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Ukraine war latest: Russian troops killed wounded Ukrainian soldiers in Avdiivka after promising to evacuate them, military says

by The Kyiv Independent news desk February 19, 2024 10:34 PM 7 min read
A view of the Avdiivka Coke and Chemical Plant in the town of Avdiivka in the Russian-controlled part of Donetsk Oblast on Feb. 19, 2024. (STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images)
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Key developments on Feb. 19:

  • Military: Russian troops killed wounded Ukrainian soldiers in Avdiivka after promising to evacuate them
  • Commander: Some units of 3rd Assault Brigade were 'completely surrounded' in Avdiivka but managed to escape
  • NBC: Biden administration considering supplying Ukraine with long-range ATACMS missiles
  • Air Force: Ukraine shoots down 2 Russian fighter jets
  • Media: Ukraine may receive first F-16 jets in June

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 dead five of the soldiers, Ukraine’s 110th Brigade said on Feb. 19.

The confirmation came after media reports that relatives identified the dead bodies of three soldiers of the brigade. They were left behind heavily wounded, while the rest of the forces retreated from the strongpoint, according to the reports.

The brigade said in a statement that several seriously injured and killed servicemen could not be evacuated due to continuous bombardment and the complete encirclement of Zenit.

It also said that Ukrainian forces had contacted organizations negotiating with Russia on prisoner exchanges to provide assistance to wounded, unarmed Ukrainian soldiers.

“The enemy informed the coordinators of this process that they agreed to evacuate our wounded, provide them with assistance, and exchange them later. Our soldiers were ordered to save their lives,” the brigade wrote on Facebook, saying that Russian troops broke their promise and shot the Ukrainian soldiers.

According to Ukraine’s 110th Brigade, among the executed were Andrii Dubnytskyi, Ivan Zhyntnyk, Heorhii Pavlov, Oleksandr Zinchuk and Mykola Savosik. Information on the fate of a sixth soldier has not yet been confirmed.

Commander-in-Chief of Ukraine’s Armed Forces Oleksandr Syrskyi announced the decision to withdraw Ukrainian units from Avdiivka, an embattled city just north of Russian-occupied Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, on the night of Feb. 17.

Russian forces had been trying to capture Avdiivka since 2014, when Russia first invaded Ukraine. Following Russia's recent assault on the city, which started in October last year, most of Avdiivka has been destroyed by urban warfare, artillery barrages, and airstrikes.

Russia takes Avdiivka at steep price, as Ukraine forced to face shortcomings
The capture of Avdiivka is Russia’s first major achievement in nine months, but it doesn’t leave any side looking good. For Russia, it was a Pyrrhic victory that consumed an army’s worth of equipment and killed or mangled estimated tens of thousands of Russian men to capture

Commander: Some units of 3rd Assault Brigade were 'completely surrounded' in Avdiivka but managed to escape

Some units of Ukraine's Third Assault Brigade were "completely surrounded" in the city of Avdiivka but managed to escape before Russian forces totally captured the city, the unit's deputy commander, Maksym Zhorin, said on Feb. 19.

Lying mere kilometers from occupied Donetsk, Avdiivka has stood against Russian forces since 2014.

The city was under an intensified onslaught since October 2023, culminating in Avdiivka's capture by Russia on Feb. 17.

Commander-in-Chief Oleksandr Syrskyi announced the withdrawal "in order to avoid encirclement and preserve the lives and health of servicemen," but there were reports that the retreat was not carried out as smoothly as possible.

Zhorin said that despite reports from Russian Telegram channels, none of the fighters from the Third Assault Brigade were left in Avdiivka.

Ukraine finally moves to fortify front line, but could it be too little too late?
“If you want to live, dig.” The words, often spoken by Ukrainian troops, are universal advice for trench warfare in general, but especially for both sides in Russia’s war against Ukraine. Normally expressed as advice to the individual soldier, the maxim now applies to the country as a whole.

NBC: Biden administration considering supplying Ukraine with long-range ATACMS missiles

The White House is prepared to send Ukraine long-range Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) if Congress approves a new funding package, NBC News reported on Feb. 19, citing unnamed U.S. officials.

After months of deliberation, the U.S. delivered ATACMS missiles to Ukraine in October 2023, but they were an older model with a range of 165 kilometers. Newer variations of ATACMS that have a maximum range of around 300 kilometers have so far not been provided to Ukraine.

U.S. officials told NBC that the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden is prepared to send Ukraine the longer-range ATACMS variation in one of its first aid packages if Congress passes the funding bill.

The officials also said that it was possible the U.S. would ask its allies to provide long-range ATACMS to Ukraine with the expectation that the U.S. would refill depleted stockpiles.

There has been ongoing hesitation from Ukraine's Western allies about delivering long-range weapons that could potentially be used to strike within Russian territory.

Ukraine has continued to press its allies for longer-range weapons, including the newer ATACMS variations.

Defense Minister Rustem Umerov said that Ukraine's recent loss of Avdiivka, which had been under an intensified onslaught since October 2023 and was finally captured by Russian forces on Feb. 17, reflected the need for more long-range weapons.

Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he had discussed the potential delivery of the longer-range ATACMS variant with his U.S. counterpart Antony Blinken at the Munich Security Conference on Feb. 17.

"There is only one way to destroy Russian capabilities in Ukraine. It’s to hit deep into the occupied territories, bypassing Russian radio-electronic warfare and interceptors," Kuleba said, referring to the long-range ATACMS missiles.

NBC reported that a spokesperson for the U.S. Defense Department confirmed there is currently no funding available to send more military equipment and would not comment on the contents of any proposed future aid packages.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment, NBC said.

Politico: Ukraine may receive first new long-range bombs from US this week
The U.S. is expected to deliver the first batch of new long-range bombs to Ukraine on Jan. 31, Politico reported, citing a U.S. official and three other people familiar with the matter.

Air Force: Ukraine shoots down 2 Russian fighter jets

Ukraine shot down two Russian fighter jets on the morning of Feb. 19, the Air Force reported.

According to the Air Force, the two planes were an Su-34 and an Su-35S.

The destruction of the jets is the latest in a recent uptick of downed Russian planes, including a Beriev A-50 military observation plane in January, which reportedly cost $330 million to produce. Three Russian fighter jets, two Su-34s and a Su-35, were shot down on Feb. 17, the Air Force said.

The Sukhoi Su-35 is a single-seater aircraft, and the Su-34 is a two-seater.

Russia has lost over 330 planes since the beginning of the full-scale invasion on Feb. 24, 2022, the General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces reported on Feb. 19.

There are signs that the uptick in aircraft losses has caused Russia to change its aerial strategy, reducing the number of sorties flown by Russia's Air Force, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said in December 2023.

Ukraine’s air defense notches a string of successes against Russian air power
The sharp uptick in downing planes in recent weeks emerges as a bright spot for Ukraine among a lack of progress on the battlefield.

Media: Ukraine may receive first F-16 jets in June

Ukraine may receive its first F-16 fighter jets this June, Foreign Policy magazine reported on Feb. 18, citing Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas and an unnamed European official.

"I think that in June we will see them in Ukraine," Anusauskas told the magazine, with the second official confirming the date.

The Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, and Belgium have pledged to supply Ukraine with dozens of U.S.-made fourth-generation jets, though the exact timeline has remained unclear thus far.

Ukraine's Air Force spokesperson Yurii Ihnat said on television he cannot confirm nor deny the June timeline.

"I can only confirm that the action plan is indeed being carried out. Our partners are ready to hand over the planes to Ukraine," Ihnat said.

The "fighter jet coalition's" support will also concern further maintenance and modernization of the aircraft, as well as financing of the process, he added.

According to Ihnat, Ukraine is already adapting its infrastructure to receive F-16s, although it is a complicated issue.

"Ideally, we would hide everything underground, as Iran does," or "build reinforced concrete storage facilities that would withstand ballistic missiles," Ihnat explained. Setting up air defenses to protect the planes against missile and drone attacks is also an important step, he noted.

While it would take years to prepare the infrastructure thoroughly, the goal of the adaption is to allow F-16s to operate from Ukrainian airfields and runways, Ihnat commented, stressing that the jets are needed "as soon as possible."

F-16s for Ukraine: When will they arrive and what can they do?
The General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon is an American air superiority fighter that Kyiv has begged for since the start of the full-scale invasion and is expected to finally start receiving this year. It’s a versatile workhorse of a jet that’s fought in dozens of wars and is

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