Ukrainian soldiers
© Diego Herrera Carcedo/Anadolu via Getty ImagesUkrainian soldiers prepare Soviet-era artillery in Donetsk Region, on February 14, 2024.
The Ukrainian military abandoned a number of severely injured soldiers on the battlefield in the former Donbass stronghold of Avdeevka, local media have reported, citing a video with one of the service members. Kiev has acknowledged that several troops were captured during the retreat.

In a clip that went viral on social media on Saturday, a 30-year-old Ukrainian junior sergeant with the call sign 'Django' is seen telling his weeping sister that he and five other soldiers who were unable to move on their own were promised that they would be evacuated to the rear. The evacuation truck, however, never came, according to the soldier.

"All the others retreated... I have both legs crippled, shell fragments in the back. I can do nothing at all," Django says.

The wounded soldier's sister told Ukrainian media that her brother had been waiting to be extracted for at least 36 hours. According to her account, he was in terrible pain but was simply given a massive amount of painkillers, which soon started to run out as did supplies.

She also said that 'Django' told her later that "they were left to die," but then said that local commanders had made a deal with the Russians so that the injured could be taken prisoner and provided with medical care.

"My brother has been in Avdeevka for two years, without leave or rotation. I hope that they will be patched up in Donetsk, he has his legs all swollen up. Hope they won't execute him," the sister said, as quoted by the Ukrainian media.

However, some Ukrainian troops in the area appeared to be even less fortunate. The Ukrainian outlet Strana cited one soldier deployed south of Avdeevka as saying that they had to break out of the encirclement in small groups without any assistance from the higher-ups, suffering heavy losses. "The road to Avdeevka is strewn with our bodies," the soldier told the website.

Brigadier General Aleksandr Tarnavsky, who leads Ukrainian forces in the Avdeevka area, conceded that "a certain number of Ukrainian service members were captured under the pressure of superior enemy forces," although he insisted that the overall retreat proceeded as planned.

The Russian Defense Ministry announced that Moscow had "completely captured" Avdeevka on Saturday. It claimed that some 1,500 Ukrainian troops had been killed during the retreat, with a significant amount of military equipment left behind.

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky has confirmed the withdrawal, calling it "absolutely logical" and insisting that its main goal was to spare troops.