ua en ru

Avdiivka and Maryinka situation, Ukrainian maneuvers near Horlivka: Frontline overview

Avdiivka and Maryinka situation, Ukrainian maneuvers near Horlivka: Frontline overview Ukrainian troops go on the defensive in the East (photo by Getty Images)

Ukrainian troops entered the winter campaign in unfavorable conditions. Especially in the east, where the occupiers are putting pressure on Avdiivka, near Bakhmut, and have almost taken control of Maryinka. Read about the situation in different parts of the frontline and how events may develop in the coming months in RBC-Ukraine's overview.

The material was prepared based on statements of the command and speakers of the Defense Forces, reports of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, analytics and maps of the Ukrainian project DeepState, and comments of experts Vladyslav Seleznov and Oleksandr Musiienko.

The Russians are advancing in the east on several fronts, while the Ukrainian military is holding back the offensive and ensuring the stability of the defense. According to Oleksandr Syrskii, the commander of the Ukrainian Army in charge of the eastern front, options for response are constantly being analyzed, with the priority being on the preservation of personnel and the rational use of ammunition.

Avdiivka and Maryinka (suburbs of occupied Donetsk) are being attacked with the support of armored vehicles and aviation. Here, the Ukrainian Defense Forces repel dozens of attacks every day. The situation is complicated and threatening, so this week, in addition to Syrskii, Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi and Defense Minister Rustem Umerov traveled to the east. Among other things, they discussed strengthening the fortifications.

The news of success on the spoil tip in occupied Horlivka was all the more unexpected. It was here that the front line was stable and moved for the first time since 2014.

Horlivka spoil heap. Tactical success or something more?

This week, a Ukrainian assault group recaptured a mine spoil heap named after Gagarin on the northwestern outskirts of Horlivka. This city is a large industrial center with a pre-war accumulation of a quarter million people.

"Our heroes are the assault group of the 24th separate mechanized brigade named after King Danylo, the royal brigade. Despite the difficult conditions, they recaptured one of the spoil heaps within Horlivka and captured the enemy's positions. Now our flag is flying over the spoil tip," President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.

A video of the operation was also published. In addition to planting the flag, several Russian soldiers were captured. The spoil tip overlooks the Komsomolets residential area.

Without going into details, Army spokesperson Volodymyr Fitio said that our soldiers launch attacks at every opportunity. Therefore, the control of the height was good news but not a sensation.

Various Telegram channels reported on the success of Ukrainian forces in the second half of November. In particular, they posted footage confirming the presence of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, while the Russians complained about the reduction of the "gray zone" to 100-150 meters. They managed to securely establish themselves on the spoil tip only recently.

Vladyslav Seleznov, a military expert and former spokesperson for the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, calls the maneuver near Horlivka unexpected and explains it: The Ukrainian defense forces were proactive.

"This should scare the Russians to some extent. They think they have everything under control and determine exactly where and when to attack our defenders... Will this (the positions on the spoil tip - ed.) change the situation on the battlefield radically? No, it won't. Most likely, the enemy will pull up resources and push our units back. But this will force him to move either reserves or forces from other parts of the front," he says in a commentary to RBC-Ukraine.

Avdiivka and Maryinka situation, Ukrainian maneuvers near Horlivka: Frontline overviewHorlivka spoil heap goes into the "blue zone" (photo by

The new height expands the tactical capabilities of the Ukrainian Defense Forces, it can be used for observation and more, says Oleksandr Musiienko, head of the Center for Military Legal Studies. In general, the tactical success of the Ukrainian forces shows two aspects. First, Ukrainian troops launch counterattacks as soon as they have the opportunity. Secondly, the occupiers are not able to act in the same way along the entire front, so sometimes problems arise.

"The Russians are constantly conducting offensives in the east, suffer significant losses, and cannot stretch equally along the entire front line. To successfully defend ourselves, we need to be able to attack where we can. Therefore, the new positions are quite natural for us - due to the weakening of Russian troops and heavy losses, we are gaining success," he adds.

As for Zelenskyy's phrase about "a spoil heap within Horlivka," it does not mean that the Armed Forces have gone beyond the city limits and are preparing for de-occupation. However, in October, the American magazine TIME wrote about the alleged demand to conduct an operation to retake Horlivka. Vladyslav Seleznov rejects the military scenario of de-occupation.

"Combat in urban areas is the most difficult type of operation. Let's recall the heroic defense of Bakhmut. Then, during the 10 months of the assault, the Russians lost about 100,000 dead and wounded. This is too high a price to pay for a district center. Therefore, Ukraine is unlikely to realize the de-occupation of Horlivka in this way. What is happening now in the area of the spoil tip is a tactical episode. Its purpose is to divert the occupiers' resources and attention from other eastern directions," the expert notes.

Eastern front. From Kupiansk to Maryinka

The Russians are trying to advance along almost the entire front in the East. The highest point is the Kupiansk area (Kharkiv region). Assault companies are constantly attacking near Synkivka, and there are battles in Pershotravneve, Ivanivka, and Lyman Pershyi. Here, positions often change hands. The enemy's goal is to block Kupiansk and reach the eastern bank of the Oskil River, seizing some of the territories lost in the fall of 2022.

In the Lyman direction, the Russians are trying to push the Ukrainian Defense Forces beyond the Chornyi Zherebets River and out of the Serebrianske forestry. The offensive along the Zhytlivka-Terny line is being held back, so the enemy is moving reserves from Russian territory. To the north and west of Bakhmut, Russian airborne troops, special forces, and the 200th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade of the Northern Fleet are advancing.

"Despite the difficult conditions, Ukrainian soldiers are steadfastly holding the line," assured General Syrskii.

According to the maps, the enemy is still advancing in the area of Khromove towards Popivskyi forest and Bohdanivka. The distance from this village to Chasiv Yar is about 5 kilometers in a straight line, and there is a threat that the military will start talking about the Chasiv Yar defense operation. To the south of Bakhmut, there are battles for the dominant heights. Over the past few days, the situation has been difficult near Klishchiyivka, Andriivka, and Kurdiumivka. According to Vladyslav Seleznov, if the maneuver to the Horlivka spoil heap draws some of the enemy's resources away from the southern Bakhmut flank, it will be great news.

Avdiivka and Maryinka situation, Ukrainian maneuvers near Horlivka: Frontline overviewFrom Khromove and Bohdanivka to Chasiv Yar is about 5 kilometers in a straight line (photo by

The main battle of the fall and winter continues in Avdiivka. In the last few days alone, Russians have conducted assault operations in at least 16 locations. There is a small advance in the north near Stepove, the enemy occasionally comes close to the fence of the Avdiivka Coke Plant. They have also advanced in the south on the outskirts of Vynohradnyky, with fighting taking place between Kolosova Street and Yasynivskyi Lane. The southern industrial area is more likely to be captured.

"What is the advantage of Avdiivka's industrial area? It's located on the dominant heights. This means that as soon as the Russians fully take control of it, bring mortars and artillery, it will pose a serious threat to our defenders," explains Seleznov.

Oleksandr Musiienko agrees: the Russian forces are focused on improving their tactical positions in Avdiivka. This could be the final assault chord of the winter campaign.

"Their exhaustion both near Avdiivka and Kupiansk will reach such a scale that even if they reach the residential buildings or what is left of them, it can hardly be called a success. Our forces are strongly defending themselves. Only combat operations will show how far the Russians can advance. But because of their huge losses, they are unlikely to be able to launch large-scale offensives. Soon, that's for sure," he tells RBC-Ukraine.

Avdiivka and Maryinka situation, Ukrainian maneuvers near Horlivka: Frontline overviewThe Avdiivka campaign could be the final assault chord (photo by

As for the latter, Russian Z-publics are racing to report the capture of the settlement. This suburb of Donetsk was captured in 2014, but in August of that year, it was cleared of the occupiers. In February 2022, heavy fighting resumed, and Russian artillery virtually wiped Maryinka off the map in the first months.

According to maps, the Russians could have occupied the southern part. Oleksandr Tarnavskyi, commander of the Tavria Operational Strategic Group of troops, denies that it was completely captured.

"In the area of Maryinka, the enemy is amassing forces for assault operations. They continue to spread information and provocations about the alleged complete capture of the town. The defense of Maryinka continues," he adds.

The Southern Front. Robotyne salient and left bank foothold

The front line on the Robotyne salient within the Zaporizhzhia region is stable. Our troops fought on the outskirts of the village of Novoprokopivka during the summer and autumn campaigns, but as of mid-December, the main theater has moved back to Robotyne. Some positions were constantly changing hands, and to the south and west of the village, the Russians were able to make some progress. However, the initiative has not been seized and it cannot be said that the situation is definitely in favor of the enemy, says Musiienko.

"They are trying to repel our attacks and regain their positions. Somewhere the enemy is achieving tactical success, somewhere we are. In some areas, our troops are advancing 100-200-300 meters, but not in-depth, but to expand their flanks. The enemy counterattacks, then we increase the pace and succeed in other areas," the expert notes.

There are no significant changes on the left bank of the Kherson region. The Ukrainian Marines are holding their footholds and imposing their initiative. The occupiers are suffering heavy losses and complain about FPV drones, which are growing the "cemetery" of Russian military equipment. Ukrainian networks are constantly posting the results of the UAV operators' work: more than 100 tanks, armored personnel carriers, and other equipment were destroyed in the area of Krynky village alone. And in Oleshky, drones hit a command and observation post.

Avdiivka and Maryinka situation, Ukrainian maneuvers near Horlivka: Frontline overviewThe "gray zone" on the left bank of the Dnipro River has been unchanged for several weeks now (photo by

According to General Staff spokesperson Andrii Kovalov, in this situation, the commander of the Russian Dnepr group, Mikhail Teplinsky, began transferring officers with poor motivation and discipline to stormtroopers.

"These are kind of assault battalions, like the White Guard units of the 1920s," he says.

Expert Vladyslav Seleznov calls Teplinsky perhaps the only adequate Russian general. But even he, with tanks, armored personnel carriers, aviation, and artillery, cannot do anything about our infantry.

"Perhaps Teplinsky is creating assault units from officers who refused to go. We'll see how effective it will be. In any case, the motivation of Ukrainian Marines is impressive. The Russians have a 69,000-strong grouping on the left bank of the Dnipro River, while we have several companies of marines and Territorial Defense units. The forces are incomparable, but the enemy has been suffering losses for two months and has not been able to achieve results," he says.

Moreover, our fighters are operating in the most unfavorable conditions, without support in the form of a reliable crossing. And until it is built, it is too early to say that the Marines have finally gained a foothold in the footholds.

From an engineering point of view, this is a difficult task, as the Dnipro River is 1,000 meters wide. And to secure the crossing from enemy artillery, we need to move inland up to 25 kilometers. And to advance, they need heavy weapons that cannot be moved without a crossing.

"It turns out to be a vicious circle. And I don't see a way out of this situation yet," Seleznov adds.

The experts interviewed by RBC-Ukraine cannot predict the course of the fighting. However, they suggest that the episode with the Horlivka spoil heap may generally characterize our tactics in the coming months. In a nutshell, the Russians will likely continue to advance in the east, and the Ukrainian Defense Forces will use every opportunity to counterattack.

According to Oleksandr Musiienko, two months of assaults have not passed without a trace, right now the enemy troops are at their peak, which will certainly be followed by a pause. The task of the Ukrainian forces is to attack the rear and act in small groups, developing local successes and preventing the enemy from regrouping.

However, it is not certain that having exhausted the enemy, the army will be ready for a large-scale offensive in the spring of 2024. The key issue is the availability of the necessary resources. Supplies from Western partners have fallen to a minimum, and US politicians have not yet agreed on billions for Ukraine. This factor does not add to optimism about Ukraine's prospects at the front. At least compared to a year ago.