Espreso. Global

Avdiivka’s final hours: amassing of Russian troops, withdrawal of Ukraine’s army. Weekly military summary

17 February, 2024 Saturday

Russia, relying on its superiority in artillery and aviation, used every opportunity to make it impossible for Ukraine's soldiers to conduct controlled withdrawal

Frontline situation: Avdiivka

The Russian occupation forces were trying to surround the Ukrainian grouping, including the Zenit position, from which the troops were withdrawn. Now Russia was trying to reduce the area through which Ukraine's grouping was logistically supplied, in particular, east of Avdiivka. But the 3rd Brigade, which has entered this difficult area, again ensured that this corridor would not become narrower. The brigade is also to ensure the gradual withdrawal of Ukrainian units. 

Now we are all watching with concern what is happening in and around Avdiivka. One third of all combat clashes over the past day took place in this area of the frontline. On the morning of February 16, the commander of the Tavria operational and strategic grouping of troops, Oleksandr Tarnavskyi, said that units were being reinforced, troops were being maneuvered, and resources of ammunition and other means of destruction were allocated to the units holding Avdiivka. Powerful fortifications are being prepared, taking into account all possible scenarios.

Later, Tarnavskyi said that Ukrainian units had withdrawn from the Zenit position on the outskirts of Avdiivka. This position was in a situation where the Russian forces were advancing from both sides. Therefore, it was decided to withdraw the military from these positions. Tarnavskyi noted that this decision was made to save personnel and improve the operational situation.

Map of fighting in Avdiivka, Donetsk region

Commander-in-Chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces Oleksandr Syrskyi and President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy also told about the need to save the lives of Ukrainian soldiers. But when we use this phrase too often, it is important that it does not turn into a "situation assessment site" where everyone is talking only about saving personnel. This should be taken extremely seriously and responsibly.

Map of fighting in Avdiivka, Donetsk region

Russia has 50,000 troops concentrated around Avdiivka. Until a certain time, when Russia was deploying its reserves to Avdiivka, Ukraine's artillery was actively working and destruction of Russian forces was significant, so holding this area was absolutely logical and rational. The task of defense is to inflict maximum losses on the enemy. The Ukrainian brigades that worked in Avdiivka fulfilled this mission. Now, when the Russian army is fighting in Avdiivka itself, it is difficult to ensure the superiority of Russia's losses.

It is worth noting that the flank overhangs around Avdiivka were formed not yesterday, but four months ago, when Russia launched an active offensive. Ukraine realized that there was a flanking threat. The main flanks were held, and Russia then concentrated its efforts primarily on one section of the front and used its main advantage. It was not only an advantage in manpower and ammunition, but also an advantage in aviation. The Russian occupation forces actively used the guided aerial bombs. These bombs significantly influenced the fact that it was and is extremely difficult to defend Avdiivka. Also, certain areas of action were aimed at cutting logistics routes. Currently, one of the main supply routes through Orlivka to Avdiivka is not functioning. The other two routes are operating, but it is much more difficult to use them.

Chasiv Yar

Map of fighting in Bakhmut area, Donetsk region

The Russian army is trying to get to Chasiv Yar, but now it is concentrating its main efforts on approaching Ivanivske. Russian troops tried to move from Bohdanivka to Chasiv Yar, then there were efforts from Khromove. But now the main concentration of efforts is on Ivanivske to continue moving along the highway. There have been no changes on the map in recent days, there is a certain accumulation of Russian forces there, as always. Ukraine's artillery is working there, even in conditions when the reserves are being used quite rationally. The lack of ammunition is now being compensated by FPV drones. This area remains challenging, as do a number of other areas. But we are confident in the actions of the Ukrainian brigades holding the line. Most likely, Russia's losses in this area will not be much less than in other areas, including near Avdiivka.


Ukraine war map: fighting in Donetsk region

The dynamics around Vuhledar will depend on what happens around Marinka. The Russian troops are trying to move from Marinka to the west, to Heorhiivka. They are trying to capture Novomykhailivka, then cut the road from Marinka, Pobieda and further to Kostiantynivka. Later, if the Russian army is able to advance there, in particular to this road, it will be able to move from the north towards Vuhledar and create an overhang over Ukrainian units that are currently holding Vuhledar. Thus, this may affect changes in this section of the front.

We have been watching Novomykhailivka being held for a long time. Probably, the dynamics will change only after Russia manages to level the front line in Avdiivka itself. After Avdiivka, there will be a certain release of the Russian forces that will remain alive there. Aviation, which is currently operating primarily in the Avdiivka direction, will also be partially released. 

Then we can expect the risk that this potential will be directed to the area of Russia's advance from Marinka. But everything will depend on how Ukraine's General Staff will use its reserves rationally, how it will receive assistance from its partners, how Ukraine's commanders will act, and how they will be able to find a balance between performing combat missions, holding the line, and saving the lives of their personnel. Each story is unique, and the general phrase "save lives" is actually extremely difficult to realize when each area is incredibly difficult.

Zelenskyy on US assistance

At a joint press conference with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, the President of Ukraine said that the US support will not "fall away." Zelenskyy said that the United States would not "fall away" because he is confident in the help from this powerful country. 

But at the current stage, European countries are providing Ukraine with military aid packages that, to some extent, compensate for the lack of American assistance. When speaking about the German military aid, today it is divided into two components: operational and long-term needs.

The German leader announced the preparation of a new package of aid to Ukraine worth EUR 1.1 billion, including 120,000 rounds of ammunition for large-caliber artillery. This is a significant assistance, missiles for the IRIS-T complex, which Germany supplies to Ukraine.  This is something Ukraine desperately needs. 

The supply of 36 self-propelled howitzers was also mentioned. These howitzers will not be supplied "tomorrow", these 36 vehicles in two versions, including the well-known PzH 2000 and the 155 mm RCH, will be produced over three years, starting in 2025. They will be delivered in accordance with the production rates and contracts that were signed earlier.

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