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Battle for Avdiivka: Ukraine withstands Russia’s biggest assault on city since 2014

Russian forces have launched a massive offensive using around 2,000 troops, dozens of tanks and intense air and artillery bombardments in an attempt to capture the strategic city of Avdiivka.
Credit: Ukraine’s General Staff
Battle for Avdiivka: Ukraine withstands Russia’s biggest assault on city since 2014

The city of Avdiivka in eastern Ukraine has seen intense fighting in recent days as Russian forces launched repeated assaults in an effort to break through Ukrainian defenses around the strategic city. Avdiivka sits just north of the Russian-occupied city of Donetsk Oblast, and the surrounding areas allow control of several key highways in the region.

Credit: DeepStateMap

Russia launched attacks on multiple fronts around Avdiivka starting on 10 October, using up to three battalions supported by dozens of tanks and armored vehicles, aircraft, and heavy artillery bombardments, Suspilne reported, citing Vitaliy Barabash, head of Avdiivka’s Military Administration.

Barabash stated this represents the most substantial Russian offensive against Avdiivka since Moscow launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. He estimated around 2,000 Russian troops were involved in the offensive.

Avdiivka under fire: Russian indiscriminate shelling kills a civilian

According to the Institute for the Study of War, this offensive is intended to pin down Ukrainian forces and prevent them from being transferred to support counterattacks in the Robotyne area, western Zaporizhzhia Oblast.

The think tank notes that capturing Avdiivka, one of the most heavily fortified parts of the Donbas frontline, would require far more Russian forces than currently deployed. ISW has “observed no recent Russian deployments to this line.”

Commanding officer Maksym with the callsign “Liutyi” of the 72nd Mechanized Brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, whose brigade has defended Avdiivka since 2014, called the October 10-11 attacks the most massive the area has witnessed in nine years of the war, involving at least 60 Russian armored vehicles and extensive air support, Suspine reported.

Entrance to the city of Avdiivka, Donetsk Oblast. Credit: Oleg Palchyk

According to the Commander, the first day of the attack on 10 October saw a huge swarming of Russian manpower and hardware. This was followed on 11 October by Russian infantry groups of 10-20 soldiers, each attempting to dislodge entrenched Ukrainian troops from their positions around Avdiivka, resulting in fierce fights.

Ukraine’s National Guard spokesman Ruslan Muzichuk, said that Ukrainian forces destroyed 16 Russian tanks, and 56 armored personnel carriers around Avdiivka on 10 October, Suspilne reported. He said Russian forces were deploying a large amount of hardware to gain a numerical advantage despite heavy losses from Ukrainian strikes.

Media: Bridge connecting Donetsk’s key occupied cities destroyed

Yuriy Butusov, editor of Censor.net, said that “a very challenging battle for Avdiivka,” could exceed the intensity of the fight for Vuhledar earlier in 2022. He noted that Russia failed to capture Avdiivka during an offensive from July 2022 to March 2023 and is now attempting to envelop the city from both flanks.

Butusov explained the large residential areas of Donetsk and Yasynuvata allow Russian troops to conceal forces and armor within built-up districts nearby. He added that Russia has stockpiled a huge quantity of artillery shells, likely supplied by North Korea and Iran, to support the Avdiivka attack.

Ukraine’s General Staff reported on 11 October that Russian forces continued offensive actions around Avdiivka but that all attacks had been repelled.

General Staff: Russia suffers heavy losses during massive assault on Avdiyivka

To bolster their forces in the region, the Russians transferred reserves from the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia areas,” commented military analyst Mykhailo Zhyrokhov, regarding the assault on Avdiivka.

“The signs of this offensive were apparent about two weeks ago. The activity on the front line started to diminish, and the Russians began to mobilize troops en masse from various locations, notably from Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, redirecting them towards Donetsk and specifically in the direction of Avdiivka. It became evident that they were orchestrating a specific operation there, including simultaneous attacks on both Kupiansk and Avdiivka,” Zhyrokhov said.

The analyst also assessed that Russia intends to fully encircle and cut off Avdiivka based on the concentration of Russian mechanized forces involved in the offensive.

On 12 October, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy emphasized in a social media post that Ukrainian forces are firmly maintaining their positions in Avdiivka despite the fierce Russian assaults.

“We are holding our ground. It is Ukrainian courage and unity that will determine how this war will end. We must all remember this,” Zelenskyy said.

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