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Russian all-out assault on Avdiivka: Potential battle scenarios and threat of encirclement

Russian all-out assault on Avdiivka: Potential battle scenarios and threat of encirclement Ukrainian soldier in Avdiivka (Photo: Getty Images)

The situation in Avdiivka is approaching catastrophic levels. Russian forces continue to advance, battles are being fought in urban areas, and the media increasingly talks about the threat of encirclement.

More details on what is happening in Avdiivka and the challenges facing the Defense Forces can be found in the material by RBC-Ukraine.

In preparing the material, data from the General Staff, analysis from the American Institute for the Study of War (ISW), maps from the Ukrainian DeepState project, statements from the commander of the Tavria operational-strategic group, Oleksandr Tarnavskyi, spokesman Dmytro Lykhovii, head of the Avdiivka military administration Vitalii Barabash, and comments from military experts Oleksandr Kovalenko and Oleksandr Musiienko were used.

What's happening in Avdiivka

At the beginning of last week, the head of the city's military administration, Vitalii Barabash, said that isolated groups of Russian saboteurs were entering Avdiivka, but there were no street battles as such.

"Of course, if a sabotage group enters the city, and our guys liquidate it, then there is gunfire, and it seems like street battles are taking place," he said, adding that it was not about a large number of enemy personnel.

However, a few days later, the spokesman for the Tavria operational-strategic group Dmytro Lykhovii, stated that battles were taking place not only in the private sector in the northern part.

"I can confirm that indeed, the fighting is now taking place not only in the private sector in the north of the city but also within the urban area. The enemy's intention is clear: they are trying to cut off the Ukrainian forces by moving between the Avdiivka Coke and Chemical Plant and the quarry," he said.

Mainly, the occupiers were storming the northern part to cut off the main logistical artery. Ukrainian defenders were actively opposing this, and while the situation was complex, it was generally under control, Lykhovii added.

Russian all-out assault on Avdiivka: Potential battle scenarios and threat of encirclementPhoto: Russians are essentially squeezing Avdiivka, advancing from several sides and making progress from the north (

Barabash confirms this as well. According to him, the Russians are pressing heavily on the coke-chemical plant through the dacha array, but the Defense Forces are managing to work out these moments despite the enemy's significant numerical and technical superiority.

"Sometimes I read Telegram channels saying 'Avdiivka has already fallen.' This is definitely not the case. If someone claims that, it is primarily disrespect to the defenders who are protecting the city. They know it's not true. We are far from 'it's all over'," he says.

Since the beginning of the year, the occupiers have launched more than 800 airstrikes alone, resulting in massive destruction. As of today, there is no relatively calm place in Avdiivka, about 900 civilians are taking shelter in basements, but due to attacks, multi-story buildings collapse like card houses, and there is often no way to reach people under the rubble. Just like the ability to evacuate those willing, as the only road to the mainland is being shot by the enemy.

There is little official information about what is happening in Avdiivka and its outskirts. The General Staff reports daily repelling dozens of attacks on the city and in the vicinity of neighboring villages such as Tonenke, Nevelske, Novokalynove, Novobakhmutivka, Berdychiv, Lastochkyne, etc. The main message is that the Defense Forces continue to restrain the enemy, that don't abandon attempts to encircle the city, and inflict significant losses.

According to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), Russian troops are advancing towards Avdiivka amid positional battles on the outskirts. The so-called Z-war reporters claim that their forces have allegedly crossed the railway tracks in the northern part and entrenched themselves in dachas, but there is no independent confirmation of this.

Analysts from the Ukrainian DeepState project consider the situation critical and chaotic. The enemy is advancing in the northern sector along Independence and Sapronov streets between the Avdiivka Coke and Chemical Plant and the quarry. It has partial success in the area of the railway bridge, assaults positions toward the entry monument and the car base, and attempted to advance along the road but withdrew with losses. A similar situation is on the eastern outskirts, and in the south, the enemy is so fanatical that it encircles and holds a circular defense.

Judging from the maps and dynamics of the past week, the wedge to the east of the coke-chemical plant continues to expand. It is possible that the Ukrainian army's forces in the northern sector are insufficient to contain the advance. Military-political expert of the Information Resistance Group, Oleksandr Kovalenko, sees nothing unusual in this.

"In fact, we have always had insufficient forces; the Russians have always had more. Now, they have concentrated at least 45,000 personnel there, and they continue to increase the concentration of forces and resources. Besides, we have much fewer resources, plus we are limited in many other aspects, such as the use of artillery. It is not difficult to draw the corresponding conclusions from this," he notes in a comment to RBC-Ukraine.

According to DeepState data, the Russians allegedly control almost a fifth of Avdiivka. Military spokesmen have not commented on this, probably hoping that the situation may still change for the better, according to Oleksandr Musiienko, the head of the Center for Military-Legal Studies.

"We previously conducted certain local actions there, tried to push back the enemy in the southeast, and even had success - we pushed them back from an area of ​​about 2 square kilometers. But now we don't have any progress. I think they don't talk about the captured area because of active fighting and hope that everything can still change in our favor," the expert notes.

Is there a threat of encirclement: What do the military and experts say

Currently, the Russian forward units are near Industrial Avenue, which is the main logistical artery of the Avdiivka garrison. By reaching the avenue, the occupiers will effectively split the city in two, and the supply of the Defense Forces will rely on field roads, both in the northern and southern parts.

Therefore, the possibility of Avdiivka being encircled is increasingly being discussed in the Ukrainian media. According to the spokesman of the Tavria group, Dmytro Lykhovii, talk of the threat of operational encirclement will arise when the enemy approaches closer to the main road west of the coke-chemical plant, which will complicate supply, logistics, and reinforcement of our units. So far, entry is only difficult for non-military personnel; for example, the police cannot enter the city to assess the consequences of strikes and possible casualties.

"The situation is dynamic. We see the enemy's intentions, we see where they want to advance to cut off the logistical artery of supply in Avdiivka and provide operational encirclement," Lykhovii says, adding that "the line of contact is not moving in one direction, as someone might think."

Russian all-out assault on Avdiivka: Potential battle scenarios and threat of encirclementPhoto: The enemy is close to cutting off the main logistical artery, but field roads are still capable of supplying the Avdiivka garrison (

Oleksandr Kovalenko emphasizes that what is happening in Avdiivka does not indicate encirclement at this time. This term should be understood as the condition of units isolated from the main force, making it impossible to supply or evacuate them, but leaving room for maneuver.

"At the moment, this is not observed. Cutting off the logistical artery does not at all mean the process of operational or tactical encirclement," he notes.

If we look at the map, there is the main road 0542, which turns into Industrial Avenue and Hrushevskyi Street. In addition to it, there are at least three field roads - one through the village of Lastochkyne and two from the village of Sieverne towards the 9th quarter.

"Field roads are not the best option for supply and evacuation, but these routes can still be used. Therefore, the question of encirclement does not arise. Of course, there is a threat that the Russians will cut off 0542 within the city through Chystiakova Street and other directions, but it has not been cut off yet. This implies that even if the Russians advance to the avenue, the possibility of withdrawing the garrison from both the northern and southern sectors will remain," explains the expert.

Despite the absence of actual encirclement, the threats remain quite serious. According to Oleksandr Musiienko, the Ukrainian side should consider the possibility of leaving the city, as the enemy has long been hanging over the flanks, and the advance in Avdiivka creates additional challenges.

"Even if we have to withdraw, I don't see it as a tragedy. In my opinion, our contingent has achieved three main tasks: it restrained the enemy and prevented the pace of the offensive operation from reaching the administrative borders of the Donetsk region; inflicted significant losses; maintained combat capability and equipment; drew out Russian reserves and caused maximum damage. So, under these conditions, it can be said that much has already been achieved. Now it is clear that it is difficult for us to repel attacks, it is almost impossible to advance and break the flanks. The garrison is holding on with all its might, but the enemy has thrown practically everything it has into battle. I would particularly note the guided aerial bombs, which cause significant damage," he says.

Russian tactics, Ukrainian reinforcement, and three scenarios for Avdiivka

Russian forces have also changed tactics. If earlier they acted with small infantry groups, now they are acting with the support of armored vehicles.

"We see the enemy's goal - to capture Avdiivka at all costs and as quickly as possible... In addition to assault infantry groups, the enemy increasingly adds armored groups," notes the commander of the Tavria group, Oleksandr Tarnavskyi.

As spokesman Dmytro Lykhovii clarifies, Avdiivka is increasingly being stormed with the involvement of tanks and infantry fighting vehicles. In addition, units of Russian special forces have been transferred there, and in general, the enemy's army group is distinguished by good preparation.

Anonymous Telegram channels write about Vladimir Putin's task of capturing the city by the beginning of March at all costs. To have time to record a video against its backdrop and announce a military victory before the elections. According to Musiienko, the current actions of the occupiers fully fit into this logic.

"I can say that the enemy has thrown everything it has at Avdiivka. And, by the way, this is different from Bakhmut. When Bakhmut was stormed, Russian forces used Wagner groups, aviation, and partly artillery; there were almost no tanks and infantry fighting vehicles. And here, they are actively engaging with armored vehicles. Perhaps they have problems with assault groups, since they are being covered by armor. In any case, it is important for them to achieve a propaganda victory for Putin before his elections. And they are changing tactics because they are being destroyed in large numbers," the expert explains in a conversation with RBC-Ukraine.

Therefore, according to him, three possible scenarios can be outlined for Avdiivka. The first is to try to reinforce and break the situation, holding the city where it is still possible to consolidate. The risk is that the transfer of reserves means losses and exhaustion for the Ukrainian Armed Forces, and the possibility of retreat cannot be ruled out.

Russian all-out assault on Avdiivka: Potential battle scenarios and threat of encirclementPhoto: Destruction in Avdiivka (Getty Images)

The second scenario involves a counterattack from the northern or southern flank to relieve pressure on our forces. It is also associated with certain risks because it requires a large number of troops capable of striking the enemy very quickly.

"The third, as it seems to me, is perhaps the most optimal: gradually withdrawing directly from Avdiivka and taking up defensive positions elsewhere. Which one will be implemented depends on the command," Musiienko notes.

Regarding the first scenario, according to General Tarnavskyi, an adequate response to the enemy's actions already includes establishing additional firing positions and deploying fresh forces. Forbes reported recently that there were reasons to believe that one of the most combat-ready brigades - the 3rd Assault Brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces - had been redeployed in an attempt to save Avdiivka. There is no official confirmation yet. Today, the spokesman for the 110th Separate Mechanized Brigade, Ivan Sekach, has stated that part of their units have been rotated out for the first time in two years.

"Yes, reinforcements have indeed arrived. I won't say which unit it is. But it's powerful support, and we felt a bit more relieved when it arrived," he adds.

The purpose for which the Defense Forces have deployed new reserves remains an open question. Expert Musiienko speculates that it may become clear soon.

The capture of Avdiivka "will be America’s fault." What Western media write about

Last week, the British media outlet The Telegraph published an article about Avdiivka. Despite enormous losses, Putin's army supposedly is on the verge of capturing what remains of the city. At the same time, the value of Avdiivka, like that of Bakhmut before, is more symbolic than strategic. But if the Russians gain the upper hand in this area, the narrative about victory will no longer be reduced to brute military force. Additionally, the question will arise - what is the reason? Is it because the Defense Forces are weakened by two years of continuous fighting, or is it because Russia has the advantage due to the reduction in support from Ukraine's allies.

Russian all-out assault on Avdiivka: Potential battle scenarios and threat of encirclementPhoto: The shortage of artillery has become one of the factors in the current situation in Avdiivka (Getty Images)

The blocking of military aid packages has led to a catastrophic shortage of artillery on the front lines, particularly under Avdiivka. While there was a model parity maintained earlier in the summer, now the occupiers release five shells for every Ukrainian one.

"The general feeling is that if Avdiivka falls, it will be the fault of America. The delays in support have been too great, the Ukrainians are running out of everything, and the Europeans haven’t been able to up their game yet to compensate for that loss. The main thing is just lack of artillery ammo and rockets – they are down to almost nothing at times," former defense attaché of the United Kingdom in the Baltic countries and former advisor to the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine Glen Grant quoted by The Telegraph.

Oleksandr Musiienko agrees that timely support from partners in artillery and ammunition in the necessary volumes could have hindered the Russian advance on Avdiivka.

"In such moments, we need much more weapons, we have problems with artillery and mines. But it's not so much America's fault as it is the fault of individual American politicians from that part of the Republican Party that is oriented towards Donald Trump. They are the ones blocking the issue for $60 billion, and it's happening because of them," he says.

Experts interviewed by RBC-Ukraine do not see a radical solution to the situation. One thing is obvious - the coming days and weeks could be decisive for the long-suffering Avdiivka.