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Ukraine war latest: Ukraine withdraws from 2 more villages near Avdiivka, downs 2 Russian warplanes in single day

by The Kyiv Independent news desk February 27, 2024 9:01 PM 7 min read
A Ukrainian infantryman runs towards the trenches on the front line, in the Kreminna forest, Luhansk Oblast, on Jan. 31, 2024. (Ignacio Marin/Anadolu via Getty Images)
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Key developments on Feb. 27:

  • Military: Ukraine withdraws from Stepove and Severne villages near Avdiivka
  • Air Force: Ukraine downs 2 Russian Su-34 planes in single day
  • Ukraine reports heavy battles in Bakhmut direction as Russia pulls in reserves
  • NATO members say they are not considering sending troops to Ukraine
  • Macron announces coalition to send Kyiv long-range missiles

The Ukrainian Armed Forces withdrew from the Stepove and Severne villages near Avdiivka, Dmytro Lykhovii, a spokesperson for Ukraine's Tavria Group, said on national television on Feb. 27.

The two villages are located north of Lastochkyne, which was occupied by Russian troops on Feb. 26. Before the start of the full-scale invasion, around 100 people lived in Stepove and Severne.

Lykhovii said battles for Stepove and Severne had taken place on Feb. 27.

According to Lykhovii, Russia has increased the number of assault units. The spokesperson said that some of them can reach the number of a company, which is up to 250 soldiers.

Ukraine withdrew from the small industrial city of Avdiivka in Donetsk Oblast on Feb. 17 amid ammunition shortages after months of repelling Russia’s renewed offensive.

After the capture of Avdiivka, Russia intensified its offensive efforts along various parts of Ukraine’s front line, likely in order to stretch Ukrainian forces, the U.K. Defense Ministry reported in its Feb. 21 intelligence update.

Air Force: Ukraine downs 2 Russian Su-34 planes in single day

Ukrainian forces shot down two Russian Su-34 attack planes in a single day on Feb. 27, the Air Force reported.

Air Force Commander Mykola Oleshchuk initially reported one Su-34 shot down in the eastern sector earlier today.

According to the Air Force, the second plane was downed at around 2 p.m. local time in the same sector as the previous one.

The destruction of the jet is the latest in a recent uptick of downed Russian planes, including two A-50 early warning and control aircraft in the past two months, each costing around $330 million.

Ukraine reportedly downed a Su-34 on Feb. 21, a Su-34 and a Su-35S plane on Feb. 19, a Su-34 plane on Feb. 18, as well as two Russian Su-34 fighter jets and another Russian Su-35 combat aircraft on Feb. 17.

Russia has lost around 340 planes since the beginning of the full-scale invasion on Feb. 24, 2022, the General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces reported on the morning of Feb. 27.

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.

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Ukraine reports heavy battles in Bakhmut direction as Russia pulls in reserves

Intense fighting is taking place in the Bakhmut sector in Donetsk Oblast, as Russian forces are attempting to advance toward nearby Chasiv Yar, Eastern Group of Forces spokesperson Illia Yevlash said on air on Feb. 27.

Russia has been ramping up pressure along the front as Ukraine faces increasingly critical ammunition shortages due to a decrease in Western aid. Moscow's troops captured Avdiivka earlier in February, their first conquest of a Ukrainian city since Bakhmut last May.

According to Yevlash, Russian forces are focusing their attacks on villages east of Chasiv Yar, such as Bohdanivka.

"Fierce battles are already taking place on the outskirts, the enemy is using reserves, trying to reinforce its troops with various units, (such as) Storm Z, and Storm V (units made up of convicts – edit.)," Yevlash said.

Ramzan Kadyrov's Chechen forces are also trying to attack near Klishchiivka and Kurdiumivka, two villages south of Bakhmut, the spokesperson said. One of such units was reportedly destroyed by Ukrainian forces.

According to Yevlash, Russian forces are heavily employing air force and heavy weapons in the Bakhmut sector.

"(Russian) losses in heavy equipment are very high: 60%. That is, three out of five vehicles if they attack or deliver infantry," the spokesperson said.

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NATO members say they are not considering sending troops to Ukraine

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, as well as leaders of Germany, the U.K., and other European NATO member states, have reportedly said they are not considering deploying their troops to Ukraine after French President Emmanuel Macron suggested the possibility of Western military presence in the country.

Macron said on Feb. 26 following discussions among European leaders that sending Western troops on the ground in Ukraine can not be "ruled out" in the future, adding, though, that there was no consensus on such a move.

Macron declined to provide specifics regarding which nations were considering sending troops, adding that he prefers to maintain some "strategic ambiguity."

Sweden's Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson told the Swedish broadcaster SVT the next day that the question of whether to send troops to Ukraine was not relevant to his country at the moment, and there were no requests from Kyiv for that.

"Right now, we are fully occupied with sending advanced materials from Sweden to Ukraine in many different ways, like many other countries are. So that is a whole other thing," said Kristersson.

Sweden is set to join NATO after Hungary approved its membership bid on Feb. 26 following almost two years of delays.

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Polish and Czech prime ministers, Donald Tusk and Petr Fiala, issued similar statements at a joint press conference on Feb. 27.

Stoltenberg told the Associated Press the same day that NATO did not have plans to send its forces to Ukraine, which has fought off the Russian full-scale invasion for two years.

"NATO allies are providing unprecedented support to Ukraine. We have done that since 2014 and stepped up after the full-scale invasion. But there are no plans for NATO combat troops on the ground in Ukraine," said Stoltenberg.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has also ruled out the possibility of sending Western troops to Ukraine, according to Reuters.

"Once again, in a very good debate, it was discussed that what was agreed from the outset among ourselves and with each other also applies to the future, namely that there will be no ground troops, no soldiers on Ukrainian soil sent there by European countries or NATO states," Scholz said on Feb. 27.

Later the same day, Finland, the U.K., Spain, and Italy also reportedly distanced themselves from Macron's statement, ruling out sending their troops to Ukraine.

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Macron announces coalition to send Kyiv long-range missiles

French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Feb. 26 that a new coalition will work to supply Ukraine with "medium- and long-range missiles and bombs."

Macron held a summit on Ukraine in Paris, convening 20 European heads of state and other Western officials. The meeting included German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Polish President Andrzej Duda, as well as leaders from the Baltic states.

France and other allies of Ukraine will "create a coalition for deep strikes and therefore medium- and long-range missiles and bombs," Macron said at a press conference, according to Le Monde.

Ukraine has long appealed to allies for long-range weapons, including the U.S.-made Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) and Germany's Taurus missiles. Fears of escalation with Moscow have prevented Western partners from readily transferring the weapons.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Feb. 24, the anniversary of Russia's full-scale invasion, that Ukraine will not use long-range missile systems to strike targets in Russia.

France has already supplied Ukraine with long-range SCALP missiles, the equivalent of the British Storm Shadows. These can travel up to 250 kilometers, a shorter range than that of ATACMS and Taurus missiles.

"Today, the initiatives we have launched will be put on the table, and in 10 days' time, you will have a clear answer with a serious agenda," Macron said.

Macron said that some of the initiatives were not ready to be made public.

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