Russian troops tasked with capturing Avdiivka before presidential election in Russia
Despite the New Year holidays, Russian troops have not reduced their assaults along the contact line. Adding fuel to the fire was an article by The Telegraph, which reported that an offensive on Kharkiv was being prepared for January 15
Oleksandr Kovalenko, a political and military observer, wrote about it.
Threats to Kharkiv are minimal today, he says. This is due to the fact that after the Russian troops were forced out from the northern sector, the Ukrainian forces immediately started the process of forming defense lines along the border with Russia.
In turn, on the Russian side, the Belgorod Group of Forces is concentrated in the Belgorod region. The number of the Belgorod group of troops is 11,500 personnel with 80 tanks, 150 AFVs, more than 300 pieces of artillery and about 30 MLRS. To put it mildly, this is a negligible potential for breaking through the defense lines in Kharkiv region and occupying the second-largest Ukrainian city of Kharkiv. In the area of small Avdiivka the Russian forces have now concentrated a group of troops of 45,000 personnel and for the third month cannot achieve results.
This does not mean that the Russian forces are not trying to advance and push through the defenses in other directions.
Russia's Southern Group of Forces operates here, which is the most numerous, more than 165,000 personnel and the most combat-ready of all.
The Southern Group concentrates its main offensive resource on Avdiivka and in the area of Bakhmut. At Avdiivka they have concentrated 45,000 troops, and in the area of Bakhmut about 80,000. At the same time, the Avdiivka location is reinforced by the units of Russia's Central Group of Forces.
The Russian troops' offensive in the Avdiivka area began pathetically and promisingly, as stated by Russian military correspondents, on October 10, 2023, but as of the first week of January 2024, they were still unable to achieve all the goals set then, namely: seize control over the Avdiivka slag heap — accomplished; cut the railway in the northern sector and reach the right flank — accomplished; seize the village of Stepove and take fire control of the 0542 route from the north-eastern sector — failed; in the south-western sector reach the village of Tonenke through Vodyane and seize it — failed; establish fire control over 0542 from the south-west — failed.
That is, having failed half of the tasks set for October 10, 2023, the Russian troops have been given carte blanche to show the result in the area of Avdiivka before the Russian presidential election, and the hypertrophied pressure in the area of this town will only grow.
These actions emphasize the fact that for the Russian commanders, Avdiivka plays a major, dominant role in the plans of encirclement and capture than any other settlement. Even in comparison with the location of Bakhmut, which brings the situation to the level of critical, because the main goal for Russia is not so much the beginning of urban fighting and entry into the industrial zone, as cutting the only logistical artery - route 0542 and isolation of the Avdiivka garrison.
In the Bakhmut area, the main fighting is now taking place in the direction of the village of Bohdanivka, clearly with the aim of eventually reaching Chasiv Yar, which is not only the nearest largest settlement near Bakhmut, but also the dominant height in the area.
As of early 2024, Avdiivka remains the most active and critically dangerous zone across the entire fighting area. The attention of the Russian military-political leadership to this location can speak of increased pressure to capture the town before the presidential elections at any cost. In the context of Avdiivka, even the hostilities in the Bakhmut area do not have such a priority, and are more of a nature of preparing conditions for a larger offensive in the future, presumably scheduled for the second half of 2024. It is possible that a more powerful offensive near Bakhmut will be launched in the autumn of 2024, but subject to Russian success at Avdiivka.
Against this background, the Lyman-Kupyansk axis looks more like an imitation offensive than an offensive. Although the threat to Kupyansk itself is quite real, but only if the fortification in the location of Synkivka is breached, which continues to be an impossible task for Russia.
The Zaporizhzhia region has progressively transformed into a classic zone of positional warfare, while the left-bank Kherson region is creating problems for the Russian command, the solution to which was not found in 2023 and is unlikely to be found in 2024.
Thus, the front in Ukraine's combat zone is extremely heterogeneous, from the collapsing Avdiivka, where for Moscow the fact of achieving a result dominates over an adequate perception of losses, to the stagnating Zaporizhzhia region, which constrains the Russia's serious potential, to the left bank, which is already very promising for the Ukrainian forces, and where the developments can be completely unpredictable for the bridgehead as a whole.