Ukrainian Patriot missile defense system shot down one more Su-34 fighter-bomber

A Russian Su-34 fighter-bomber was destroyed in Ukraine on 18 February 2024 using Patriot missile defense system.

Ukrainian Air Force Commander Mykola Oleschuk said this in a post on the Telegram messaging app, Ukrinform reports.

Ukrainian forces have shot down two Russian Su-34 fighter-bomber and one Su-35 fighter jet on 17 February worth more than $150million in total, Kyiv’s air force chief has claimed.

Since receiving advanced Western air defence systems, Kyiv has been able to deploy these weapons to pose an increasing threat to Russian aviation in areas near the front lines as the two-year anniversary nears of Russia’s invasion.

This comes as President Volodymyr Zelensky today said that Ukraine withdrew troops from the besieged eastern stronghold of Avdiivka to save the lives of its soldiers, handing Russia its biggest symbolic victory since May.

The pullback comes after Russian forces stepped up efforts to capture the eastern industrial hub in October, leading to mass casualties and destruction.

Facing ammunition shortages and outnumbered on the battlefield, Ukrainian forces announced they had withdrawn in the early hours of Saturday.

‘The ability to save our people is the most important task for us,’ Zelensky told a security conference in Munich, explaining the move.

‘In order to avoid being surrounded, it was decided to withdraw to other lines. This does not mean that people retreated some kilometres and Russia captured something, it did not capture anything,’ he also said.

This echoed earlier statements from the newly-appointed commander-in-chief Oleksandr Syrsky, who said he ‘decided to withdraw our units from the city and switch to defence on more favourable lines.’

‘The life of military personnel is the highest value,’ Syrsky said.

It was Syrsky’s first major decision since his appointment, at a time when Ukraine faces mounting pressures in the east because of ammunition shortages, with a $60billion US military aid package held up in Washington.

Soldiers are now holding a second line of defence, commander Oleksandr Tarnavsky said.

A number of Ukrainian servicemen were captured ‘at the final stage of the operation, under the pressure of superior enemy forces,’ he added, calling on the international community to help ‘return our soldiers to their homeland.’

A Ukrainian serviceman deployed on the eastern frontline told AFP that withdrawing was ‘the right decision given the lack of weapons and artillery shells, because if we don’t save the lives of the soldiers, we will soon have no one left to fight’.

‘But if we keep losing ground, we will lose this war,’ he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Avdiivka lies in the Donetsk region of Ukraine, which the Kremlin has claimed to be part of Russia since a 2022 annexation that remains unrecognised by nearly all United Nations members.

It briefly fell in July 2014 into the hands of pro-Russian separatists, before returning to Ukrainian control and remaining so despite the invasion and its proximity to the separatist capital Donetsk.

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