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Frontline report: Russians crossed the “death valley” and entered Avdiivka

Russia crosses “death valley” killing field at night to access fortified Avdiivka, Donetsk Oblast, threatening encirclement of now cut-off Ukrainian defenders struggling to hold the critical town.
Screenshot from a Reporting From Ukraine video.
Frontline report: Russians crossed the “death valley” and entered Avdiivka

February 5, 2024

Today, the biggest news comes from the Avdiivka direction, Donetsk Oblast.

Here, the most dynamic clashes are taking place in the central part of the region. First of all, Ukrainian forces managed to localize the Russian breakthrough by retaking key positions that allowed them to establish fire control over the roads.

Screenshot from a Reporting From Ukraine video.

This way, Russian heavy mechanized assault units cannot enter the region and reinforce those inside the bridgehead, and Russians have to rely exclusively on small supplies via the underground pipe.

Russian sources also released several videos showing how they are delivering additional small supplies with aerial drones. Due to continuous Ukrainian shelling and tank raids, Russians did not manage to improve their situation, while Ukrainians still have not found and destroyed the entry point to the pipe, causing the frontline here to get stuck.

Such a setting forces Russians to return to and double down on their previous idea of partial encirclement of the town. The partial encirclement of the town implies penetrating the settlement right between its two most fortified areas: the chemical plant and the area with high-rise buildings.

Screenshot from a Reporting From Ukraine video.

Moreover, in order to achieve encirclement in this scenario, it is sufficient to advance just from one side because this is where the main Ukrainian supply roads are located.

Screenshot from a Reporting From Ukraine video.

By advancing in the center and cutting it off, Ukrainians in the southern part of the town will basically have no connection to the mainland, apart from risky dirt roads along the tree lines in the field.

The first major attempt happened a few weeks ago when Russians tried to use mechanized columns. Ukrainian fighters from the 110th Mechanized Brigade released a video showing this attack.

Screenshot from a Reporting From Ukraine video.

According to the fighters, Russians tried to split them and open multiple vectors of attack. However, they were spotted well in advance by Ukrainian reconnaissance drone operators and gradually demolished by the time they reached the front line.

Screenshot from a Reporting From Ukraine video.

Unfortunately, Russians made reasonable adjustments, abandoned the idea of using large armored groups, and switched to pure infantry assaults. Prior to making each push, Russians would send small units of two to four people one after another into the small residential zone to accumulate forces. Even though Russian soldiers complained that Ukrainians were targeting even such small groups, overall, the Russian tactic worked, and they expanded the area of control over the so-called Ivushka dacha area on the northern outskirts of Avdiivka.

Screenshot from a Reporting From Ukraine video.

As a result, the Ukrainian Army withdrew from the tree lines north of the quarry, inevitably giving Russians more freedom of movement in the area. This reduced Ukrainian fire control over the region and allowed Russians to start reinforcing their infantry with armored fighting vehicles once again. Geolocated footage shows multiple Russian pieces of equipment amid demolished houses.

Nonetheless, the additional reinforcements did not seem to help, and despite having more forces in the Ivushka dacha area, they had less progress. The main reason for the reduced pace of the operation lies in the topography of the region.

If we look at the topographic map, we can see that there is a small valley between Avdiivka and the Ivushka dacha area.

Screenshot from a Reporting From Ukraine video.

Crossing it required getting exposed, which inevitably led to high losses and retreats. Geolocated combat footage released by Ukrainian special operators reveals that many Russian forces were eliminated by drones.

Screenshot from a Reporting From Ukraine video.

However, suddenly, the fights did break out on the streets of Avdiivka, implying that Russians penetrated the Ukrainian defense. Russian sources reported that Russians advanced by up to five hundred meters, reached the railways, and cut off Ukrainian supplies. Other sources started amplifying the news, with some claiming that the whole residential area had fallen. Nonetheless, based on geolocation, Russians were spotted only on Sapronova Street, implying a significantly narrower zone of operations.

A Ukrainian fighter from the twenty-fourth battalion reported that there was no need to be concerned because good news would soon be released. The freshest updates received several hours ago from the soldiers on the ground indicate that the Russian bridgehead was completely eliminated.

Screenshot from a Reporting From Ukraine video.

Another soldier released a video showing how they cleared the street and took captive all Russian soldiers that survived.

Still, the shifting of fighting left many Ukrainian analysts wondering how the Russians
achieved it. Fortunately, Russian sources have promptly revealed it. One Russian source alluded to the fact that the operation was conducted at night to minimize the risk of drone attacks.

Another source alluded to the fact that a special new technology was used to ensure that assault units remained undetected for as long as possible.

Screenshot from a Reporting From Ukraine video.

The analysts concluded that Russians used the so-called invisibility cloak against thermal cameras, which is exactly what Ukrainians are heavily relying on to monitor the perimeter at night.

Now, Ukrainians need to adjust their practices to monitor the region more effectively and use a combination of night vision, thermal cameras, and movement detection systems.
Screenshot from a Reporting From Ukraine video.

All these tools are already available; there is just a question of quantity. Hopefully, they will be put to use immediately.

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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