Espreso. Global

Russia moves reserves to Avdiivka area to maintain tempo of offensive. Column by Serhiy Zgurets

19 March, 2024 Tuesday

The Russian forces continue to deploy additional forces and reserves to the Avdiivka sector. In this way, the command of the Russian army is trying to maintain the pace of the Russian offensive. Ukrainian defence forces are holding back superior enemy forces, and often conducting successful counterattacks

The Ramstein Contact Group meeting on Ukraine's defense will take place on March 19

Tomorrow, the 20th meeting of the Contact Group on Ukraine's defense will take place at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. The meeting will be attended by more than 50 countries that have contributed to the supply of weapons to Ukraine to counter Russian aggression. This will be a face-to-face meeting, not an online format as before. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has invited ministers and senior military officials from all over the world to discuss the war in Ukraine and the various security challenges facing US allies and partners. So far, there are no details about this meeting. However, it is expected that the Ukrainian party will raise the issue of strengthening air defense, supplying missiles for various purposes, training the military and supplying artillery ammunition of various calibers.

It is also clear that the repair and maintenance issue will be raised. After all, the Armed Forces of Ukraine often have to take spare parts from damaged equipment to repair other equipment because there has been no supply of components for artillery systems and equipment from the United States for several months.

The same applies to the repair of Western-made tanks. In particular, we can cite the case of 18 Leopard 2A6 tanks. A month ago, German politicians appealed to the management of Rheinmetall and Krauss-Maffei Wegmann to urgently improve the situation with spare parts for Ukrainian Leopard 2A6 tanks. Only a part of the tanks supplied to Ukraine remain usable for combat operations. The reason is the lack of spare parts for these tanks. Leopard 2A6 tanks are being repaired for Ukraine by Lithuania. The situation is the same with British Challengers and American Abrams.

It will not be easy for the United States to hold the 20th meeting of the Ramstein Contact Group. In particular, because the US continues to slow down military assistance to Ukraine. This slowdown in aid is already affecting the situation on the front line. This is well understood by the Biden administration, which promised to assist Ukraine for as long as it is needed. Now, the Biden administration continues to negotiate with House Speaker Johnson to approve aid to Ukraine.

At the same time, there is progress from Europeans. First of all, we are talking about an initiative from Czech President Petr Pavel. We know about 800,000 shells for Ukraine. However, the other day it was announced that the Czech Republic has found another 700,000 units that can be transferred to Ukraine if funding is available. In total, we are talking about 1.5 million shells, and this is a huge amount.

Russia continues offensive in the Avdiivka sector

Viktor Kevliuk, the Center for Defense Strategies military expert, said that in the Avdiivka sector, fighting continues at the Berdychi-Orlivka-Tonenke-Pervomayske-Nevelske line. Russia's 15th and 30th motorized rifle brigades are attacking in the Stepove-Berdychi area. However, their advance is significantly hampered by the fire control of the Ukrainian Defense Forces. The Defense Forces are also conducting frequent and effective counterattacks.

The 114th Brigade of Russia's First Army Corps and the 55th Brigade of the 41st occupation army captured the village of Tonenke, advanced a little further west, reached the outskirts of Semenivka, but were stopped there by the Ukrainian Defense Forces. The 5th Motorized Rifle Brigade of the First Army Corps and the 35th Brigade are trying to break through to Pervomayske. The 110th brigade of Russia's first corps captured Nevelske. According to Kevliuk, the situation in the Novopavlivka sector is even more dynamic. Fighting continues in the direction of Heorhiivka - Pobieda - Novomykhailivka. Russia has almost fully deployed the 20th Motorized Rifle Division of the 8th Army, most of the 150th Motorized Rifle Division and the 155th Marine Brigade of the Russian Pacific Fleet.

According to Kevliuk, all these actions of the Russian occupation army command are due to an attempt to maintain the tempo of the Russian offensive. The Russians have additionally deployed the 10th Tank Regiment to the Avdiivka direction from the Pokrovsk direction. Units of this regiment are already actively attacking the positions of the Ukrainian Defense Forces north and northeast of Novomykhailivka.

Viktor Kevliuk emphasized that capturing Novomykhailivka is a key task for Russia. That is why the Russians are actively risking their aircraft in this area, launching 4 to 6 strikes with anti-aircraft guns per day.

Losses and replenishment of the Russian occupation army

Viktor Kevliuk noted that Russia's monthly losses this year range from 22-25 thousand soldiers. The recruitment system supplies the occupation army with more than 20,000 new soldiers monthly. That is, as Kevliuk emphasized, there is no reason to talk about Russia's accumulation of reserves. However, today Russia continues to support the manning of units at a level that allows them to conduct offensive operations and perform combat missions. 

To be more specific about reserves, currently, Russia has no strategic reserves. To form and deploy them, it is necessary to mobilize them.

As for operational reserves, Russia has spent most of them. In particular, in groups that are actively engaged in combat. For example, in the Toretsk sector, Russia's operational reserves are estimated at 1 motorized rifle battalion, in the Pokrovsk sector Russia has 3 motorized rifle regiments, 3 rifle battalions of the mobilization reserve and up to two units of the army combat reserve. Therefore, according to Kevliuk, Russia has extremely limited opportunities to intensify its offensive.

Large-scale offensive operation of the Ukrainian Armed Forces in 2024

According to Viktor Kevliuk, all partners and the military and political leadership of Ukraine understand that Ukraine does not have enough resources to conduct an offensive operation. In particular, there are no prepared reserves, no sufficient amount of ammunition, equipment and other weapons. Mr. Kevliuk emphasized that a large-scale offensive operation would take a long time. That is why a defensive operation is the best scenario for Ukraine.

Viktor Kevliuk also commented on the UK's recommendation for Ukraine to focus on dominating the Black Sea. According to him, the British are well aware of the importance of controlling sea lanes and water areas. Today, Ukraine's unmanned maritime drones have had a rather unexpected effect, significantly reducing the potential of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. In particular, Russia has not deployed cruise missile carriers to the Black Sea for a month, and there are no ships on duty in the Sea of Azov. Accordingly, such asymmetric actions pose a huge threat to Russia on the relatively safe for Russia southern flank. After the Russian air defense capabilities in Crimea are destroyed, it will be possible to conduct an air operation against the Russian aviation base.

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