehicle was coming and that they should leave the wounded behind.

This is likely how events unfolded in Zenit. After the hurried evacuation of the Zenit pocket, some wounded soldiers were left behind. The 110th Motorized Brigade reached out to the Russian army operating in the area to allow them in evacuating the wounded soldiers.

“The Russian military pledged to evacuate wounded Ukrainian soldiers from the Zenit strongpoint in the town of Avdiivka and provide them with assistance but instead shot five of the soldiers”, Ukraine’s 110th Brigade said on Feb. 19.

The withdrawal of Ukrainian army from other parts of the town was executed more effectively. Ukrainian troops began leaving the town one by one. As expected, the Russian army pursued the Ukrainian troops but were halted by Ukrainian forces defending Lastochkyne, a town located to the northwest of Avdiivka.

In the last few days, the Russian army attempted to attack Vuhledar once again, only to be repelled once more.

There were casualties. The exact number of Ukrainian soldiers killed in the past week defending Avdiivka is unknown. However, the continuous speculation by Western media about the possibility of many Ukrainian soldiers being captured by the Russian army seems exaggerated.

If that were the case, the Russian state media wouldn’t be airing regular shows. Instead, there would be new segments discussing the Russian victory in Avdiivka, with the prisoners of war being the focal point. Their images would have been circulated to Russian ultranationalists, and we would have been inundated with numerous stories on the matter.

Many hours have passed since Russia took control of Avdiivka. Therefore, there is almost zero percent chance that Russia captured a significant number of Ukrainian soldiers. This is not something they would stay silent about. I kindly request the Western media to refrain from insinuating the capture of Ukrainian soldiers, as it would greatly benefit the Kremlin by sowing confusion within Ukraine.

The Western media should have highlighted the fact that the Russians continued to advance but were halted by Ukrainian defenders. During the 2022 Kharkiv breakthrough, Ukraine advanced over 50 kilometers in just a few days. Russia’s defensive lines collapsed due to a lack of depth in their defense. In stark contrast, Ukraine has established defensive positions that they can retreat to when the first line or garrison is breached.

It’s a commendable defense, holding strong even though Ukraine is facing a severe shortage of ammunition.

Now that the momentum of the Russian offensive has been halted, what actions can we anticipate from the Russian side going forward?

Dara Massicot, Senior Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace says, “Russian military leaders’ training and mindset will tell them that now is the time to press forward on objectives: UAF units have ammunition and manpower deficits, American assistance is delayed, western ammo production targets are not reached.

Russian forces have a 5:1 fires advantage and are regenerating combat units from training pipelines in Russia, and are pulling equipment from storage and can do this through 2024".

While some analysts suggest that Russia will wait for refitting and regrouping before launching its next assault, I echo Dara Massicot’s stance. I don’t believe the Russians will wait. With their manpower and ammunition advantage, they are likely to attempt further advances. If not from Avdiivka, then possibly from Vuhledar, Kupiansk, or Robotyne.

Ukraine will have a limited window of opportunity as relocating troops from one location to another cannot happen overnight. Russia will require some time to reposition their forces, and the international community should be able to find out where their next move will be.

If there was ever a time to take action, to rectify the mistake of withholding the delivery of the weapons in our possession, that time is now. Because in two weeks, we will likely find ourselves under threat once again.

President Biden is considering the delivery of ATACMS to Ukraine

President Biden may be on the verge of relenting on his opposition to supplying long-range missiles to Ukraine.

According NBC news: “If Congress approves more funding for Ukraine, the U.S. could include the long-range ATACMS in one of the first packages of military aid paid for with that money, according to the two U.S. officials. The U.S. also has ammunition and artillery ready to send to Ukraine immediately if the funding is approved, the officials added.

The officials did not rule out asking allies to provide the missiles to Ukraine, as well, and replenishing their ATACM stockpiles”.

The Olaf Scholz administration in Germany is also facing pressure to supply long-range missiles to Ukraine. According to a report by the Financial Times published yesterday,

Lawmakers in Germany’s ruling coalition are set to vote this week on a motion that could finally push Chancellor Olaf Scholz to deliver long-range precision Taurus cruise missiles to Ukraine.

A draft resolution prepared by the three groups in the government’s parliamentary majority and seen by the Financial Times requests “the delivery of additionally necessary long-range weapon systems” for Kyiv that could strike “far in the rear area of the Russian aggressor”.

While non-binding, the successful passage of the motion could leave Scholz symbolically isolated. With the mainstream opposition Christian Democratic Union in favour, the chancellor’s resistance to the missiles’ delivery to Kyiv would be seen as being supported only by MPs of the hard left and hard right.

The ATACMS and Taurus missiles have the potential to significantly alter the battlefield dynamics. Ukraine could target Russian warehouses, diminishing the amount of ammunition in Russian hands, while also disrupting their logistics routes and reducing the number of sorties flown by the airforce. There are numerous possibilities.

We have the solution readily available, capable of delivery within 24 hours. It has never been about capacity; rather, it has always been about political will — the political will of two individuals: President Biden and Chancellor Olaf Scholz.



Shankar Narayan

He didn't care what he had or what he had left, he cared only about what he must do.