Day 726 of the Invasion of Ukraine: Kyiv Investigates Alleged Executions Of Soldiers In Avdiivka

World » UKRAINE | February 19, 2024, Monday // 11:21
Bulgaria: Day 726 of the Invasion of Ukraine: Kyiv Investigates Alleged Executions Of Soldiers In Avdiivka

Day 726 of the invasion of Ukraine. Summary of key events in the last 24 hours:

  • After Avdiivka, Russian troops advanced in three directions - in Zaporizhzhia, Kharkiv and Donetsk regions
  • Ukraine is investigating alleged executions of soldiers in Avdiivka
  • Russia announced that it also controls the coke plant in Avdiivka
  • Navalny's mother was not allowed to the morgue in Salekhard
  • Russian authorities are extending the investigation into Navalny's death
  • Japan has committed financial aid to Ukraine in the amount of more than 10 billion dollars
  • The Munich conference was quite fruitful for Ukraine, Zelensky said
  • Any information related to the use of VPNs began to disappear from the Russian web


After Avdiivka, Russian troops advanced in three directions - in Zaporizhzhia, Kharkiv and Donetsk regions

Experts from the US-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) note that after the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from Avdiivka, the Russian army is trying to attack the positions of the Ukrainian Armed Forces simultaneously in three directions: in Zaporizhzhia, Kharkiv and Donetsk regions. Representatives of the Ukrainian Armed Forces also announced the activation of Russian troops.

The ISW report said the Russians are trying to take advantage of the delay in Western aid to Kyiv and are conducting at least three offensive operations: along the border of Kharkiv and Luhansk regions, particularly in the direction of Kupiansk and Liman; in and around Avdiivka; and in the area of the Rabotino settlement in the western part of the Zaporizhzhia region, the BBC points out.

However, ISW analysts believe that the current operational situation is not as clear as Moscow would like.

According to American experts, after withdrawing from Avdeevka, now the Ukrainian Armed Forces will probably be able to create a new defensive line near the city, which could lead to new fierce fighting in the area.

Following the withdrawal of Ukrainian forces from Avdiivka, the ISW and several Ukrainian and Western sources concluded that delays in providing Western aid to Kyiv, most notably artillery ammunition and critical air defense systems, prevented Ukrainian forces from holding Avdiivka.

Critical shortages of Western-supplied equipment and fears of a possible withdrawal of US military aid have forced Ukrainian forces to reduce the amount of materiel and weapons used across the front.

This likely prompted the Russians to take advantage of the situation and launch limited offensive operations outside Avdiivka, which they did along the border of Kharkiv and Luhansk regions from early January 2024 and in the western part of Zaporizhzhia region in the last 48 hours, the experts wrote of ISW.

The commander-in-chief of Ukraine's armed forces, Oleksandr Syrskyi, said Ukrainian troops had withdrawn from Avdiivka to avoid encirclement after months of fierce Russian attacks.

Russia claims that Ukrainian forces are withdrawing indiscriminately and have no pre-prepared defensive lines west of Avdiivka. However, ISW has no data to confirm this.

Analysts of the institute believe that Moscow incorrectly assesses the current operational situation. They also point to the fact that the Ukrainian command has recently withdrawn reinforcements to Avdiivka to launch a counterattack and provide a safe corridor for the withdrawal of its troops.

It is likely that these fresh forces will defend against advancing Russian units that are bled from previous attacks and have lost a lot of equipment, and this will likely slow down or stop the advance altogether.

Earlier, the Russian Defense Ministry announced that units of the Russian military group "Center" had established full control over Avdiivka and had advanced 8.6 km along this section of the front line. The Russian military estimates the total area of the captured Ukrainian territory near Avdeevka at 31.75 square km.

The commander of the Ukrainian troop group "Tavria" Oleksandr Tarnavsky confirmed the information about the Russian attacks. According to him, in the region of Avdeevka, "the Ukrainian military has strengthened itself on new defensive lines and successfully repelled the attempts of the Russian occupiers to launch an offensive."

At the same time, both Russian and Ukrainian blogs reported a slight advance of the Russian army in the Zaporizhzhia direction and an intensification of fighting in the Rabotino area. The village was one of the main targets of the summer offensive by Ukrainian troops, who managed to regain control of it after several weeks of fierce fighting.

According to Russian Z-channel WarGonzo, Russian troops attacked the area from Novoprokopivka and Verbovoye. "There is a tactical offensive in both areas," writes Semyon Pegov, author of the Telegram channel.

The Ukrainian military channel Deep State also reported the previous day about the massive attack on the front from Robotyne to Verbovoye. According to him, southeast of Verbovoye, Russian troops managed to break through the defenses, and now Ukrainian troops are "solving this problem." By Sunday evening, the intensity of the fighting there had decreased.

Separate Russian units managed to break through to the village of Robotyne, "but most were liquidated," Deep State claims.

According to the VSU data, the enemy "unsuccessfully tried to attack the positions of our troops" 10 times in the Robotyne area. Tarnavski also points out that in the area the Russian military "has returned to the tactics of small assault groups with the participation of several armored vehicles".

Meanwhile, over the past few days, the Ukrainian military has reported that it has shot down six Russian warplanes. Russia has not commented.

Today, Ukrainian forces shot down a Su-34 fighter-bomber and a Su-35S fighter capable of carrying guided bombs, Oleksandr Syrskyi reported on his Telegram channel.

Earlier, the command of the Air Force announced that three Russian aircraft were shot down - two Su-34 and one Su-35. Russian sources confirmed the loss of only one Su-35 fighter.

According to Western experts, it was air superiority and the active use of aerial bombs that allowed the Russian army to achieve success in Avdiivka.

Ukraine is investigating alleged executions of soldiers in Avdiivka

Ukrainian authorities announced that they have launched an investigation into reports of the killing of six unarmed Ukrainian soldiers by Russian forces in the town of Avdiivka, as well as two more in the village of Vesele in the same area, Reuters reported.

The Prosecutor's Office of the Donetsk region announced that the information about the alleged executions was shared on Telegram, but did not specify the source.

Ukrainian military spokesman Dmytro Likhovy, quoted by Suspilne public television, said he could not yet confirm or deny reports of killings of Ukrainian soldiers. He added, however, that this would not be the first time Russia has committed war crimes.

According to the Prosecutor's Office of the Donetsk Region, a video fragment captured by a drone shows a Russian soldier shooting two captured Ukrainian soldiers with an automatic weapon at close range in the village of Vesele.

Earlier on Sunday, the official Telegram channel of the Ukrainian ground forces shared a video, possibly shot by a drone, showing people in uniforms in a narrow trench. A gunman, identified by the post as Russian, approached two uniformed men and appeared to shoot them both. The Ukrainians show no signs of making any attempt to defend themselves.

Russia's defense ministry did not respond to an emailed request for comment from Reuters. The agency clarifies that, for now, it cannot verify the authenticity of the video and the other elements from the information of the Ukrainian prosecutor's office and the army, BTA reports.

At the same time, the Russian Ministry of Defense, quoted by TASS, announced that the Russian military forces had completely seized the coke chemical plant in the town of Avdiivka.

"The army group ‘Center’, deploying its offensive, put under full control the coke chemical plant of the Avdiivka direction. Russian flags were raised on the administrative buildings of the plant," the message says.

According to the Russian Ministry, units of the armed forces of Ukraine continue their retreat in the area.

On Sunday, the ministry announced that Ukrainian units had entrenched themselves at the plant, which is northwest of the city.

The Ukrainian army announced its withdrawal from Avdiivka on Saturday, which has been the scene of fierce fighting since Russia's full-scale invasion began in 2022.

Russia announced that it also controls the coke plant in Avdiivka

The Russian military has taken full control of the coking plant in Avdiivka, a refuge for the retreating Ukrainian defenders. This was reported by Russian state news agencies on Monday, after most of the city was captured by Russian forces over the weekend.

On Sunday, Moscow said it was in control of Avdiivka, but that Ukrainian soldiers were inside the plant.

"Russian flags were raised on the administrative buildings of the plant," TASS quoted the Ministry of Defense as saying.

The RIA news agency released a video without sound showing sporadic explosions at what appears to be an industrial plant.

The fall of Avdiivka, located 15 km from the occupied city of Donetsk, is Russia's biggest victory since the capture of Bakhmut in May 2023.

Navalny's mother was not allowed to the morgue in Salekhard

Alexei Navalny's mother was not allowed to the morgue in the Russian city of Salekhard. This was written on the X social network by the spokesperson of the Russian opposition, Kira Yarmysh.

"One of the lawyers was literally pushed out," Yarmysh said, adding that morgue officials did not want to answer the question of where Navalny's body was.

Russian authorities are extending the investigation into Navalny's death

Russian authorities have told Alexei Navalny's mother and his lawyers that the investigation into the death of the Russian opposition leader has been extended, AFP reported.

"It is not known how long it will last. The cause of death is still ‘undetermined’. They are lying, buying time and not even hiding it," Navalny's spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh wrote on the X social network.

The Russian authorities announced the death of the oppositionist in a colony in Siberia on Friday, February 16. The news caused a wave of criticism of the Kremlin.

Japan has committed financial aid to Ukraine in the amount of more than 10 billion dollars

A conference on the economic recovery of Ukraine from the Russian military invasion is being held in Japan with the participation of the Prime Minister of the Asian country Fumio Kishida and the Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, reported Reuters.

"Japan has supported and continues to support Ukraine," Kishida said in a speech to the forum.

The Prime Minister of Japan announced that they are negotiating with Ukraine to conclude a bilateral investment agreement, without giving further details. The two countries have already reached an agreement to avoid double taxation.

Japan has committed to providing Ukraine with financial assistance in the amount of more than 10 billion dollars. Tokyo cannot provide arms and ammunition to Kyiv, as the Asian country's legislation does not allow their export, according to Reuters.

During the conference in Tokyo, about 50 Japanese companies signed cooperation agreements with Ukrainian companies in the sector of agriculture, energy and the construction and maintenance of infrastructure objects.

The Kyiv forum is being held almost to coincide with the second anniversary of the start of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which began on February 24, 2022.

The Munich conference was quite fruitful for Ukraine, Zelensky said

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky described his country's participation in the Munich Security Conference as quite fruitful, Ukrinform reported.

"Our participation in this year's edition of the Munich Security Conference was quite fruitful. The Ukrainian point of view on the international agenda was supported by our partners," the head of state of Ukraine said last night in his traditional evening video address.

He noted that within the framework of the forum he talked with the leaders of Denmark, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic, with whom a "decision on additional support" was reached, and also with the leader of Azerbaijan, with whom Zelensky described the meeting as productive and helping to strengthen bilateral relations and the region as a whole.

"And also with the American partners. I had a conversation with President Biden on many important issues, including about Avdiivka and the need to continue the principled, sufficient support for Ukraine," said the Ukrainian head of state.

He added that he also met with the Prime Minister of Bangladesh and the President of Guatemala.

The beginning of the Munich Security Conference was set in 1963 as a platform with about 60 participants from the Western Bloc to discuss issues in the field of security policy and continued its existence even after the end of the Cold War. The purpose of the conference is to help prevent another major war and resolve regional conflicts. After 1999, it became the largest independent world forum of its kind and annually gathers around 600 participants, adds Ukrinform.

Any information related to the use of VPNs began to disappear from the Russian web

As of March 1, a ban on promoting VPN services and publishing information on how to bypass blocking comes into force in the Russian Federation. In preparation for the ban on "VPN promotion", some sites have already started removing information about such services or network settings, Kommersant reported.

Lawyers believe that the preliminary preparation of Internet resources is justified: the risks of blocking are unpredictable, and failure to remove prohibited materials can lead to a fine of up to 4 million rubles (about 43 thousand dollars).

There are various reasons for blocking a VPN or information about it: at the initiative of Roskomnadzor, the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation, or by a court decision. This can be done by entering the public register or by using technical means to counter threats, explains Ekaterina Abashina, a lawyer at the Moscow bar association DBA and Partners.

Sources of "Kommersant" claim that for large sites, the share of traffic for searches for VPN articles is not of such importance. The publication also informed that, on its own inspection, some sites, such as the technical forum 4PDA and the enterprise media Skillfactory, have removed any information about the use of VPNs, including instructions for setting up a network or choosing services to bypass the block.

The editor-in-chief of SecurityLab Alexander Antipov told "Kommersant" that some materials about VPN have also already been edited or deleted on the portal. It has clarified that the moderation of user content on the portal after March 1 will be based on "strict editorial policies and enhanced pre-moderation measures". For the purpose of introduced "automated systems for checking content for compliance with the new rules".

The technology itself for extending the scope of a private network to a public one, which enables secure data exchange, and its use are not prohibited in Russia. At the same time, since 2017, companies providing VPN services in the country are obliged to block sites, access to which is prohibited in the Russian Federation.

In 2021, Roskomnadzor (whose official Telegram channel was renamed RoskomnadZor soon after the start of Russia's war in Ukraine) blocked a number of services, including NordVPN, for non-compliance. Citing the director of the Center for Monitoring and Management of the Public Communications Network, subordinate to Roskomnadzor - Sergey Khutortsev, in October 2023, TASS reported that as of 2021, 167 VPN services and 84 applications were blocked in Russia.

In September 2023, amid proposals by the Ministry of Digital Development to block pages using circumvention tools, some sites removed instructions for setting up network access using VPN providers.

The topic of VPN forms a large semantic core, and search queries for it bring a significant amount of traffic, explains SmartSEO Director Sergey Koshkin. At the same time, however, according to him, for sites with a large volume of content, it is impossible to say that search traffic for VPN articles takes a significant share, and if their administrators decide to remove such pages, a comparable amount of traffic from articles on other topics.


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