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The Ukrainian Armed Forces have left Avdiivka. The city before the withdrawal of troops - in the photos of Ukrainian documentary filmmakers

A view of destroyed Avdiivka. February 15, 2024. Photo by Vlada and Kostyantyn Liberov

On the night of Saturday, February 17, the Ukrainian Armed Forces withdrew from Avdiivka to avoid being surrounded. The small industrial town is located 13 kilometers from Donetsk. For almost 10 years, the Russians have been trying to occupy Avdiivka, and after more than 3,100 days of defense, the city finally fell. The defense forces moved to more favorable positions.

"Based on the operational situation around Avdiivka, in order to avoid encirclement and preserve the lives and health of servicemen, I decided to withdraw our units from the city and move to defense on more favorable lines," said Ukrainian Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief Oleksandr Syrskyi.

He noted that our soldiers had fulfilled their military duty with dignity, did everything possible to destroy the best Russian military units, and inflicted significant losses in manpower and equipment on the enemy.

Defense Minister Rustem Umerov added that the decision to protect people was the right one, assuring: "We are building and strengthening fortifications. We will take back Avdiivka".

Radio Liberty journalist Marian Kushnir managed to visit the city on the eve of the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from there. He noted that he was struck by the number of guided aerial bombs that Russians were launching daily at Avdiivka, including at Ukrainian military positions.

A view of the Avdiivka Coke Plant, where the Ukrainian army was holding the line. January 29, 2024. Photo by Marian Kushnir

"I was surprised that the fields there were covered with bodies. And the Russian troops use these bodies to cover their holes. They build fences and so on. And it is not surprising that with so many bodies, erasing six combat brigades, the Russian army occupies the town of Avdiivka," the documentary filmmaker noted.

Servicemen of the 47th separate mechanized brigade's UAV attack company near Avdiivka. January 29, 2024. Photo by Marian Kushnir

Avdiivka was the last defense line of the Ukrainian Armed Forces on the front, and it has not changed since 2014. All these years, Avdiivka has been held by Ukrainian troops. Despite its proximity to the front line, the city has been developing and growing economically in recent years. During the full-scale invasion, most of the residents left, and the city itself was reduced to rubble by constant Russian shelling and bombardment.

A destroyed coke plant in Avdiivka. February 15, 2024. Photo by Vlada and Kostyantyn Liberov

"We have seen such intensity of shelling as in Avdiivka only in Bakhmut in the last days of the city's defense," says documentary photographer Vlada Liberova. She and her husband Kostyantyn filmed Avdiivka just 2-3 days before the retreat of Ukrainian troops. Vlada says that Russian aviation was more active in Avdiivka. In front of their eyes, two aerial bombs hit the coke plant, followed by a package of hail and cannon artillery. The documentary filmmaker recalls that in December 2023, when she and her husband were filming Avdiivka, the road to the city and its outskirts was shelled, and "it was already clear that the situation was getting worse."

The outskirts of Avdiivka on the eve of the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from the city. February 14, 2024. Photo by Vlada and Kostyantyn Liberov

The great bloody battle for Avdiivka lasted four months. On October 10, 2023, the Russian army launched a powerful offensive against Avdiivka, trying to drive out Ukrainian forces. At that time, Ukrainian photographer Oleh Palchyk captured the situation in the city.

In early February, the situation became critical, and the Russians almost managed to cut off the supply routes for the city's defenders.

The project is implemented thanks to the support of IWM Documenting Ukraine.


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