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Five threats: Consequences of Ukrainian troops' withdrawal from Avdiivka and ability to resist Russian pressure

Five threats: Consequences of Ukrainian troops' withdrawal from Avdiivka and ability to resist Russian pressure Ukrainian defender in Avdiivka, winter of 2024 (Photo: Getty Images)

Russian troops, it seems, have no intention of reducing the intensity of their offensive actions after capturing Avdiivka. Right now, the occupiers are intensifying their activities on other fronts, and Western media outlets are already writing about the most dangerous situation for the Ukrainian Armed Forces since the early months of the full-scale war. More details on this, possible threats, and whether the Defense Forces will be able to withstand the enemy pressure can be found in the material by RBC-Ukraine.

The preparation of the article involved: material from The New York Times, statements by the commander of the Tavria operational-strategic group, Oleksandr Tarnavskyi, analysis from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) and the Ukrainian project DeepState, comments from military experts Oleksandr Kovalenko and Oleksii Hetman.

Over the past weekend, Russian forces seized Avdiivka – one of the strongest fortified areas of the Ukrainian forces in the east. This marked the first major achievement for the Russian Federation since the capture of Bakhmut in May 2023. Despite the Avdiivka stronghold falling to the occupiers at an even greater cost, the current dynamics on the front line remain threatening for the Defense Forces.

In an attempt to withstand the enemy pressure, Ukraine is engaged in a desperate struggle, striving to replenish its exhausted forces. However, without Western assistance on a front line spanning 1000 kilometers, fighting is challenging. According to The New York Times, the Ukrainian army is likely facing its most perilous situation since the early months of the full-scale war.

Military and political expert of the Information Resistance Group, Oleksandr Kovalenko, generally agrees with this assessment.

"We are currently in a difficult situation due to the lack of sufficient ammunition and the ability to effectively counter Russian tactical aviation. All this negatively affects the effectiveness of defensive operations," he says in a comment to RBC-Ukraine.

The current situation threatens that the Russians will continue to advance, simultaneously on several fronts. According to NYT journalists, there are five, four of which are in the east.

Five threats: Consequences of Ukrainian troops' withdrawal from Avdiivka and ability to resist Russian pressure

Russia may intensify its advance from five directions ( infographic)

The Ukrainian Armed Forces have left Avdiivka. What's next for this front section?

The small town of Avdiivka has been a thorn in the side of Russian logistical operations for the past 10 years. The city is only a few kilometers from Donetsk, which has been occupied since 2014. In recent weeks, the occupiers have cut off the most important supply line, putting the Avdiivka garrison at risk of being surrounded. In conditions where the enemy advances over the bodies of its soldiers and has a 10:1 advantage in shells, the commander of the operational-strategic grouping "Tavria," Alexander Tarnavsky, called the withdrawal the only correct decision.

Tens of thousands of Russian soldiers were engaged in the battles for Avdiivka. According to Tarnavsky, during the active phase from October 10, 2023, to February 17, 2024, enemy losses exceeded 47,000 individuals. Losses in equipment are no less impressive – five aircraft, over 360 tanks, almost 250 artillery pieces, and 750 armored vehicles. This is more than in the Battle of Bakhmut.

It remains unclear how far the Russians will be able to advance beyond Avdiivka or how strong the Ukrainian defense lines are. As spokesman for the Tavria group, Dmytro Lykhoviy, stated, Defense Forces have been redeployed to more advantageous positions.

"They continue to perform combat tasks. They impede the enemy's further advance. Positions have been prepared, fortification has been carried out," he said.

However, the occupiers are not stopping and are already advancing on the settlement of Lastochkyne. According to the General Staff, over a day, five enemy attacks were repelled here and near Novobakhmutivka and Pervomaiske. DeepState analysts note that the Russians attempted to storm with a significant amount of infantry, but all attempts proved unsuccessful. Currently, the enemy is regrouping its forces for landings and will likely resume assaults in the coming days.

Five threats: Consequences of Ukrainian troops' withdrawal from Avdiivka and ability to resist Russian pressureAfter Avdiivka, the enemy is already attacking Lastochkyne (Screenshot from

According to ISW assessments, since the Ukrainian Armed Forces are withdrawing to prepared lines, the collapse of the Avdiivka front is unlikely. Military expert Oleksii Hetman also leans toward the view that there is no threat of collapse.

"It is unlikely that the enemy will advance further. The situation may repeat what happened near Bakhmut. After its capture, the Russians said they could advance further, move toward Kupiansk and Vuhledar. Nothing happened there; only now they have started offensive actions. After the losses the Russians suffered near Avdiivka, they will regroup. They shifted troops from the Kupiansk direction to capture Avdiivka, now, most likely, the troops will be returned and reinforced. So, from a military point of view, one should not expect significant Russian offensive actions to the west of Avdiivka," he says in a conversation with RBC-Ukraine.

At the same time, according to Kovalenko, it is important for the occupiers to create a security buffer near Avdiivka. Lastochkyne is the next village where they may attempt to establish a foothold.

"Moreover, they will advance on Stepove, Sieverne, Tonenke, Semenivka, and Berdychivka. I do not rule out that they plan to envelop this area in a semicircle and create a buffer. This is tactically predictable. Whether they can do it? The question is interesting given that offensive actions are more costly for them in open fields than in urban conditions. Therefore, I don't think a security buffer will be created very quickly," the expert adds.

Vuhledar could be attacked from two directions. Robotyne is unlikely a priority for now

By the end of January, Russian forces ousted Ukrainian defenders from Maryinka, which has little left after two years of constant attacks. However, the destroyed city is now a base for Russian attacks that have shifted to another important stronghold – Vuhledar.

Last year, they attempted to attack from the south but suffered a defeat in one of the largest tank battles. Now, however, the occupiers may strike from the north and are already advancing through the village of Novomykhailivka. It is unknown how many troops are concentrated there. There is a threat that the capture of Avdiivka will free up reserves for attacks from the north, and a 40,000-strong group from Mariupol could be involved in attacks from the south. The recent activation slightly to the west of Novodonec'ke only confirms the looming threat over Vuhledar.

"After capturing Maryinka, their priority became advancing in the Novomykhailivka area and towards Vodiane from Solodke. To create a risk zone from the north. They need Vuhledar to reduce the defensive impact of the Defense Forces on the railway in Volnovakha," says Kovalenko.

Five threats: Consequences of Ukrainian troops' withdrawal from Avdiivka and ability to resist Russian pressureAfter capturing Maryinka, the priority was to advance on Vuhledar from the north (screenshot from

Overall, according to his opinion, after Avdiivka, the priorities for the Russians are Kupiansk and Chasiv Yar. Vuhledar is a perspective, as is the Zaporizhzhia region, where active fighting has resumed. Last year, the Defense Forces recaptured the Robitne bulge, a 10 by 10 km area, and it seems Russia is determined to regain those positions. As Dmytro Lykhoviy, spokesperson for the Tavria group, stated, serious forces have been concentrated there.

"We see that the enemy group, which has been concentrated there for the past few days or even weeks, in terms of its size surpasses the group engaged in the Avdiivka direction," he said.

Active assaults on the Robotyne bulge began over the weekend. According to DeepState, the Russians are attempting to enter the village itself, with fighting ongoing for a stronghold slightly to the south. Additionally, there is advancement near Verbove, where the enemy likely attempted to break through the defense on the southwest outskirts.

As reported by the Operational Command West, on Saturday, the Defense Forces defeated the Russians on the Zaporizhzhia front, destroying about 70 occupiers and 18 pieces of equipment, including 3 tanks. Today, the Ground Forces of the Armed Forces have reported on a repeated attempt by Russian forces to storm. However, the advance was thwarted, equipment destroyed, and "personnel eliminated.

Five threats: Consequences of Ukrainian troops' withdrawal from Avdiivka and ability to resist Russian pressureUnder Robotyne, the Russians have deployed more forces than under Avdiivka, and they are already attacking the bulge (screenshot from

Overall, Kovalenko emphasizes that the area around Robotyne has always had a large concentration of enemy forces and assets.

"This was the group of troops from Zaporizhzhia, which is now combined with the Dnipro group. Therefore, their attempt to reclaim the territories lost in the summer of 2023, especially with the audacity from capturing Avdiivka, is certainly notable. But to say that this will be a significant threat to breaking the front in the Zaporizhzhia region, I cannot," the expert adds.

Kupiansk, Lyman, or Chasiv Yar. Where will the next attack be directed?

In the east, Russia is advancing from Kreminna. Last year, during intense fighting in the landing areas along the front line, small sections changed hands. Now the occupiers are once again moving forward.

On the Svatove stretch, pressure is increasing to the west in the area of Terniv and Yampolivka. From Kreminna itself, the Russians are advancing in two directions – towards Kupiansk and Lyman – amassing a group of about 110,000 soldiers. According to ISW, Russia has moved parts from border areas to Ivanivka (east of Kupiansk) and to the Lyman direction, in recent days unsuccessfully attempting to advance to the Kyslivka-Kotliarivka line from the side of Tabaivka.

Oleksii Hetman notes that recently the enemy's advance in the Lyman-Kupiansk direction has weakened, which was caused by the shifting of forces to Avdiivka. And after the troops return, attempts to move forward toward Kupiansk will intensify.

Five threats: Consequences of Ukrainian troops' withdrawal from Avdiivka and ability to resist Russian pressureThe advance towards Kupiansk may intensify after Russia returns forces previously diverted to Avdiivka (screenshot from

"Their goal is to reach Kupiansk and Kupiansk-Vuzlovyi. They want to reach the Oskil River and try to cross it. But as the people fighting there say, there's no chance of crossing the Oskil because our western bank is fortified, there's a mountain ridge, and artillery is zeroed in on the positions," he explains.

Therefore, the expert sees the greatest threat in the Bakhmut direction. Here, the enemy is gaining momentum in attempts to break through the defense and advance toward Chasiv Yar. To the north of Bakhmut, they're storming Bilohorivka and Vesele, and to the west, the area of Bohdanivka and Ivanivske. The Russians are looking for weak spots to breach the line of contact, but there haven't been significant changes to the front line yet.

As of today, the occupiers have approached Chasiv Yar quite closely from the direction of the village of Khromove and along the road from Bakhmut. All signs indicate that the next major battle could be for Chasiv Yar.

Five threats: Consequences of Ukrainian troops' withdrawal from Avdiivka and ability to resist Russian pressureChasiv Yar could become one of the main directions for the next Russian offensive (screenshot from

"It's quite possible because the number of Russian troops has increased from 40,000 to 80,000. The goal is to reach Kostiantynivka, where there's an important railway hub. And here, it's not just political, it's purely military, to disrupt our logistics. It's quite possible that it will be one of the main strikes there. Although I think they will simultaneously try to push in several places," the expert adds.

Security zone. Why Russian aviation began to be shot down more often?

No less resonant news in recent days - since Saturday, Ukraine has shot down six tactical aircraft. At first, two Su-34s and one Su-35 were destroyed, relatively far from the front line, namely in the area of ​​the occupied Amvrosiivka. Pilots' sensors worked near the village of Diakove (Luhansk region) and the Russian village of Lysohirka. Yesterday, another Su-34 was successfully shot down, and today the enemy also did not count on Su-34 and Su-35.

It should be noted that frontline bombers Su-34 are used to drop guided aerial bombs (GABs) with which Russia smashed Ukrainian positions in Avdiivka. What exactly shot down the planes is unknown. The specialized portal Defense Express believes that the so-called roaming Patriot could have eliminated targets, which in December was noted in the Kherson region. Its missiles are capable of shooting down aircraft with a detachment of 150 km, while enemy aircraft drop GABs 60-70 km from the front. In any case, it is obvious that Ukraine has moved to work on creating a no-fly zone, whereby a line is formed thanks to long-range weapons in which the enemy cannot carry out its operations without losses.

"It's hard to say what this (sharp increase in the number of shot down aircraft, - Ed.) is related to. There may be several reasons. For example, their aircraft have become reckless and have stopped fearing flying into the zone where our anti-aircraft missile systems can work. SAMs are constantly moving, they don't know where they are. Although we all would like F-16s to work on them," says Oleksii Hetman.

According to him, the Avdiivka campaign showed that the tactic of air strikes with GABs is more effective than ground attacks with tank groups. And it is not excluded that due to recent losses, some new decisions will be made. Oleksandr Kovalenko assumes that for some time the enemy may reduce the activity in the air.

"They may slightly reduce the activity of their tactical aviation, but they will still return to flights. Because it is vital for them to use GABs on the front line, this is what helps to reveal our defensive lines. If they do not use them, they will not have any advantage," he emphasizes.


Exiting Avdiivka and current threats on the front line are the result of the weakening of US assistance, which for several months cannot vote on a $60 billion package. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said this, and his American counterpart Joe Biden directly accused Congress of inaction, which allowed Russia to succeed on the battlefield. Meanwhile, voices in support of Ukraine are increasingly heard in Europe. The head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, criticized EU leaders the day before for not understanding that the situation requires a more decisive approach. And the decision cannot be postponed, as "in three months things will be decided in the battlefield."

However, this does not mean at all that in three months the Armed Forces of Ukraine will suffer defeat.

"Borrell's formulation is primarily aimed at EU representatives. So that they hurry up to help Ukraine," Oleksandr Kovalenko is convinced.

Experts interviewed by RBC-Ukraine agree that in the near future, the Russians will continue to press on at least five fronts.

"In the hope that we will not be able to contain the offensive on the entire front. But these are their hopes. We hope that their hopes will not come true," -summs up Oleksii Hetman.