the Russians advance further west of Avdiivka

the Russians advance further west of Avdiivka

INFOGRAPHICS – The Russian army, which captured the city on February 17, has captured several villages in recent days, straining Ukrainian forces as they try to re-establish a new defensive line.

The Battle of Avdiivka continues. No in the city itself, which was captured by Russian forces on February 17 after months of fierce fighting in this Ukrainian fortress just 10 kilometers from Donetsk, the capital of the eponymous oblast and a separatist stronghold. Since 2014. For ten days the battle continued west of Avdiivka: the Ukrainians have not yet managed to stabilize the front and form a new defensive line strong enough to stop the Russian offensive, which is certainly slow, but has not yet reached its goal peak in this region of Donbass.

In the last few days the Russians have managed to capture the three villages of Sjeverne, Lastochkyne and Stepove. They form a first line five kilometers from Avdiivka. Fighting is currently raging along a second line, which consists of four more villages five kilometers further west – Tonenke, Orlivka, Semenivka, Berdychi. It is difficult to say exactly where the front is, as it is inevitably characterized by a gray area. “The Russian armed forces are advancing with confidence in different directions of the front,” Russian President Vladimir Putin assured this Thursday in his traditional speech to the nation, without saying anything more.

For his part, the new commander of the Ukrainian army, General Oleksandr Syrskyi, announced this Thursday on Telegram that the Russian attack on Orlivka had been repelled. In recent days, Kiev has confirmed the withdrawal of its troops from two villages near Avdiivka – most likely Sjeverne and Stepove. According to DeepStateMap, one of the benchmarks for OSINT (Open Source Intelligence), since the capture of Avdiivka, the Russians have managed to capture about 40 additional square kilometers. Compared to the part of Ukraine's territory controlled by Russia (around 108,000 kilometers), this is of course very modest, but even this progress is not without consequences.

Danger of a new lead

The erosion of the ground by Russian forces shows that the Ukrainians have so far failed to stabilize the front by building new fortifications to stop the enemy's advance. Instead, they are forced to retreat gradually through braking maneuvers. In the short or medium term, the risk is that the Russians will manage to establish a new lead – like that of Popasna in 2022, which allowed the Russians to start the battles for Severodonetsk, Lisichansk and finally Bakhmut. In particular, the Russians could attack the city of Pokrovsk, fifty kilometers northwest of Avdiivka, a logistical hub at the intersection of two key supply routes for Ukrainian troops in Donetsk Oblast. There is no sign that the Russians will be successful – they are not even a fifth of the way there yet – but the difficulty for the Ukrainians is that there is no city between Avdiivka and Prokovsk large enough to to enable them to build an urban fortress against the Russians. And apart from a few modest reliefs and poor wet cuttings, the terrain is hopelessly flat for miles.

The development of the Russian offensive west of Avdiivka must therefore be closely monitored in the coming days. General Syrskiy, who visited the front line in the east of the country, acknowledged that some commanders had reported gaps in their “situational awareness and assessment of the enemy.” “I have taken all measures to improve the situation on the ground by providing additional ammunition and material resources as well as the necessary reserves,” Syrskyi explained, seeking to reassure.

Defensive line

However, his words implicitly underline the worrying difficulties that the Ukrainian command has been warning the political authorities about for several months: the Ukrainian army is as short of men as it is of material and ammunition, given the Russian forces that have taken over at the beginning of the winter initiative at the entire front line. Ukraine would need to mobilize half a million troops to replenish the front and allow for rotations, with many soldiers already in combat for two years. As for weapons, Western shipments have fallen since the summer due to delays in Europe and the political deadlock in the United States.

Avdiivka is not the only sector of the front where the Russians are putting serious pressure on the Ukrainian system. In the Zaporizhzhia region they are trying to regain the Ukrainian Robotyne lead, a meager gain the Ukrainians made during their failed counteroffensive over the summer. The Russians have been calling for their armed forces to enter this small village in ruins for several days. His loss would be of great symbolic importance for Kiev. South of Avdiivka, the Russians are also gaining ground near Mariinka, where they have captured the town of Pobieda. This advance carries the risk of threatening from the north another Ukrainian fortress, Voulhedar, which the Russians have tried to conquer from the south in recent months, unsuccessfully and with great losses.

North of Avdiivka, this time the Russians advanced without breaking through to the west of Bakhmout, where they directly threatened the town of Ivanivske and approached the small town of Khaziv Yar, across a canal that serves as a natural border for the Ukrainians to protect Kramatorsk and Sloviansk , the last two major cities in Donbass still controlled by Kiev. Therefore, it is urgent for the Ukrainians to build the equivalent of the Russian “Surovikin” line, those hundreds of kilometers of fortifications built several dozen kilometers deep in the Zaporizhzhia region that the Ukrainians encountered last summer.

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