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    In Avdiivka, Ukrainian soliders ‘hold out as long as possible’ as Russian air strikes intensify

    The soldier Oleksandr slowed down as the loud sound of artillery fire shook the steel-colored sky over the city of Avdiivka. He raised his hand and stopped. His face expressed absolute concentration. A few seconds passed. “They are ours,” he eventually said, before stepping over a piece of scrap metal contorted by an explosion. The man with pale blue eyes, who answers to the pseudonym “Texas,” did not lose his calm cautiousness for a single moment. It has been several weeks since Russian forces “intensified their attacks,” as he calmly described a large-scale enemy effort to seize Avdiivka, a small town on the front line that runs through the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine.

    A soldier of the Kyiv Regiment looks out over the nearby Russian-occupied city of Donetsk from Avdiivka, Ukraine, March 6, 2023.

    “It had been a long time since they had used their planes but for the past two weeks, they’ve been doing it more and more regularly,” explained the soldier who has been fighting in this war-torn province for more than eight years . In Avdiivka, in addition to conventional artillery, attacks by Kremlin fighter jets are now a daily occurrence. On Saturday, March 4 alone, Oleksandr counted six aerial bombardments – ywo in the middle of the day, four at night. The craters formed by the explosions of the missiles fired by the planes are several meters wide and deep.

    The situation is deteriorating in Bakhmut

    After more than a year of war, the city of 30,000 inhabitants has already been reduced to scenes of widespread chaos. The roads, where almost nobody ventures anymore, are obstructed by whole sections of collapsed houses. The buildings are burned out and bullet-riddled. A few shadows, the last inhabitants, weave in and out hurriedly before returning to their shelters.

    For several weeks now, the Kremlin’s forces have been concentrating their offensive on eastern Ukraine in hope of gaining control of the Donetsk region. Along with Vuhledar and Bakhmut, Avdiivka is one of the most heavily fought cities on the eastern frontline. However, the Russian army’s efforts have not yet resulted in any significant progress. In Bakhmut, a symbolic city over which Russian forces have been fighting since August at the cost of heavy losses, the situation is deteriorating by the day. “The Russians many have intended to encircle Ukrainian forces in Bakhmut but the Ukrainian command has signaled that it will likely withdraw rather than risk an encircle,” stated the Institute for the Study of War, a group of American experts, on Saturday.

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    A Ukrainian soldier of the Kyiv regiment in the crater caused by a Kh-22 missile the previous day, in the center of Avdiivka, Ukraine, March 6, 2023.

    In Avdiivka, a narrow alley leads to a base of fellow fighters of the soldier “Texas.” The entrance is hidden by camouflage nets. On Sunday, March 5, inside a former store, the men were chatting around a table covered with pastries and cups of tea. “We don’t have any urban fighting in Avdiivka,” Maksym Lyutyi, commander of the Kyiv regiment, explained soberly. “But the Russians are very close.”

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