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Russia Throws Men, Firepower at Ukraine’s Avdiivka to Little Avail

Russia Deploys Troops and Military Hardware Against Ukraine's Avdiivka, but With Little Success

Russia Throws Men: The onslaught on Avdiivka in eastern Ukraine that has been going on for a month has made very little progress despite being the primary focus of Russia’s military efforts for the past few weeks.

On October 10, the Russian troops launched a major assault on Avdiivka, a small industrial town north of Donetsk. After 20 months of fighting, this action is seen as an attempt to break the deadlock on the front lines.

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Moscow has thrown a lot of troops and money into the conflict to take back the little town, which it tried and failed to take in 2014 when fighting broke out between pro-Russian separatists and Kyiv.

Russia has taken significant losses but has managed to seize certain locations north, east, and south of the town after four weeks of fierce warfare with heavy artillery, tanks, and armored vehicles.

Russian servicemen on a BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicle
Russian servicemen on a BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicle

According to Russia’s military analysts and Ukrainian officials this week, Russian soldiers are reportedly trying to fully encircle Avdiivka.

“The third wave will definitely happen. The enemy is regrouping after a second wave of unsuccessful attacks,” Vitaly Barabash, head of the Avdiivka Russia’s military administration, said Tuesday.

At first, according to Ukrainian Russia’s military expert Alexander Kovalenko, the Russian army’s attack on Avdiivka was intended to divert Ukrainian forces from their counteroffensive in the southern province of Zaporizhzhia.

“In the summer, Russia also feigned an offensive in the Kupiansk and Lyman areas in the Luhansk region to distract the Ukrainian Armed Forces from Zaporizhzhia,” Alexander Kovalenko said. “It led to nothing because they lacked the strength to attack on a 150-kilometer-wide front.”

Alexander Kovalenko stated that following the initial round of attacks on Avdiivka that caused significant casualties, the Russian army is currently redeploying soldiers from the Luhansk region.

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The 2nd Combined Arms Army, which had not advanced much on the Kupiansk front this summer, is losing units.

Among these is the 21st Separate Motor Rifle Brigade, which is regarded as the most combat-ready unit in the front’s northern sector.

At first I thought that the Russian command was acting illogically and irrationally, and it was all merely a PR stance. Now it’s clear that the attack on Avdiivka is not an intentional diversion but a political decision,” Alexander Kovalenko said.

“They want to encircle and capture the city, just as they did with Bakhmut, to demonstrate their capability to advance and also use it to coerce Ukraine into negotiations through their intermediaries.”

Russian forces have made some progress south of Avdiivka, close to the Severne settlement. Fighting has been taking place to the north around the Avdiivka Coke Plant, a sizable waste mound that serves as a tactical high ground for both sides.

Russian serviceman.
Russian serviceman.

Russia’s military bloggers who support the conflict claim that Moscow has taken control of the garbage mound, although Ukrainian sources describe this area as still being in the “grey zone.”

According to a report made public on October 13 by the American think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW), Russian troops have suffered significant losses in personnel and equipment during the assault on the city.

Kyiv heavily reinforced Avdiivka with concrete defenses and several kilometers of trenches in advance of Russia’s planned attack.

“The Avdiivka fortified region poses a problem for Russia. It looms dangerously over Donetsk from the north and serves as a ready springboard for an offensive on the city,” said BBC News Russia’s military analyst Ilya Abishev.

“Russian authorities often claim that it is precisely from Avdiivka that the Ukrainian army shells Donetsk, although Ukrainian artillery can also reach it from other areas. Russia could do nothing with this ledge.”
He surmised that if the Ukrainian army’s attacks in Zaporizhzhia failed, Moscow had prepared to launch an onslaught on Avdiivka; Kyiv’s forces had just slowed down their offensive. Russia chose to follow the strategy despite this.

Abishev claims that the Russian command attacked Avdiivka with forces that were first summoned from the seized portion of the Donetsk region, but after suffering defeats, it brought in battalions that had been transported from the north.

Except for a few isolated advances, Russia has been on the defense for the majority of 2023. Abishev stated that the present Russia’s military offensive is required for the Kremlin to show some progress on the front.

“Reports of the Russian General Staff, which regularly claims to repel ‘dozens’ of attacks of the Ukrainian troops, the destruction of countless equipment and soldiers, now bore even the most ardent Z-patriots,” added Abishev

“They do not see success and prospects for further war and demand results, but previous attempts at offensives on Vuhledar, on Maryinka, on Avdiivka itself, as well as near Lyman and Kupiansk, have resulted in significant losses and minimal gains.”

Kovalenko asserts that Moscow’s willingness to make sacrifices will determine the outcome of the Russian army’s attack near Avdiivka.

“There is no defense that cannot be breached. It all depends on the resources that will be deviated from it,” he said, noting that the city does not play a strategic role in the region.

“Step by step, Russia can achieve some slow progress in Avdiivka, at the cost of colossal losses. And if the technical and human resources spent do not matter to Moscow, then it may eventually surround the city and start street fights there, which will result in even greater losses than near Bakhmut, where less equipment was used.”

A view of the destroyed Donetsk Airport and Avdiivka.
A view of the destroyed Donetsk Airport and Avdiivka.

According to Kovalenko, Russia missed the chance to progress in that region as a result of the losses sustained in taking Bakhmut, and after that, it started to gradually lose the areas it had taken control of surrounding the city.

Russia is reportedly attempting to cross the administrative border of the Donetsk area of Ukraine, which the Kremlin announced last September as its new state border, according to observers on both sides. But according to experts, taking Avdiivka would only straighten the frontline here and drive it back to a reasonably safe distance from Donetsk.

According to Abishev, Russia is losing a lot of professional Russia’s military personnel, and the combat prowess of the soldiers who have been called into action is quite low.

The war for Avdiivka, according to Russia’s military analyst Kovalenko, will linger for several months.

The Ukrainian army might take advantage of the Russian army’s significant personnel and resource deployment to Avdiivka to reestablish the situation in other frontline regions.

“During this time, Ukrainian forces may liberate Tokmak in the Zaporizhzhia region. In the Kherson region on the left bank of the Dnipro, the ‘grey zone’ is expanding and the Russian command cannot do anything about it. The Russian defense is also weakening in the Luhansk region,” he said.

Abishev claims that losing the Avdiivka fortified region would be devastating for Ukraine since the country has committed a lot of resources to its defense, depends on the city for operational planning, and utilizes it to lure in sizable enemy forces. It would be challenging to liberate the city later on if Russia were to take control of the region.

“Russia could wear down its combat-capable units in the battle for Avdiivka, which would not be easy to replace. But at the cost of heavy losses, it could then declare: ‘Yes, but we’ve taken Avdiivka’,” Abishev said.

“And it will not matter that before the so-called ‘special Russia’s military operation,’ very few Russians knew what it was or where it was located. Many probably still don’t.”

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