On 18 December, there were a lot of updates from the Kurakhove direction. Kurakhove is one of the five main directions of the Russian winter offensives.
The configuration of the front line here is the following. Ukrainians rely on three strongholds, namely, Krasnohorivka, Marinka, and Vuhledar in the northern and southern parts of the region, and extensive minefields and strongpoints in fields in the eastern part of the region.
Novomykhailivka is the only settlement located in the middle of the vast fields, which is why it serves as the main supply hub of the Ukrainian positions there.
As you remember, over the course of the previous year and also at the beginning of this year, Russian forces tried to penetrate Ukrainian defenses and reach Kurakhove from the south.
After conducting multiple failed offensives from all possible sides, the Russian commanders likely concluded that Vuhledar was a too formidable obstacle and started shifting their focus toward Novomykhailivka.
If we look at the topographic map, the reasons for such a decision quickly become apparent. As you can see, by attacking from the south, Russians would be attacking several lines of Ukrainian defenses along the hills, while by attacking from the east, Russians could theoretically move along these hills, avoiding difficulties associated with differences in elevation.
That is why, for the last eight months, Russians have been slowly demining the fields around Novomykhailivka. The goal of Russian forces was to gradually clear the fields and attack Novomykhailivka from 3 sides. The biggest success Russians achieved south of the settlement. The reason is twofold.
First of all, Russian forces rely on three settlements, which allows them to be more mobile, increasing the success rate of the missions. Secondly, Ukrainians did not have formidable strongpoints here because of the topography of the region.
In contrast, in the situation north of the settlement Russians took little to no ground because of the powerful Ukrainian strongpoint.
In fact, Ukrainian fighters here are still holding off Russian forces and not allowing them to take Novomykhailivka in a pocket.
Nonetheless, despite the fact that only half of the plan was completed and Novomykhailivka was not encircled, Russian forces decided to launch the storming operation. The first Russian attack came from the east. A column consisting of several tanks and armored fighting vehicles advanced from Slavne and tried to establish control over a system of trenches at the intersection of the roads.
Russian sources claimed that the attack was successful, and Russian forces were preparing to enter the settlement itself. Ukrainian sources, in turn, claimed that they managed to repel the Russian attack and posted footage of the demolished Russian assault unit.
It seems like Russian forces indeed failed to advance from the east because, after that, they started attacking from the south. Ukrainian sources reported that a column of Russian forces advanced from Solodke and initiated a fight for the graveyard. Combat footage shows how Ukrainian fighters are attacking Russian forces inside the trenches, suggesting that the Russian attack was successful.
The freshest updates from Ukrainian sources suggest that Ukrainian airborne forces conducted a counterattack and returned control over this region. So far, there is no visual confirmation of the success, however, it is not unlikely.
In order to undermine the Russian offensive capabilities and reduce the chances of Russian forces entering the southern part of the settlement, Ukrainians intensified counterbattery operations.
Ukrainian fighters from the 72nd mechanized brigade showed how they found and destroyed a Russian Pion. The same day, they also detected and destroyed a Gvozdika. Reduced artillery support in this region will not allow Russians to suppress Ukrainian fire and undermine Ukrainian defense to the same extent, making the Russian assaults riskier.
Overall, the situation in this region is quite challenging. Despite the fact that Russians reached the outskirts of the village, the claims of the collapse of the Ukrainian defense are premature, as Ukrainians successfully repelled the Russian attacks from the east and never allowed Russians to even get within reach from the north.
The situation is expected to remain difficult, but if Ukrainian fighters from the 79th Airmobile Brigade indeed conducted a successful counterattack in the south, then holding defense would be much easier.
In our daily frontline report, we pair up with the military blogger Reporting from Ukraine to keep you informed about what is happening on the battlefield in the Russo-Ukrainian war.
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