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Ukraine war latest: Ukraine says it repelled Russian offensive in Zaporizhzhia Oblast

by The Kyiv Independent news desk February 18, 2024 11:57 PM 4 min read
Ukrainian soldiers of Separate Jaeger 71st Brigade fire artillery in the direction of Avdiivka, Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine on Feb. 18, 2024. (Diego Herrera Carcedo/Anadolu via Getty Images)
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Key developments on Feb. 17-18:

  • Ukraine says it repelled Russian offensive in Zaporizhzhia Oblast
  • ISW: Russia could replicate Avdiivka's capture tactics if West continues to delay aid
  • Kuleba meets with Chinese FM in Munich
  • Russian missile attack on Kramatorsk, Sloviansk kills civilians

Ukrainian forces defeated a Russian offensive in Zaporizhzhia Oblast on Feb. 17, killing 70 troops and injuring 80, the Operational Command West reported on Feb. 18.

The offensive involved 30 pieces of equipment and a “fairly large” number of enemy troops. Ukraine destroyed 18 pieces of Russian equipment, including three tanks, according to the report.

“The much-hyped offensive in the Zaporizhzhia sector collapsed like Caesar Kunikov,” the Operational Command West wrote on Telegram, referring to the Russian landing ship Caesar Kunikov, sunk by Ukraine earlier this week.

Zaporizhzhia Oblast remains partly occupied by Russian forces. Ukraine launched a missile strike on Russian rear positions on Feb. 17, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) reported.

Russian troops have resumed an offensive in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast and captured a position south of the village of Robotyne. The ISW reports that Russian forces are storming the village.

Russian forces struck the city of Zaporizhzhia on the afternoon of Feb. 17, damaging an infrastructure facility and leaving around 4,000 residents without heating.

ISW: Russia could replicate Avdiivka's capture tactics if West continues to delay aid

Russia could replicate its successful tactics in Avdiivka on a larger scale if the West continues to delay military assistance, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) reported on Feb. 17.

The ISW notes that Russian forces secured air superiority during the Avdiivka offensive, while Western delays have hindered Ukraine’s air defense.

After Ukraine's withdrawal from Avdiivka, Defense Minister Rustem Umerov said that Ukraine needs modern air defense systems against Russian glide bombs, long-range weapons to destroy Russian formations, and more artillery shells.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu claimed that Russian forces had “full control” over Avdiivka on Feb. 17. Moscow’s success was largely down to localized air superiority and a new tactic of launching mass glide bomb attacks to support advancing infantry troops, according to the ISW.

Ukrainian Sergeant Yehor Firsov said on national TV that Russian troops launched up to 500 glide bombs at Avdiivka in the last few days.

Oleksandr Borodin, the spokesman of the 3rd separate assault brigade, told public broadcaster Suspilne on Feb. 16 that Russia dropped 60 KAB bombs in one day. “(This) is a very large number on a relatively small area of ​​the front,” he said.

Glide bombs have a 70-kilometer range and allow Russia to launch strikes from further behind the front line.

Ukrainian Air Force Spokesperson Yuriy Ihnat said the only way Ukraine can combat glide bombs is by shooting down the Su-34 and Su-35 planes that drop the bombs.

“Otherwise we will not have enough means to hunt such bombs separately,” he said on national TV.

Ukrainian officials have long stressed the need for further air defense support as supplies are dwindling due to delays from Ukraine’s key allies.

“Ukraine’s military was forced to withdraw from Avdiivka after Ukrainian soldiers had to ration ammunition due to dwindling supplies as a result of congressional inaction, resulting in Russia’s first notable gains in months," U.S. President Joe Biden said on Feb. 17.

Assistance from the U.S., once Ukraine's largest military donor, has mostly run dry as Republicans in Congress refuse to approve additional funding. The Senate recently advanced a foreign aid bill including $60 billion for Ukraine, but the Republican-led House of Representatives has already voiced strong opposition to the legislation

U.S. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby warned on Feb. 15 that an artillery shortage on Ukraine's front lines could lead to the loss of Avdiivka.

Russian forces launched a heavy assault against Avdiivka in October 2023. The city, which lies only kilometers away from Russian-occupied Donetsk, is largely in ruins due to intense fighting.

4 civilians killed, 2 wounded in Russian missile attack on Kramatorsk, Sloviansk

Russia launched missile attacks against Kramatorsk and Sloviansk in Donetsk Oblast on the evening of Feb. 17, killing four people, Governor Vadym Filashkin said.

Kramatorsk and Sloviansk are key Ukrainian-held cities in Donetsk Oblast. Both have repeatedly suffered deadly attacks by Russian forces.

In Kramatorsk, the  attack killed two women, 45 and 74, and a man, 23. The three victims reportedly were a family. The attack destroyed their home. An elderly couple was hospitalized.

Russia targeted Kramatorsk at around 8 p.m. with three missiles, hitting the industrial zone and residential areas, the governor reported. The projectile that hit the residential area reportedly destroyed two houses and damaged at least 23.

In Sloviansk, a Russian missile hit a school. The school's night guard, a 65-year-old man, was killed.

Kuleba meets with Chinese FM in Munich

Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba met with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi during the Munich Security Conference, Kuleba said on social media on Feb. 17.

The world's security and political elite have gathered in Munich for the annual conference, where President Volodymyr Zelensky issued an urgent appeal for support as Ukrainian troops withdraw from the Russian onslaught at Avdiivka.

Kuleba said he and Yi discussed Chinese-Ukrainian relations and a path towards peace.

"I met with my Chinese counterpart Wang Yi to discuss bilateral relations, trade, and the need to restore a just and lasting peace in Ukraine," he said.

"I informed Foreign Minister Wang Yi about Ukraine’s vision for the upcoming Global Peace Summit in Switzerland."

Ukraine invited China in January to participate in the upcoming summit, aimed at building support for the Ukrainian peace formula. Switzerland has agreed to host the talks, though no date or venue has been set.

China confirmed the invitation, but has not yet committed to joining the summit.

Previously, China participated in international talks supporting Ukraine's peace plan in August 2023. Russia was not invited to join those talks, which were held in Jeddah, Saudia Arabia.

Russia and China have strengthened their economic and political ties amid a Western push to isolate Moscow following its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. At the same time, Ukrainian and European officials have urged Beijing to use its influence over Moscow to help end the war.

Kuleba said Beijing and Kyiv were committed to ongoing dialogue.

"We agreed on the need to maintain Ukraine-China contacts at all levels and continue our dialogue," he said.

Kuleba said he met with other world leaders during the conference, including U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Bulgarian Foreign Minister Mariya Gabriel. He also signed an agreement with Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani providing financial support to Ukraine's energy sector.

The Kyiv Independent was at the 2024 Munich Security Conference. Find our coverage here.

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