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Russia takes full control of Avdiivka coke plant, Defence Ministry says

RUSSIAN forces claimed full control of the vast Soviet-era coke plant in the ruined Ukrainian town of Avdiivka, cementing the biggest battlefield gain in nine months after one of the most intense battles of the war.

The fall of Avdiivka is Russia’s biggest gain since it captured the city of Bakhmut in May 2023, and comes almost two years to the day since President Vladimir Putin triggered a full-scale war by ordering the invasion of Ukraine.

Russia’s defence ministry said its troops had advanced about 9 km (5 miles) in that part of the 1,000-km (620 mile) front line, and that Russian troops were pressing forward after a deadly urban battle.

Ukraine said it had withdrawn its soldiers to save troops from being fully surrounded after months of fierce fighting. Putin hailed the fall of Avdiivka as an important victory and congratulated Russian troops.

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“The ‘Centre’ grouping of troops, taking the offensive, took full control of the coke plant in Avdiivka,” Russia’s defence ministry said in a statement alongside a video showing a series of blasts in what appeared to be the plant.

“Russian flags were hoisted on the administrative buildings of the plant,” the ministry said.

Russian state television showed blue-and-yellow Ukrainian flags being taken down in Avdiivka and Russia’s white, blue and red tricolour flag raised, including over the coke plant.

After the failure of Ukraine to pierce Russian lines last year, Moscow has been trying to grind down Ukrainian forces just as Kyiv ponders a major new mobilisation and President Volodymyr Zelenskiy appoints a new commander to run the war.

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Russia cast the Ukrainian withdrawal as rushed and chaotic, with some soldiers and weapons left behind. The Ukrainian military said there had been casualties but that the situation had stabilised somewhat after the retreat.

Putin sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine in February 2022, triggering the full-scale war after eight years of conflict in eastern Ukraine between Ukrainian forces on the one side and pro-Russian Ukrainians and Russian proxies on the other.

Avdiivka, which is called Avdeyevka by Russians, has endured a decade of conflict. It holds particular symbolism for Russia as it was briefly taken in 2014 by Moscow-backed separatists who seized a swathe of eastern Ukraine but was then recaptured by Ukrainian troops who built extensive fortifications.

Avdiivka sits in the industrial Donbas region, 15 km (9 miles) north of the Russian-occupied city of Donetsk. Before the war, the Soviet-era coke plant was one of Europe’s biggest.

There was no immediate comment from Ukraine.

But Saturday, Colonel-General Oleksandr Syrskyi, Commander-in-Chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, said his troops had moved back to more secure positions outside the town “to avoid encirclement and preserve the lives and health of servicemen”.

Russia said on Saturday that its forces had inflicted a series of defeats on Ukrainian forces along the 1,000-km (620-mile) front line.

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The West routinely gives estimates of Russian casualties in the war but rarely speaks about Ukrainian casualties which Moscow says are vast. Western intelligence assessments say hundreds of thousands of men on both sides have been killed or wounded in the war.

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By GUY FAULCONBRIDGE and LIDIA KELLY

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