Ukrainian Forces Withdraw from Positions in Strategic Town as Russian Forces Advance

Ukrainian forces have withdrawn from a neighborhood on the outskirts of Chasiv Yar, a strategically significant town in the eastern Donetsk region that has been severely damaged by months of Russian attacks, a military spokesperson reported on Thursday.

Chasiv Yar is located a short distance west of Bakhmut, which was captured by Russia last year following a grueling 10-month battle. For months, Russian forces have been focused on taking control of Chasiv Yar, a town situated on elevated ground. Its capture would endanger nearby cities, disrupt critical Ukrainian supply routes, and bring Russia closer to its declared objective of seizing the entire Donetsk region.

The Ukrainian army retreated from a northeastern neighborhood in the town, according to Nazar Voloshyn, the spokesperson for the Khortytsia ground forces formation, who informed The Associated Press in a written message on Thursday.

Ukraine’s defensive positions in the town were “destroyed,” he stated, adding that there was a significant risk of casualties if troops remained in the area and did not evacuate, leaving “not a single intact building.”

Months of relentless Russian artillery bombardments have devastated Chasiv Yar, leaving homes and municipal offices charred, and a town that once had a population of 12,000 has become deserted.

Oleh Shyriaiev, commander of the 255 assault battalion, which has been stationed in the area for six months, said that after Russian troops seized the neighborhood, they burned every building that wasn’t already destroyed by shelling.

Shyriaiev stated that Russia is employing scorched-earth tactics in an attempt to destroy anything that could be used as a military position, aiming to force troops to retreat.

“I regret that we are gradually losing territory,” he said, speaking by phone from the Chasiv Yar area, but added, “we cannot hold what is ruined.”

Russian troops outnumber Ukrainians 10-to-1 in the area, but Shyriaiev suggested that, despite this ratio, they haven’t been able to make substantial progress in the past six months of active fighting.

The intensity of Russian strikes on Ukraine’s defensive line in the area of Chasiv Yar has intensified over the past month, Voloshyn said.

In the past week alone, Voloshyn said Russia has conducted nearly 1,300 strikes, fired nearly 130 glide bombs, and launched 44 ground assaults.

Other Russian attacks in recent weeks have focused on capturing nearby settlements that would allow them to advance to Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, the largest cities in the Ukrainian-controlled part of the Donetsk region.

Ukrainian commanders in the area say their resources remain stretched, largely due to a monthslong gap in military assistance from the United States which has placed Ukraine’s military on the defensive.

Shyriaiev, the assault battalion commander, said ammunition from allies is arriving, but more slowly than needed by the army.

“We are determined to hold on to the end,” said the commander, who has been fighting on the front line since the outbreak of the war.

Elsewhere, Russia launched 22 drones over Ukraine the previous night and nearly all of them were shot down, according to the air force’s morning update. One hit a power infrastructure facility in the northern Chernihiv region, leaving nearly 6,000 customers without electricity, said the governor, Viacheslav Chaus.

Russia is continually targeting Ukraine’s badly damaged energy infrastructure, resulting in hours of rolling blackouts across the country. Ukrainian officials have warned that the situation may worsen as winter approaches.