US warns strategic Ukrainian town could fall to Russian forces

United States warns Russia could seize Ukraine's key eastern town of Avdiivka

File photo
File photo

The United States has warned that Russia could seize Ukraine's key eastern town of Avdiivka - the scene of some of the fiercest fighting in recent months.

“Avdiivka is at risk of falling into Russian control,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said, citing Ukraine's ammunition shortages.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed to do everything to “save as many Ukrainian lives as possible”. Russian troops have made gains in Avdiivka, threatening to encircle it.

The town - which has been almost completely destroyed - is seen as a gateway to nearby Donetsk, the regional Ukrainian capital seized by Russian-backed fighters in 2014 and later illegitimately annexed by Moscow.

Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2019.

Kirby said Avdiivka could fall largely "because the Ukrainian forces on the ground are running out of artillery ammunition".

"Russia is sending wave after wave of conscript forces to attack Ukrainian positions," he said.

"And because Congress has yet to pass the supplemental bill, we have not been able to provide Ukraine with the artillery shells that they desperately need to disrupt these Russian assaults.

"Russian forces are now reaching Ukrainian trenches in Avdiivka, and they're beginning to overwhelm Ukrainian defences."

Ukraine is critically dependent on weapons supplies from the US and other Western allies to be able to continue fighting Russia - a much bigger military force with an abundance of artillery ammunition.

Nato Secretary General Jen Stoltenberg warned on Thursday that the US failure to approve continued military assistance to Ukraine was already having an impact on the battlefield.