Avdiivka is breaking records in destroying Russian forces — military expert Serhiy Zgurets
At least 200 pieces of Russian armored vehicles of various purposes were destroyed in the Avdiivka direction, Russia’s personnel losses amounted to over 13,000 soldiers
Situation near Avdiivka
The Avdiivka area remains the most difficult and intense along the entire frontline. Over the past two months, after Russia intensified offensive combat operations in this area, it suffered the largest losses here compared to other areas. At least 200 pieces of armored vehicles for various purposes have been destroyed, and the personnel losses now total over 13,000 soldiers. It seems that Russia's offensive on Avdiivka has acquired the same political and military significance as the attacks on Bakhmut, where Russian troops seemed indifferent to the number of casualties.
The tactics and logic of Russia’s actions around Avdiivka resemble the situation around Bakhmut, when it was a matter of flanking encirclement with an attempt to advance from the north and south to get to the rear of Ukrainian troops and cut off supply routes. Now Russia is also trying to put pressure on Avdiivka from the north, south and other areas. One of the directions is the northern flank of Avdiivka, Stepove, which is already completely destroyed. Russian troops are crossing the railroad here and are also trying to expand the area around Stepove and make their way further to Orlivka. Stepove is currently being defended by Ukrainian 47th separate mechanized brigade. The soldiers of this brigade are using Bradley guns in both offense and defense to repel the attacks.
Dmytro Lazutkin, head of public relations of the 47th Separate Mechanized Mahura Brigade, said that on December 17 Russian troops were actively attacking near Avdiivka with armored vehicles. Ukrainian Armed Forces destroyed 2 tanks and 4 armored vehicles. One tank was destroyed by a Bradley, the other by artillery. Then another FPV drone targeted one of the Russian tanks. In other words, the Ukrainian Armed Forces worked quite effectively.
The head of the public relations service of the 47th Mahura Brigade noted that the situation remains tense. In the evening, Russian troops again gathered forces and armored vehicles to conduct a powerful attack. We are waiting, watching and know where Russian troops will move from. At the same time, Russian troops continue to launch constant waves of attacks in small groups of 3-6 people, trying to identify the firing lines of the Ukrainian Defense Forces. There is close contact near Stepove. There are positions located about 100 meters from each other. Russian troops move through the railroad, operating with tanks, and then come in with equipment and infantry. It is very difficult now. I would like to see more shells and equipment for Ukrainian defenders, because Russian forces are being destroyed at a huge pace, but there are a lot of them. They are advancing, sparing no casualties. Russia’s losses are 7-8 times higher than Ukraine’s, and 10 times higher in terms of equipment. But this does not stop them. The situation is quite tense. Russian troops keep trying to surround Avdiivka and cut off the logistics of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
The serviceman said that everything in Avdiivka is destroyed, the Avdiivka Coke Plant remains a strong concrete area that Russian troops will not be able to take, unless they try to surround the plant. Ukrainian soldiers are preventing them from doing so. Indeed, we have had reconnaissance groups at the plant and they have been moving equipment to the fence, but so far there has been no result. As for the fortifications, we are building the second and third lines of defense. The process is ongoing. In addition, Ukrainian defenders need FPV drones because the war has become high-tech. Russia is also increasing the number of drones. Ukraine’s company of attack drones works extremely efficiently and accurately. However, the use of drones is quite extensive, especially when Russian troops are attacking in large numbers. Ukrainian artillerymen also need shells to stop the invaders. The Ukrainian Armed Forces are currently in a situation where they need to hold the line of defense. And to hold it, it is necessary to destroy as many enemy forces as possible.
Lazutkin added that the intensity of the fighting is enormous. Any equipment wears out and needs ammunition. But thanks to the skill and ingenuity of the Ukrainian military, the front line is holding. We have not seen any significant movement of Russian troops for a long time, and if there is any, it is 200-300 meters, and these positions are usually re-taken. The Ukrainian Armed Forces hold the village of Stepove and the Avdiivka Coke Plant, but Russian invasion is still going on, and Russia’s reserves are constantly approaching.
On optimizing the front line and command and control system
Next, I will focus on an article that was published on December 18 in the influential outlet The Economist, which was devoted to the problems and complexities of Ukrainian mobilization. This article claims that Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense has started working on a new mobilization strategy, but on the other hand, the outlet emphasizes that the Ukrainian government is only pretending to mobilize.
Viktor Kevliuk, a military expert at the Center for Defense Strategies of Ukraine and retired colonel, contends that our perception of mobilization primarily centers on the personnel aspect of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. He argues that the activities carried out by the territorial centers for recruitment and social support are essentially recruitment, emphasizing that the other crucial aspect of mobilization involves adapting public authorities and the national economy to function effectively under wartime conditions. Mr. Kevliuk, in his assessment, does not witness this comprehensive process. Consequently, he forewarns that we may reach a critical juncture, potentially leading to a scenario where we possess a fully equipped Armed Forces without a corresponding rear or support because the capabilities of Ukraine’s allies are gradually being depleted, the pace and volume of assistance are decreasing. In addition, elections will be held in 25 countries next year. Accordingly, the issue of assisting Ukraine looks very controversial. And Russia very much outnumbers us in terms of resources. It's time to pay attention to putting the national economy on a military track.
A military expert at the Center for Defense Strategies of Ukraine noted that there is a difference between active defense and mobile defense. The Armed Forces of Ukraine are not ready for mobile defense on an operational scale. Therefore, this method of defense can be used only in certain tactical areas. Unfortunately, operational groups currently lack such capabilities and training. It is appropriate for us to focus on active positional defense. That is, we need to start preparing defensive lines in advance, at least in those areas where Russian forces are tasked with seizing Luhansk and Donetsk regions within the administrative borders, as well as reaching the Oskil River in the Kharkiv region. Accordingly, we have to prepare to hold these territories, and we have to do it now.
The reserve colonel noted that the troops have been conducting defensive operations in several areas for a long time, meaning that units have been deployed, withdrawn, and replenished, all of which bring a certain amount of management chaos that needs to be put to rest. As for the optimization of the front line, there is a good tactical example of Ukraine’s combat operations near the city of Soledar: we strategically withdrew to commanding heights, where we fortified defensive positions in advance. Consequently, for almost six months, there have been no reported attempts by Russian troops to make advancements in the Soledar area. The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces conducted an analysis and knows exactly where to place this line. A political signal was received last week, indicating that the implementation of this plan is warranted, and the necessary resources will be allocated for this strategic process.
According to Mr. Kevliuk, two significant operational accomplishments on the left bank of the Kherson region are successfully pushing Russian artillery as far away from Kherson as possible. Additionally, he suggests preparing for a positive development, referencing an invitation from Mr. Budanov for coffee in Yalta. Mr. Kevliuk emphasizes the strategic importance of the Kherson region as the key to the isthmuses, implying that eventual entry into Crimea is inevitable. In his opinion, these developments present positive prospects.