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Avdiivka and Kupiansk situation, possibility of major Russian offensive: Frontline overview

Avdiivka and Kupiansk situation, possibility of major Russian offensive: Frontline overview Ukrainian troops hold back the enemy in the east (photo by Getty Images)

Ukrainian troops are holding back the Russians in the east and preparing a decisive response. Which, according to the command, the enemy will not like. Read about the situation at the front and whether Russia will dare to attack Kharkiv or Chernihiv in the RBC-Ukraine review.

The material was prepared based on the reports of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, analytics of the American Institute for the Study of War (ISW), maps of the DeepState project, statements of commanders, military speakers, and local authorities, a publication of The Telegraph, and comments by experts Oleksii Hetman and Oleksandr Musiienko.

The Battle of Kupiansk. Ukraine is preparing a response that Russia will not like

The situation in the east is difficult, with Russian troops continuing to try to find weaknesses in Ukrainian defense. In early January, the enemy suffered significant losses in the Yahidne-Kupiansk-Kuzlovyi area and focused on regrouping. In the area of Kupiansk forest, Pervomaiske, and Orlianka, it is operating with the forces of the 6th Combined Arms and 1st Tank Armies and is stepping up efforts to capture the heights, Synkivka, and the district center.

According to Oleksandr Syrskii, commander of the Ukrainian Army, the Russians are advancing through the Kupiansk forest.

"Intense hostilities began in October 2023 and since then the fierce struggle has not stopped for a day. The enemy storms settlements, shells them with artillery, and uses aviation every day. At the moment the enemy is storming our positions in the area of Sinkivka to block Kupiansk further," he says.

The operational situation is dynamic and requires constant monitoring. The main task is to be proactive. And so far, Ukrainian forces have managed to break the Russian offensive potential, Syrskii assures.

This week, the Ukrainian Armed Forces Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi and Defense Minister Rustem Umerov visited the positions. The latter issued a statement following the visit: "We reported on the situation and current challenges. Decisions will be made soon - the enemy will not like it."

Avdiivka and Kupiansk situation, possibility of major Russian offensive: Frontline overviewThe situation near Kupiansk is difficult, and it is possible that Russia's priority is to reach Kupiansk-Vuzlovyi first (photo by

About 130,000 Russians, more than 1,000 tanks, almost the same number of cannon artillery, and about 350 MLRS have been deployed in the Lyman-Kupiansk direction. The grouping is powerful, roughly speaking, up to a third of what Russia has deployed to the front, explains Oleksii Hetman, a reserve major in the Armed Forces of Ukraine, an expert.

"Perhaps more than Kupiansk, they want to reach Kupiansk-Vuzlovyi, because it is our logistics center, and they want to control the railroad. There is also speculation whether they will turn to Kharkiv. They seem to have enough forces and means, but there are no signs of preparations for an attack on Kharkiv. It is difficult to say what exactly Umerov meant. Perhaps we are planning our counteroffensive. In the east, the enemy is very exhausted," he tells RBC-Ukraine.

Oleksandr Musiienko, head of the Center for Military Legal Studies, does not rule out this option. The strategically important northeastern flank needs to be strengthened and its pressure must be eased.

"Perhaps the raids of Ukrainian intelligence in the Belgorod region, the strikes, and the arrival of the command are related and indicate preparations for counteroffensive actions. Of course, they will be local, but I think they will be quite powerful," he says.

There will be no quick advance from Bakhmut to Chasiv Yar

Heavy fighting is also taking place near Bakhmut. According to ISW, Ukrainian troops may have retreated to the northern outskirts of Bohdanivka, although the information is unconfirmed. Defense forces are repelling enemy assaults in Spirne, Khromove, and in the direction of Ivanivske, as well as on the southern flank in Klishchiivka and Andriivka.

The spokesperson for the 26th Artillery Brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Oleh Kalashnikov, calls the above villages the enemy's priority targets.

"And they have one more priority before Putin's election - Ivanivske," he emphasizes during the telethon.

According to him, the Russian 11th Air Assault Brigade from Ulan-Ude was sent to this task to prove that the paratroopers were capable of winning victories on their own. The enemy is also keeping the road to Chasiv Yar under fire control, which provides Ukrainian logistics. Recently, the Russian occupiers have been attacking less with manpower and heavy equipment, but artillery is working day and night.

Avdiivka and Kupiansk situation, possibility of major Russian offensive: Frontline overviewRussians are conducting a creeping offensive on Chasiv Yar (photo by

"Weather permitting, the enemy is also using aviation, dropping their guided aerial bombs on us. The situation remains controlled, but tense and quite dangerous," the spokesperson summarizes.

The Russian Z-troops themselves call the offensive on Chasiv Yar a creeping one. They admit that if there are any successes, they will be gradual. Musiienko is sure that a quick enemy breakthrough to Chasiv Yar is impossible.

"At least because our forces are holding the dominant heights in the Chasiv Yar area and are quite effective in repelling attacks. I think the fighting here will continue in a creeping offensive manner until spring. And then, perhaps, the Russians will slow down a bit," he says.

Avdiivka will survive winter. Where will Russian occupiers go after Maryinka?

The sharp cold snap seems to be preventing the Russians from being more active near Avdiivka. They have not abandoned their plans to surround the city, but have almost halved the number of artillery attacks.

"We attribute this to the weather conditions because drones cannot work in full. Moreover, compared to the previous weather, it has become quite cold," says Oleksandr Shtupun, spokesperson for the Joint Press Center of the Tavria Defense Forces.

According to him, the number of assaults has also decreased: previously there were up to 50-60 per day, now it is about 25. However, aviation is still being used quite actively, and on January 7 the enemy dropped about 30 bombs.

According to Vitalii Barabash, head of the Avdiivka City Military Administration, there was heavy snowfall the other day and the temperature dropped to -15.

"There was a lot of snow, sometimes up to half a meter. This complicates the conduct of hostilities both on our side and on the enemy's side," he says, adding that Avdiivka is under constant attack, and in 99% of cases when air raids are announced in the Donetsk region, the city is hit.

Avdiivka and Kupiansk situation, possibility of major Russian offensive: Frontline overviewSnowdrifts near Avdiivka slow down the enemy (photo by

Oleksii Hetman emphasizes that the weather does not affect those on the offensive and those on the defensive in the same way. It is more difficult to attack, and taking into account Zaluzhnyi's statements that we can defend Avdiivka for another two to three months, we should have enough strength to do so at least until the end of winter.

"Yes, it is difficult to defend in bad weather, and there may be problems with logistics. But it's even harder to advance through snowdrifts. If a vehicle gets stuck, it is a target, if a person cannot move actively and change position, it is also a target," the expert says.

The fighting near Avdiivka continues to the northwest in the areas of Ocheretyne, Novobakhmutivka, and Stepove, to the west towards Severne and Tonenke, and to the southwest towards Pervomaiske and Nevelske. DeepState analysts note a decrease in hostile activity near Stepove, with the main attacks shifting to Avdiivka Coke and Chemical Plant (ACCP) and cottages.

As for Maryinka, the Russian occupiers moved on after claims of an alleged 100% capture of the city, which the Ukrainian side has not confirmed. There has been a small advance to the west of occupied Donetsk, in particular, towards Heorhiivka. According to the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, on January 9, 15 attacks were repelled in the areas of Heorhiivka, Peremoha, and Novomykhailivka.

Beyond Heorhiivka, the space to Kurakhove is opening up, but it cannot be said that the enemy has finally decided on a direction. Right now they are trying to break through to Novomykhailivka, a village between Maryinka and Vuhledar.

Avdiivka and Kupiansk situation, possibility of major Russian offensive: Frontline overviewThe enemy is making its way to Heorhiivka, but it's too early to talk about a new Kurakhove direction (photo by

"If you look at the map, it is obvious that for the Russians to go to Kurakhove means stretching their lines. For us, it could have been better from the point of view that it would have been easier to interrupt the logistics. But they often attack from the flanks, as they did near Bakhmut. Probably, if they break through to the east of Vuhledar, their goal may be to connect with the group moving to Heorhiivka and then turn southwest towards Vuhledar," Musiienko tells RBC-Ukraine.

Southern front is almost static. Enemy is strengthening its defense

In the Zaporizhzhia region, fighting continues in the Robotyne ledge, but without confirmed changes in the front line. Russian networks write about an allegedly successful Ukrainian counterattack towards Novoprokopivka, which managed to take back previously lost positions and shift the line south of Robotyne, but there was no visual confirmation.

Units of the Russian 42nd Motorized Rifle Division, the 247th Guards Air Assault Regiment, and the 100th Osman Reconnaissance Brigade are operating in the area. The main hotspots are the areas of Robotyne, Novoprokopivka, and Verbove. Weather conditions are deteriorating, with cold and sleet making tactical fighting difficult.

Over the past few weeks, the Russians have managed to cut back a bit, but these successes are insignificant. They have been much more active on the defensive and in the rear area. According to Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov, the enemy did not stop at what they built in the spring, and satellite images confirm the presence of new fortifications for tens of kilometers.

"They are building both defense lines and a circular defense of such cities as Polohy, Tokmak, Molochansk, and Melitopol. The enemy is doing this on a massive scale and continues to build defensive structures from Melitopol towards Crimea," he notes.

Oleksii Hetman says that the occupiers are building solid defenses wherever they have managed to gain a foothold. And this is not so much to restrain the Ukrainian offensive right now but to stay for a long time. In this case, they will have secure positions on all sides, no matter where Ukraine advances in the future.

"It can also be a pretext to force them to the negotiating table. And to discuss something like "let's look at the facts, not at what happened in 1991". As they say, "taking into account the realities". It is quite possible that the strengthening of the defense is connected with this," he explains.

Avdiivka and Kupiansk situation, possibility of major Russian offensive: Frontline overviewRussians are unable to cut the Robotyne ledge and have begun to strengthen the defense of Polohy, Tokmak, and Molochansk (photo by

As for the left-bank part of the Kherson region, according to the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, measures to expand the Ukrainian bridgehead continue. The enemy is launching assault attacks, which are being repelled. Enemy troops are holding positions along the Konka River northwest of Oleshky, positional fighting continues in Krynky and around the village, and there has been no change in the front line on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River.

ISW analysts point to the Russian occupiers' complaints that they cannot shoot down aircraft near Krynky, allegedly because the command needs several hours to confirm targets. The Z-warriors also ask not to move equipment to Krynky, as up to 90% of it is destroyed on the way. However, according to ISW, Russia's tactical problems do not always lead to serious operational consequences.

Threat to Chernihiv and Kharkiv? Is Russia preparing major offensive?

In early January, there was alarming news about a possible major Russian offensive. For example, the head of the Chernihiv Regional Military Administration, Viacheslav Chaus, believes that a contingent for a second invasion could be formed within two to three weeks. But whether Russia dares to do so depends on the speed of construction of fortifications.

Yurii Povkh, spokesperson for the Joint Press Center of the Northern Defense Forces, emphasizes that intelligence is monitoring the situation, and if the formation of strike groups begins, it will be reported.

"As for the threat of an attack from the north, the war is ongoing and developments are dynamic, but at the moment there are no signs of enemy strike groups in this direction," he adds, noting that more than 1,000 anti-tank mines have been laid in the north in recent days alone.

Expert Oleksandr Musiienko emphasizes that there will always be threats to the border regions as long as the war continues. However, at the moment the contingent in the Bryansk region is only about 7-8 thousand, in the Kursk region - from 9 to 10 thousand. This is all that can threaten the Chernihiv and Sumy regions.

"There are no strike groups there, so Chernihiv is not directly threatened by land. If Russia starts preparations, it will take 5-6 weeks to form a group. It would be immediately noticeable, but now it is not. Nor are there any direct threats, as the occupiers are heavily bogged down in the fighting in the east," he says.

Last week, The Telegraph published an article with a main message about a possible offensive on Kharkiv. The agency drew attention to the intensification of attacks on the regional center and nearby settlements. Citing sources, The Telegraph writes that a ground operation could allegedly begin on January 15.

In a commentary to RBC-Ukraine, Defense Intelligence of Ukraine representative Andrii Chernyak confirmed the build-up of Russian forces in the Kupiansk direction, which indicates a threat of an offensive from that direction.

"At the same time, we cannot say that the Russians are preparing this offensive for January 15," he says.

Volodymyr Fitio, spokesperson for the Ukrainian Army, says there are no signs of an offensive on Kharkiv. According to him, the emergence of a striking fist is preceded by a lot of work that will not go unnoticed. For now, there is no threat, and "Kharkiv can exhale," he adds. And yesterday, in response to Russian fake news about a "15 km buffer zone to protect Belgorod," he advised to trust only official sources.

Musiienko reminds that the northeastern flank will always be under constant threat due to its geography.

"Not Kharkiv itself, but the Kupiansk direction. Today, there is no increase in enemy troops in the Slobozhanske area, unlike in Kupiansk. Thus, there is no threat to Kharkiv specifically today. But the situation is dynamic, and as long as there is a war going on, we cannot neglect any risks," the expert adds.