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Avdiivka and Bakhmut situation, possibility of Russian advance on Kupiansk: Frontline overview

Avdiivka and Bakhmut situation, possibility of Russian advance on Kupiansk: Frontline overview Ukrainian troops in active defense along the entire front (photo by Getty Images)

The Christmas and New Year period in the war is over, and the intensity of fighting is increasing along the entire line. Russian troops continue to amass forces in many areas, changing tactics and emphasis in the east. Read more about the situation on the frontline in the RBC-Ukraine overview.

Sources used: reports of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, analytics of the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) and the Ukrainian project DeepState, statements of military speakers and local authorities, an interview with the Commander of the Army of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Oleksandr Syrskii for Reuters, and comments by experts Vladyslav Seleznov and Oleksandr Musiienko.

Focus shifted to Lyman. Is Kupiansk not under threat of attack?

The main strike of Russian troops on the Lyman-Kupiansk axis is aimed at the complete capture of Luhansk, as well as parts of the Kharkiv and Donetsk regions. Fighting is taking place northeast of Kupiansk in the area of Synkivka and Petropavlivka. The enemy is trying to advance near the occupied Kreminna - to the northwest near Ploschanka and Makiivka, to the west near Terny, Yampolivka, and Torske, to the southwest near Dibrova, Hryhorivka and Serebrianske forestry, to the south near Bilohorivka.

Russian forces are likely actively preparing for a new phase of the offensive. According to Volodymyr Fitio, spokesperson for the Ukrainian Army, the focus is now shifting to the Lyman.

"The enemy is changing its emphasis, changing the directions it attacks. Recently, the hottest spot was Kupiansk direction, the town of Synkivka. But compared to yesterday (January 16, - ed.), the enemy did not conduct any active actions. Instead, they moved south to the Lyman direction," he said.

A wide range of enemy arsenal is involved in the fighting: aviation, artillery, and kamikaze drones. On January 17 alone, the enemy launched drones 54 times, which is not typical, as previously it launched no more than 30 drones per day in this area.

Avdiivka and Bakhmut situation, possibility of Russian advance on Kupiansk: Frontline overviewThe occupiers have shifted their focus to Lyman but may resume their attack on Kupiansk in a week or two (photo by

There is no special plan for changing directions, emphasizes Oleksandr Musiienko, Head of the Сenter of Military Law Researches. The Russians are also looking for what they see as weaknesses in our defense.

"The expectation that the weather would allow them to operate effectively in the Kupiansk direction did not work. In addition, the well-planned and well-organized Ukrainian defense made it possible to repel numerous attacks. This makes them look for an alternative. As predicted, the focus has shifted to Lyman, Avdiivka, and Maryinka," he explains in a commentary to RBC-Ukraine.

Oleh Syniehubov, the head of the Kharkiv Regional Military Administration, calls the deployment of Russian units planned. He warns that the enemy is now focusing on rotation and may be planning an attack on Kupiansk.

"We are waiting for the resumption of assault operations as soon as the temperature is stable and the fields and soil are frozen. It may take 2-3 days, maybe a week," he says.

According to forecasts, the conditions for maneuvers with equipment may be available in late January or early February. And, according to Musiienko, there is reason to believe that the Russians will attack during this period. Ukrainian forces, of course, are also preparing for this.

"But then again, how often did the weather factor not work? How many times, despite the favorable conditions, the enemy did not demonstrate success? Moreover, the weather was also one of the reasons for the slowdown near Bakhmut. This is not to say that it gives the enemy speed. But the fact that they can plan intensive offensive actions is true," the expert adds.

Given the threats to Kupiansk, the Kharkiv region authorities announced a mandatory evacuation of Kindrashivka and Kurylivka territorial communities.

80,000-strong group deployed near Bakhmut

In the Bakhmut direction, Russians are attacking the northern flank - the areas of Vesele, Spirne, and Khromove. Positional battles are taking place near Hryhorivka, Bohdanivka, and Ivanivske, and on the southern flank - near Klishchiivka and Andriivka.

German BILD analyst Julian Röpke says there is a large number of tanks and armored vehicles. Under their cover, the Russian occupiers are storming positions west of Bakhmut, a few kilometers from Chasiv Yar. The press officer of the 26th Artillery Brigade, Oleh Kalashnykov, has recently reported that the pressure has increased. But, according to him, the enemy is attacking mainly with infantry, not with equipment.

"Their key area is Chasiv Yar, and they will continue to press. This confirms that they have strengthened their group. Today it is about 80,000 personnel. They have moved the forces of their "volunteer" assault corps here. We can say that they will try to push us through," he says.

Avdiivka and Bakhmut situation, possibility of Russian advance on Kupiansk: Frontline overview80,000 Russians have been deployed near Bakhmut, but it is unlikely that they will all be thrown to Chasiv Yar (photo by

The enemy is amassing resources to attack the Sloviansk-Kramatorsk agglomeration from three directions simultaneously in the future: Chasiv Yar, Lyman, and Vuhledar ledge," says Vladyslav Seleznov, a military expert and former spokesperson for the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

"It is difficult to say whether he will have enough resources, but air strikes have intensified significantly over the past few days. If he has a critical advantage, the situation could change radically. Still, there are advances to the south and north of Bakhmut. That is, we are forced to retreat from the positions we took during the summer campaign. I think the main reason is the lack of artillery shells, as the Russians can fire up to 10,000 per day along the entire front, and we respond with only 2,000, so we are not talking about parity," he tells the agency.

Musiienko doubts that the enemy will attack Chasiv Yar with all 80,000 troops.

"As for me, the greatest efforts will be made in Avdiivka, Maryinka, and Lyman-Kupiansk directions. Even statistics show that they are among the leaders in terms of the number of attacks and combat engagements. They will attack in the Bakhmut section, but not with all their forces," he adds.

Russia decided to take Avdiivka from the air

The situation in the Avdiivka area remains difficult. Fighting is taking place in the north from Krasnohorivka, Novobakhmutivka, Stepove, the coke plant, and Kamianka. In the south - near Severne, Pervomaiske and Nevelske. This week, in one of the attacks, Russians sent a convoy of tanks and armored personnel carriers that reached the Avdiivka quarry, says BILD observer Julian Röpke.

DeepState analysts clarify that the assault on the northeastern outskirts began from three directions. In particular, two infantry platoons moved out from the Kamianka area to break through in small groups or to divert attention from the main attack. At the same time, a convoy with at least 10 vehicles moved out from the direction of Vesele. As soon as the BMPs landed the infantry, Ukrainian forces struck back, destroying both armored vehicles and personnel.

The setbacks on the ground are forcing a change in tactics. According to Vadym Filashkin, the head of the Donetsk Regional Military Administration, the Russian occupiers dropped about 250 aircraft bombs on Avdiivka in just two weeks in 2024, while 146 air strikes were carried out on the city in 2023. The enemy is simply using its air superiority, Musiienko explains.

"But I would pay attention to the effectiveness of these strikes. If we proceed from the announced figure, then with such a number, our grouping should have retreated long ago. This means that there are equipped positions and places to hide safely. I would consider FPV drones and Lancets to be much bigger threats," he notes.

Avdiivka and Bakhmut situation, possibility of Russian advance on Kupiansk: Frontline overviewThe situation in Avdiivka remains difficult (photo by

Vladyslav Seleznov emphasizes that the intensity of air strikes is increasing not only in Avdiivka. At least 130 guided bombs are dropped on our defenders every day.

"Preparations for a large-scale offensive are underway. They are trying to weaken our defenders as much as possible, to destroy logistics routes and defensive lines. To attack with the forces they have brought to the front: more than 460,000 people - this is a lot, twice as many as at the beginning of the invasion," he adds.

In the Maryinka direction, it seems that the occupiers have decided on a priority target. According to Oleksandr Shtupun, spokesperson for the Tavria Operational and Strategic Group of Troops, they are trying to reach Novomykhailivka and carry out up to 50 attacks per day on average.

After Maryinka, they essentially have two options. The first one is to try to go west, to Kurakhove, but it is a risky campaign because the supply lines will stretch and our troops will be able to block them, notes MusiIenko.

"That is why there is a movement to the south, to Novomykhailivka. Perhaps they are trying to move east of Vuhledar to unite with the group in Maryinka, using small tick tactics, as they did near Bakhmut or now in Avdiivka, and create a new environment. This seems to be the most likely scenario," he tells RBC-Ukraine.

Southern front. Active defense and attempts to expand bridgehead

In the western part of the Zaporizhzhia region, fighting continues in the Robotyne ledge. Russian Z-troops report advancing west of the village of Verbove, allegedly to Ukrainian positions. There is no official confirmation. Western analysts report clashes near Piatykhatky, Kopane, Robotyne, and Novoprokopivka.

The commander of the Ukrainian Army, Oleksandr Syrskii, describes the situation as follows: "Russia intends to seize the initiative on the eve of the second anniversary of the invasion, so it is trying to regain lost ground at any cost. Ukrainian troops are counterattacking and, as part of their active defense, hitting vulnerable spots whenever possible. The fighting on both sides cannot be called large-scale.

"Offensive attacks at the battalion level are very rare," he says in an interview with Reuters.

Avdiivka and Bakhmut situation, possibility of Russian advance on Kupiansk: Frontline overviewThe front line in the Robotyne salient has hardly changed over the week, Ukrainian troops are in active defense (photo by

On the left bank of the Kherson region, the Ukrainian Defense Forces are holding their positions. The other day, information was shared on Telegram that the Russian occupiers had allegedly planted a flag in the central part of the village of Krynky. There was no visual confirmation, but there are reports of fighting near Krynky and Pishchanivka. At the beginning of the week, enemy activity decreased. In particular, on one day, the Russians made only one attack. The day before, the head of the Joint Coordination Press Center of the Southern Defense Forces, Natalia Humeniuk, noted that the number of attacks had increased again, but they were unsuccessful. The enemy cannot drive Ukrainian defenders out of the places where they have managed to gain a foothold. At the same time, work is underway to expand the foothold.

"This work is very difficult and may seem slow in time. But it is taking place in tough combat conditions, so every meter is a significant achievement," she emphasized.

It is difficult for Ukrainian soldiers to operate due to both weather and geographical conditions in the area of Krynky and the destroyed Antonivskyi bridges. The situation is very difficult, although, after the loss of three Su-34 bombers, the Russians are using fewer aircraft. They are constantly firing mortars and artillery, and are also actively using Shaheds, says Vladyslav Seleznov.

Shahed kamikaze drones with a claimed range of at least 1,000 kilometers usually attack targets in the Ukrainian rear. It is all the more surprising that they have been used to strike the frontline.

"They need to keep our defenders under pressure and they deliberately make such resource expenditures. They can't get bombers into the air because they don't know where our famous "wandering" Patriot air defense system is located, and they are forced to use long-range drones," the expert adds.

After a conditional lull, the situation at the front has noticeably intensified. The enemy has become more active in many areas and is amassing forces and personnel. Everything suggests that the second half of winter will be no less difficult than the first.

In an interview with RBC-Ukraine, Vadim Skibitskyi, a representative of the Defense Intelligence of Ukraine, named many of Russia's strategic goals for 2024. The first is to reach the administrative borders of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, and the second is to hold the seized territories in the south. In parallel, there will be attempts to destroy our air defense system, aviation, and defense facilities.

The interviewed experts agree that whether this will work or not depends on Ukraine's resource capacity to defend itself. So far, Russia is unlikely to achieve these goals this year, at least not in full.

"Despite everything, Ukrainian forces are confidently holding the line. And I would not rule out that they can prepare offensive actions in certain areas when the conditions are right. Secondly, our capabilities are expanding. For example, for the first time in history, a long-range radar detection aircraft was destroyed (Ukraine shot down an A-50 last week - ed.), we are seeing an increase in strikes on targets in Crimea and Russia, meaning that Ukraine is working to inflict as many losses as possible to prevent the enemy from realizing its plans," summarizes Musiienko.