Ukraine Withdraws from Avdiivka

Commander Oleksandr Syrskyi is not afraid of taking unpopular decisions

Shankar Narayan
4 min readFeb 17, 2024

After more than two years, Avdiivka, the Ukrainian fortress that endured wave after wave of Russian attacks, has fallen. The shortage of artillery shells, coupled with the enemy amassing a force density of more than two to one in the sector, left the Ukrainians with little chance to withstand the assaults. This marks Putin’s most significant information victory of 2023.

A gift to to Putin by the MAGA caucus in the U.S. Congress and President Biden.

Brigadier General, Alexander Tarnavskyi, Commander of the troops operating in the Avdiivka sector announced the decision to withdraw from Avdiivka:

“In accordance with the order received, they left Avdiyivka for pre-prepared positions. In a situation where the enemy is advancing on the corpses of their own soldiers with a ten-to-one shell advantage, under constant bombardment, this is the only correct solution.

Entourage is not allowed, the personnel has been withdrawn, our soldiers have taken up defense at the designated borders”.

I’m not entirely certain, but there is a small possibility that the Western media will suddenly recognize the strategic importance of Avdiivka. However, I must apologize, as there never was nor will there ever be such significance. Both Avdiivka and Marinka, the two villages Russia has captured this year, lie on the outskirts of Donetsk City. Seizing these positions enables Russia to consolidate its control over Donetsk City. That is the extent of their significance. They hold no operational relevance beyond this.

However, what it does possess is a significant amount of informational relevance. This development may give the Western media fodder to echo Putin’s narrative for a period, potentially inflaming further support within the MAGA caucus, which is determined to obstruct aid to Ukraine. It could assist Putin sympathizers in the Western world in arguing that Putin is unbeatable and subtly push us toward a pro-Kremlin stance: advocating for negotiations with Putin, halting frontline advancements, relinquishing Ukrainian territory, and compromising the freedom of millions of Ukrainians, all in the name of peace.

Slavery in exchange of peace.

What will Ukraine do?

The situation remains challenging. Ukraine is likely to have withdrawn to secondary positions, which have been fortified to their advantage. However, according to recent reports, Russia maintains a force density in the sector of more than two to one, along with a superior supply of artillery shells. There is a possibility that Russia may opt to continue pursuing the Ukrainians and escalate their offensive beyond Avdiivka.

The numerical advantage is on their side. We cannot dismiss the possibility of them giving chase.

Another option would be to take a pause, regroup, and redirect troop strength to another village, repeating the whole cycle again. It is extremely difficult to predict. If I were on their side, I would not stop these attacks; I would keep going because there is no guarantee that the weakness that persists on the other end is going to be endemic. It might change. If it does, then the advantage I have now will be lost.

I believe Russia will remain on the offensive and will not seek an operational pause. In that scenario, the best option for Ukraine is to identify spots or sectors where Russia is most likely to concentrate their fire and begin building fortifications. They are already doing so.

Upon the arrival of the Third Assault Brigade to protect the embattled 110th Separate Mechanized Brigade during its withdrawal from positions in Avdiivka, Commander Tarnavskyi reassured that new positions had been prepared and formidable fortifications were being reinforced to address all potential contingencies.

Both parties seem acutely aware of the circumstances and are actively adapting their positions accordingly. Russia appears keen to exploit Ukraine’s vulnerabilities, recognizing that these opportunities may not endure indefinitely. Meanwhile, Ukraine is striving to defend its interests while minimizing casualties and territorial losses, particularly until the supply situation stabilizes.

The silver lining in this situation is the commendable response of the recently appointed Commander Oleksandr Syrskyi to the most formidable challenge of his career thus far. Facing an exceptionally tough decision, he stepped into his role just a week ago. I harbored some apprehension regarding whether he would opt to bolster Avdiivka’s defenses with increasingly more resources or make the tough call to initiate a withdrawal.

He took the unpopular decision.

A decision that saved thousands of Ukrainian lives.

That does make me happy.



Shankar Narayan

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