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Ukraine updates: Russia claims control of Avdiivka plant

Published February 19, 2024last updated February 19, 2024

Russia's Defense Ministry says its troops are in full control of the Avdiivka coke plant, marking the biggest battlefield gain in nine months following one of the most intense battles of the war.

Smoke rises near the Avdiivka Coke and Chemical Plant in the town of Avdiivka in the course of Russia-Ukraine conflict
Ukrainian forces withdrew from the city to save troops from being fully surroundedImage: Alexander Ermochenko/REUTERS
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

Russia's forces have taken full control of the Soviet-era coke plant in the battered Ukrainian town of Avdiivka, Russia's Defense Ministry said Monday.

The fall of the eastern city marks Moscow's biggest gain since it captured the city of Bakhmut in May 2023. It also comes almost two years since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Meanwhile, EU foreign ministers are meeting in Brussels to discuss military support for Ukraine and new sanctions against Moscow.

This blog is now closed, for more coverage of Russia's war in Ukraine, click here. 

Skip next section Eleven Ukrainian children repatriated from Russia
February 19, 2024

Eleven Ukrainian children repatriated from Russia

Eleven Ukrainian children are to be reunited with their families following Qatari mediation, Lolwah Al-Khater, Qatar's minister of state for international cooperation, said in a statement.

The children, aged between two and 16, were at the Qatari embassy in Moscow on Monday, ahead of a journey via Belarus, which should see them cross into northwestern Ukraine on Tuesday.

"Qatar has been working closely with its Russian and Ukrainian counterparts, making progress on the reunification initiative, but also looking for ways to build trust in other areas," Al-Khater said. 

"We will continue to mediate between the two sides as long as it is requested, with the hope that it can eventually lead to a de-escalation in the conflict," she said.

The children are among the thousands Ukraine says have been forcibly displaced to Russia or trapped in Russian-occupied territory in Ukraine. 

Ukraine: Playing in wartime

Skip next section Ukraine reports Russian forces intensifying attacks in south and east
February 19, 2024

Ukraine reports Russian forces intensifying attacks in south and east

Ukraine's military on Monday reported "heavy fire" from advancing Russian troops in the southern Zaporizhzhia region, and "multiple attacks" by Russian forces near the eastern village of Robotyne, which Kyiv managed to recapture during last year's counter-offensive, according to senior Ukrainian commander Oleksandr Tarnavsky.

In a post on the Telegram messaging platform, Tarnavsky said "small [Russian] assault groups with the involvement of several units of armored vehicles" were trying to advance in the village, among the few places which Kyiv successfully retook in its counter-offensive.

He cited at least 10 attempted attacks on Ukrainian positions.

"These offensive attempts are being halted, the enemy is being eliminated in the outskirts of Robotyne," Tarnavsky added.

His spokesperson Dmytro Lykhoviy, meanwhile, told state TV that the situation near the village was "dynamic," adding that "the enemy is inflicting heavy fire."

Moscow took over the frontline town of Avdiivka last week, marking its most significant territorial gain in some nine months.

Skip next section At least 23,000 people missing in Ukraine — ICRC
February 19, 2024

At least 23,000 people missing in Ukraine — ICRC

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Monday said that at least 23,000 people are missing in Ukraine with their fate unknown. 

"Not knowing what happened to a loved one is excruciating, and this is the tragic reality for tens of thousands of families who live in a state of constant anguish," said Dusan Vujasanin, who heads up the ICRC's Central Tracing Agency Bureau.

"Families have the right to know what happened to their relatives and, when possible, to exchange news with them," added Vujasanin. 

The ICRC said it was looking to establish whether the missing had been captured, killed or had lost contact after fleeing their homes.

Over the past two years, the ICRC said it had received more than 115,000 phone calls, online requests, letters or in-person visits from families from both Russia and Ukraine looking for their missing relatives.

The ICRC acts as a neutral intermediary between Russia and Ukraine and collects and exchanges information from one side to another.

In Ukraine, protesters call for more prisoner swaps

Skip next section Navalny's widow to meet EU ministers in Brussels
February 19, 2024

Navalny's widow to meet EU ministers in Brussels

The widow of  Alexei Navalny, Russian President Vladimir Putin's opponent who died in an Arctic prison last week, is set to meet  European foreign ministers in Brussels. 

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said he would welcome Yulia Navalnaya to the 27-nation bloc's Foreign Affairs Council on Monday.

"EU Ministers will send a strong message of support to freedom fighters in Russia" and "honor" Navalny's memory, he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

The foreign ministers are to discuss providing military support for Ukraine, as well as a new sanctions package against Moscow. Hungary is the only EU state yet to approve the proposed restrictions against nearly 200 firms and people.

Skip next section Japan hosts Ukraine reconstruction meeting to showcase support
February 19, 2024

Japan hosts Ukraine reconstruction meeting to showcase support

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Monday vowed his nation's long-term engagement in Ukraine's reconstruction, calling it a future investment, as Japan hosted Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal for talks.

Support for Ukraine's reconstruction is about "investing in the future," Kishida said in his opening remarks at a conference in Tokyo, which Japan co-organized with the Ukrainian government and business organizations. 

"The war in Ukraine is still going on at this very moment and the situation is not easy. The promotion of economic reconstruction, however, is not only an investment for the future of Ukraine but also investing in Japan and the whole globe," he said.

Kishida announced a new bilateral tax treaty and the start of negotiations for an investment treaty without providing further details. The two countries also signed more than 50 bilateral agreements, including accords for cooperation in the agriculture and energy sectors.

Shmyhal, who headed Ukraine's delegation of more than 100 people, expressed thanks for the encouragement and said that "today is the new start of cooperation between the two countries."

He added "Ukraine is not just rebuilding, we are generating new rules of the game, new approaches," he said. All eyes are on Ukraine, and "dictators and potential invaders" are also turning their eyes to see how Moscow's violation of the international law is seen and how the world will react to it, he added.

War, grief, and rebuilding in Ukraine

Skip next section Russia claims full control of war-ruined Avdiivka
February 19, 2024

Russia claims full control of war-ruined Avdiivka

Russian forces have taken full control of the Soviet-era coke plant in the battered Ukrainian town of Avdiivka, reports citing the Russian Defense Ministry said on Monday.

The ministry said its troops had advanced about 9 kilometers (5 miles) in that part of the 1,000-km (620-mile) front line, and that Russian soldiers were pushing forward following a deadly urban battle.

"The 'Centre' grouping of troops, taking the offensive, took full control of the coke plant in Avdiivka," the ministry said in its statement, along with a video that showed a series of blasts in what appeared to be the plant.

"Russian flags were hoisted on the administrative buildings of the plant," the ministry added. There was no immediate comment from Ukraine. 

The fall of Avdiivka marks Moscow's biggest gain since it captured the city of Bakhmut in May 2023. It also comes almost two years to the day since Russia launched a full-scale war by ordering the invasion of Ukraine.

dvv/nm (AP, Reuters)