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ISW: Russia makes marginal gains along two axes

Russians expand control towards Kupiansk in the north as well as near Avdiivka near Donetsk. Ukraine continues offensives in Kherson Oblast
Ukrainian defenders
Ukrainian defenders somewhere on the frontline. Credit: Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelesnkyy via Telegram.

Russian forces made marginal gains along both the northern and southern axes of advance in eastern Ukraine, according to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) in its 11 December report.

Along the northern axis from Kreminna toward Svatove and Kupiansk, the ISW cited footage indicating Russian troops expanded control southeast of Dibrova near Kreminna. The institute referenced Ukrainian officials stating Russian forces were conducting offensives near Siversk north of Bakhmut and near Lyman.

The ISW noted Russian sources claiming Ukrainian counterattacks near Petropavlivka and Synkivka east of Kupiansk along this northern axis.

Donetsk battle Avdiivka Russian advances
A battle map of territory near Donetsk on 11 December 2023. Credit: ISW

Along the southern axis from Donetsk City toward Avdiivka, Bakhmut, and Zaporizhzhia, the institute pointed to visual confirmation of Russian gains east of Stepove near Avdiivka. The ISW said Russian forces were carrying out localized offensives near Bakhmut itself.

The institute also referenced Russian sources claiming advances northwest of Marinka near Donetsk City along this southern axis. However, a Russian source stated Ukrainian forces still hold some positions inside Marinka.

Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations near Krynky in eastern Kherson Oblast, according to ISW. Krynky is located on the left bank of the Dnipro River, around 30km northeast of Kherson City.

The ISW referenced Russian sources claiming Ukrainian forces consolidated positions south of Krynky and took advantage of poor weather to transport personnel across the river to the left bank. However, a Russian source asserted forces made marginal gains in Krynky itself following airstrikes.

Another Russian source stated Ukrainian troops maintain positions near the Antonivskyi Bridge north of Oleshky on the right bank of the Dnipro River, but described the area as calm. The Antonivskyi Bridge was a key Ukrainian target during its successful counteroffensive to liberate Kherson City.

Other notable points from the ISW assessment:

  • Russia intends to use its 2024 presidential election voting in occupied regions of Ukraine to legitimize its occupation of those areas.
  • Kremlin-appointed official Maria Lvova-Belova announced the deportation of 10 teenagers from Mariupol to Taganrog and four disabled children from Kherson to Penza under rehabilitation and medical pretenses.
  • UK and Norway agreed to lead a coalition supporting Ukraine’s navy, with the UK providing additional maritime military aid to Ukraine such as armored vehicles and minehunter ships.
  • Statements by Russian President Vladimir Putin indicate Russia aims to expand its naval capabilities beyond Eastern Europe in a bid to threaten NATO more broadly. Putin attended a ceremony launching two new Russian nuclear-powered submarines slated for the Pacific Fleet, saying Russia plans to strengthen its navy across multiple seas.

What the ISW reported earlier: 

  • 11 December: ISW said Ukraine likely regained Stepove amid fierce battles for Avdiivka. The Russian offensives were intensifying ahead of Russia’s 2024 elections, while Ukraine was fortifying its defenses.
  • 10 December: Russian forces continued offensive operations near Avdiivka, advancing towards a sewage treatment plant.
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