ua en ru

Avdiivka at any cost? Why Russians want this city and what's situation in Kherson

Avdiivka at any cost? Why Russians want this city and what's situation in Kherson Ukrainian military is holding back Russian assaults in the east (Photo: Getty Images)

Russian troops continue to advance on Avdiivka at a significant cost and are generally active on the eastern front. The situation on one of the southern fronts is becoming clearer, and the occupants may be in for a "surprise." More details about Avdiivka and other areas, as well as what's happening in the left bank of the Kherson region, can be found in the overview by RBC-Ukraine.

The material was prepared using analysis and maps from the DeepState project, data from the American Institute for the Study of War (ISW), British intelligence, summaries by the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, statements by official sources, and comments from experts Vladyslav Seleznov and Oleksandr Musiienko for RBC-Ukraine.

Avdiivka is wearing down Russian forces

The Russian offensive on Avdiivka began on October 10 and has been ongoing for three weeks now. The tactic of advancing with columns of armored vehicles has turned into a failure: in just the first week, the enemy lost over a hundred tanks and other combat vehicles. Now they are attempting assaults with infantry groups and continue to suffer further casualties.

Their actions are compared to "meat waves," as previously seen in Bakhmut. Many Russian Telegram channels complain about the lack of artillery support, causing assault troops to be destroyed before entering combat with the Ukrainian Armed Forces. The Storm Z units, composed of conscripts, are losing up to 70% of their personnel in a matter of days and are being depleted almost to nothing.

According to Ukraine's Minister of Defense Rustem Umerov, the Russians have lost around 4,000 troops in their attempt to capture Avdiivka. British intelligence cites these losses as the highest in 2023 in a specific sector. It notes that the nature of the offensive operations remains the same as at the beginning of the war, and Russian military forces are unable to accomplish their political objectives effectively.

However, in three weeks, the occupants have taken small territories in the north, including the area of the Avdiivka Coke and Chemical Plant, which, however, does not provide a decisive advantage and is still under attack by the Ukrainian Armed Forces. This facility has been transformed into a powerful fortified area, which the Russian side compares to Mariupol's Azovstal.

Avdiivka at any cost? Why Russians want this city and what's situation in Kherson

The Russians are attacking Avdiivka from multiple directions (Photo:

To the south, the Russians managed to occupy a quarry near Vodyane. There is not much tactical value there either since it provides views only of previously occupied areas. Frontal attacks near Spartak and Kamyanka continued, with pressure toward Severne and Tonenke. These attacks have been repelled, and now the enemy is preparing for a new assault, choosing between the northern and southern fronts. It is not excluded that the intensification will occur in the coming days.

"A redeployment is underway, they are bringing in a lot of equipment and transferring personnel from other directions. We understand that there will be a new wave in the coming days," said Vitalii Barabash, the head of the city military administration.

Without capturing Avdiivka, one of the stated goals of the Russian invasion - the full occupation of the Donetsk region - is impossible. They may have been tasked with taking the city at any cost, regardless of casualties. Moreover, it seems that the Russians want to accomplish this before the elections in March 2024 to solidify Vladimir Putin's support.

"The enemy generals don't care about the resource losses they will suffer. For them, it is essential to push the Ukrainian Defense Forces away from Donetsk, creating a security zone around it. The distance between Avdiivka and Donetsk is about 15 kilometers, which means that as long as our forces are there, there will always be a threat to the occupants. That's why they have deployed units from at least three joint military armies, totaling up to 40,000 personnel," said military expert and former spokesperson of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Vladyslav Seleznov, in an interview with RBC-Ukraine.

The Russians are attempting to encircle the city from the flanks, with about 7 kilometers separating the northern and southern fronts. This corridor is crucial for the logistics of Avdiivka defenders, and there is only one paved road passing through the village of Orlivka. It is about 3 kilometers from the furthest enemy positions, and part of the road is under their fire control. The other routes are unpaved roads, which will become impassable for vehicles during the rainy season.

The fall road conditions may pose significant problems for the advancing forces, as the pace of their progress depends directly on the transfer of equipment and personnel. Therefore, there is an opinion that our forces need to hold out until the rains make the roads impassable, hindering a large-scale assault on Avdiivka.

Авдіївка будь-якою ціною? Навіщо росіянам це місто та що відбувається у Херсонській області

Seleznov emphasizes that the weather conditions will also negatively affect the actions of the Ukrainian army (Photo: Getty Images)

"We remember how during the defense of Bakhmut, the unpaved roads used for supplying our garrison turned into swamps, greatly complicating logistics. What will happen this time? The prospects of Avdiivka's defense depend on the resource capabilities of our army. If we have enough artillery and ammunition, we will continue to destroy the enemy infantry and armored vehicles. If not, we will have to conduct a maneuverable defense, withdraw, and take other measures, primarily aimed at preserving the lives of our military," he noted.

Oleksandr Musiienko, the head of the Сenter of Military Law Researches, considers the capture of Avdiivka as a city and a foothold for further advancement to be a secondary goal. The main goal is that the Russians are afraid of our actions in the left bank of the Kherson region and want to divert forces from the southern directions.

But for the Russians, everything is not going too successfully. Firstly, according to Musiienko, the occupants have suffered heavy losses, especially in terms of their equipment. Secondly, the attacks are successfully repelled. Thirdly, there is no indication that the Ukrainian Armed Forces have deployed significant reserves from the south, which disrupts the enemy's plans.

"The defense of Avdiivka has shown that the enemy cannot advance uniformly across the entire east, and they are forced to concentrate their efforts. Will they be able to capture the city? I hope not, although the scenarios may vary," he explained.

Counterattacks near Bakhmut: Enemy's seeking weak points

The Ukrainian offensive near Bakhmut, during which the villages of Andriivka and Klishchiivka were liberated, increasingly faces Russian counterattacks. The enemy is trying to push the Ukrainian Defense Forces further away from the city. While this has been unsuccessful on the southern flank, on the northern flank, around the villages of Berkhivka and Yahidne, based on DeepState project maps, our forces have been pushed back by a kilometer. Overall, counterattacks in this area continue daily.

"In the Bakhmut area, the enemy has significantly reinforced its forces and switched from defense to active actions. With these actions, the Russians are trying to halt the movement of the Defense Forces," recently stated the commander of the Ground Forces of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Oleksandr Syrskyi.

According to him, to stop the Defense Forces, the Russians deploy paratroopers and in some areas, Storm Z units. They operate under the cover of artillery, and mortars, and continually increase the use of FPV drones. The enemy is suffering losses and cannot achieve its goal near Bakhmut, the general added.

It should be noted that Russian counterattacks north of the city have been observed for several weeks in a row. These minor tactical successes are due to the unfavorable terrain for our positions. Occupants hold all the key heights near Berkhivka, and the village itself is located in a valley between them.

"Even if we retreat a kilometer or two, it does not change the situation as a whole from an operational-strategic perspective. I think the attacks on various fronts are related to the fact that the occupying forces are trying to find what they consider a weak point in our defense in the east. They can't do it near Kupiansk, it's not working well near Lyman, so they are trying it north of Bakhmut again and again," said Oleksandr Musiienko.

Avdiivka at any cost? Why Russians want this city and what's situation in Kherson

Occupants have pushed back Ukrainian defense forces slightly on the northern flank near Bakhmut (Photo:

Regarding the southern flank, fighting continues in the Andriivka and Klishchiivka area. ISW analysts, citing geolocated footage from Ukrainian military sources, report advances to the northeast of the occupied Kurdiumivka. However, this information has not been confirmed in official reports or on DeepState maps.

Volodymyr Fitio, a representative of the Ground Forces, stated that due to significant losses in armored vehicles near Avdiivka and the Kupiansk direction, the enemy has shifted its focus to infantry, particularly in the Bakhmut area. He mentioned that the enemy is attempting to reclaim positions near Kurdiumivka and Ozaranivka, which were held by Ukrainian forces during the fortress city's siege in the spring, but it is unlikely they can retake them.

"In some areas, the Defense Forces may improve their tactical position, while in others, they may shift to offensive actions," he added.

Vladyslav Seleznov warns against underestimating the Russian potential in terms of armored vehicles. He reminds that the adversary has deployed over 5,500 combat armored vehicles and 2,300 tanks on Ukrainian territory.

"I don't think they critically lack armored vehicles. Their return to shock troop tactics is a response to the successful actions of the Ukrainian army. Of course, the enemy suffers significant losses in 'armor' without noticeable territorial gains, so they are simply adapting to the realities on the battlefield," emphasized the expert.

Lyman-Kupiansk axis is heavily engaged in tactical battles

Throughout most of the summer and early fall, the adversary attempted to launch large-scale offensives along a 100-kilometer front on the east from Lyman (Donetsk region) to Kupiansk (Kharkiv region). According to maps, during this time, they managed to seize a few positions east of Kupiansk and make slight progress in the Serebrianske forestry.

Clashes are occurring on various fronts, with continuous pressure in the forest to the south of Lyman Pershyi. However, there haven't been significant changes. According to DeepState analysts, the Russians are following a linear approach: artillery preparation, assault, and trench movement. The overall intensity of combat is higher than during the summer campaign. The successes of the aggressors in the Serebrianske forest are attributed to certain problems in the management of Ukrainian forces in this area, as reported by DeepState.

Avdiivka at any cost? Why Russians want this city and what's situation in Kherson

The UAF managed to push back Russians near Svatove to the west of Serhiivka (Photo:

In the area of Svatove (Luhansk region), the Ukrainian Armed Forces managed to make progress. Recently, information appeared about our control over the western outskirts of the village of Serhiivka. On the map, this represents an additional 3 square kilometers of territory.

According to Seleznov, the actions of both sides currently have a tactical character, meaning they can't fundamentally change the situation. The Russian plan is to capture territory in the Kharkiv region at least up to the eastern bank of the Oskil River.

"It's not for nothing that they have concentrated units from the newly formed 25th Army here. Right now, they are not making any headway; the enemy is attacking on several fronts, but the situation can be described as somewhat stable. However, this doesn't mean that they won't strengthen the efforts to attempt to capture the eastern part of Kupiansk shortly. It seems that the fighting in the area of the village of Synkivka (about 8 kilometers northeast of the district center) has subsided, but it cannot be said that assaults will not intensify soon," he explained in a conversation with RBC-Ukraine.

It was previously reported that a group of approximately 100,000 Russians was deployed along the Lyman-Kupiansk axis, which can be compared to the total number of troops involved in the entire Soviet campaign in Afghanistan.

Ukrainian Armed Forces are expanding footholds on the left bank of the Kherson region

After reports of a Ukrainian landing on the left bank of the Kherson region appeared in various online communities, the situation seems to be gradually clarified. Airborne groups are attempting to establish positions along a 30-kilometer line from the village of Dachi near the Antonivskyi Bridge to the village of Krynka.

Russian Telegram channels report ongoing clashes, while there is no information about this in the reports of the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces or on relevant Ukrainian resources. Over the weekend, a video with Marines, presumably in the village of Krynka, appeared on the Internet. ISW experts have concluded that the fighters are holding positions there against the backdrop of operations on the left bank and are attempting to advance towards Pishanivka, Poyma, and Pidstepne.

Avdiivka at any cost? Why Russians want this city and what's situation in Kherson

On the left bank of the Kherson region, there can be up to three Ukrainian strongholds (

Official representatives of the Ukrainian Armed Forces have so far been reserved in commenting on the situation. According to Natalia Humeniuk, the spokesperson for the Southern Defense Forces, there have been good results in counter-battery combat and "other methods."

"But it is not being covered yet, precisely to ensure that the results are very powerful and documented so that it is not a short-term victory. Our counter-battery combat has also forced them (the Russians - Ed.) to withdraw their positions on the left bank, but it's still not enough to stop the shelling on the right," she said.

Military expert Vladyslav Seleznov explains that the Marines are holding not one but three footholds between the Dnipro and the Konka Rivers. The first is in the Dachi and Antonivskyi Bridge area near the occupied Oleshky, which is currently impossible to approach. The second is in the area of the railway bridge toward the villages of Pishanivka and Poyma, and the third is on a group of islands from Kozachi Laheri to Krynky.

"We use the river as a logistic route, transferring personnel, though without armored vehicles. The enemy can't advance with armor either because the Konka River hinders them. However, they still have an advantage in the aviation component, which means our Marines on the footholds will face significant challenges. Particularly, there's no opportunity to set up a pontoon bridge and ensure its constant operation. To achieve that, we need to expand the footholds even more and push back enemy artillery," he explained.

Perhaps, after the video of Ukrainian Marines in Krynky, we can expect good news officially from the left bank of the Kherson region. Oleksandr Musiienko sees certain prospects in this particular area.

"The left bank of the Kherson region is well-suited to counter the Russian flanking attacks in the east. It's clear that our command understands this, and it's not unlikely that they are preparing for large-scale actions, including crossing the Dnipro and establishing a base for advancing into the enemy's rear," the expert concluded.