Espreso. Global

Russia launches one of its biggest assaults in attempt to slow down Ukrainian counter-offensive and push Ukrainian army back from Donetsk 

16 October, 2023 Monday

This happened immediately after Russia received military equipment and ammunition from North Korea


This was written by analysts of the Kyiv Security Forum.

After months of fruitless “cannon fodder assaults” on Avdiivka from the south and east, the enemy tried again, as in the spring of 2022, to "cut" roads in the fields in the north and southwest.

Photo: Getty Images

Russian forces used several mechanized columns to attack. However, the Ukrainian Defense Forces destroyed dozens of Russian tanks and armored personnel carriers (APCs), leaving the enemy's unprepared infantry without support. On October 11 alone, the enemy lost 42 tanks and 44 armored personnel carriers on all fronts (compared to only 6 tanks and 3 armoured vehicles on October 9), mostly near Avdiivka.

Drone videos show that the Russian columns were too dense and the drivers of the vehicles were unprepared. This facilitated the work of Ukrainian artillery and anti-tank gunners.

The tactical success of the Ukrainians was due to their positions: Avdiivka, especially its industrial outskirts, was transformed into a fortified area in 2015-2021. Thanks to strongholds, artillery positions and warehouses in industrial areas, Ukrainian forces were able to thin out Russian enemy columns in time on October 10-11 .

The Avdiivka "fortress" threatens the entire Russian defense in Donbas. It is only 15 km from the center of Donetsk, with its numerous industrial and logistical facilities. This is also the enemy's political problem: it is difficult to imitate the "reunification of new territories with Russia" while the frontline passes through the outskirts of the largest and richest of the occupied cities.

Photo: Getty Images

However, the metropolis also poses a threat to Avdiivka itself: it is a convenient enemy rear area with the same advantages as the Avdiivka fortified area.

If the Russian offensive continues, the threat of encirclement (or rather preventive abandonment) of Avdiivka will continue to grow. After all, the geography of the "pocket" there makes it easier for Russian artillery – and especially air strikes on the city from three sides. Ukraine's forces cannot safely use the scarce air defense and electronic warfare systems, aviation, HIMARS systems, etc. in the city: there is simply no "rear" there.

Photo: Getty Images

Instead, Russian forces are easily using tactical aircraft on the outskirts of Avdiivka. According to the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, 2-4 enemy air strikes are carried out here daily. At the same time, the Ukrainian Air Force still lacks the capacity to control the skies anywhere above the frontline.

In this situation, each repulsed wave of the Russian offensive depletes the city's defenders and their fortifications, creating a threat of irreparable destabilization of the defense if it becomes difficult (or impractical) to replenish forces and supplies. At the same time, it is also necessary to supply food and medicine to the citizens who do not want to evacuate.

The main factor in the development of the situation will be the autumn-winter mud, which will limit the capabilities of the parties in the coming weeks.

Another factor will be the strategies of the parties, which are currently difficult to predict. It is likely that the purpose of the Russian offensive near Avdiivka is to draw Ukrainian reserves away from the footholds of the counter-offensive in the Bakhmut and, especially, Melitopol areas. Analysts have long debated whether Ukraine has fully deployed the reserve ground units trained in the West in 2022-2023 in the south.

In addition, the enemy is seeking to fulfil Putin's political objective (according to intelligence) at any cost: to reach the administrative borders of Donetsk region.

Ukraine is also facing a political choice: to focus limited resources on breaking through to the sea in the south or to defend Avdiivka, which has withstood 9 years of war, and thus further disrupt the enemy's propaganda triumph.

An open question is the ability of both sides to replenish their arsenals of artillery shells and armored vehicles. Perhaps Russia’s Avdiivka offensive was only able to begin because North Korea recently transferred hundreds of containers with, presumably, ammunition to its reserves. 

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