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Aerial bombs enable Russian advances on Avdiivka; encirclement looms

Ukraine has transferred one of its best brigades to reinforce the besieged city, but critics warn the situation is getting worse
Avdiivka encirclement
Credit: Deepstatemap
Aerial bombs enable Russian advances on Avdiivka; encirclement looms

Russian troops have made advances to the north and south of the east-Ukrainian city of Avdiivka, which Ukraine has been defending since October 2023, according to the Ukrainian project Deepstatemap.

This deepens the Russian creeping encirclement of the city and threatens logistics routes, raising questions over how long Ukraine will be ordering troops to hold on to its defense amid an artillery shortage.

Avdiivka offensive Russia Ukraine war
Credit: Deepstatemap

As well, Russia has advanced slightly near Novomykhailivka, to the south of Marinka.

Novomykhailivka Marinka
Credit: Deepstatemap

These directions of the front are among those experiencing the most intensive fighting. According to Ukraine’s General Staff, Russia is also attempting assaults in the directions of Kupiansk, Kreminna, Bakhmut, Prechystivka, Novopokrovsk, and Krynky. Ukraine repulsed 29 attacks in Avdiivka, and 35 near Marinka in the last day.

Russia’s advance in Avdiivka is enabled thanks to a “significant replenishment of .. guided aerial bombs” that simply “wipe out the city and positions of our fighters,” Deepstatemap reported, sharing a video of what Ukrainian defenders have to endure near the Khimiki district of Avdiivka.

A thick fog of 10-11 February also enabled the Russian assault, Deepstatemap writes, stressing that logistics are under Russian fire control and warning against turning Avdiivka into another Bakhmut.

The decision to defend the east-Ukrainian city of Bakhmut from Russian assaults over 10 months caused disagreement between Ukraine and the Pentagon, which believed Ukraine was expending too many resources to defend a strategically minor city.

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s leadership insisted that the losses caused to Russian troops were a sufficient reason to continue the urban warfare as “fortress Bakhmut” morphed into a symbol of Ukrainian “invincibility,” ultimately falling to Russia in May 2023.

The defense of Bakhmut is also a point of criticism of Ukraine’s new Commander-in-Chief Oleksandr Syrskyi, who is said to have given orders to defend strategically unimportant locations with little regard for preserving the lives of troops.

Syrskyi in, Zaluzhnyi out. What our army sources expect from Ukraine’s army reshuffle

Main supply route to Avdiivka garrison cut off

Urban fighting started in Avdiivka one week ago, and Russia has cut off one of the main logistics routes at the north of the city.

However, field routes still enable resupplies to the Ukrainian garrison defending the city. Although suboptimal compared to the large road that was cut off, they are still operable, according to Ukrainian military expert Oleksandr Kovalenko. He stresses that Avdiivka is not yet close to being encircled, the term being defined as the isolation of units inside the city from the main group of troops, making supplies or evacuation impossible.

“This is not happening now. Cutting the logistics artery does not mean the process of operational or tactical encirclement,” he said.

Military spokesman Dmytro Lykhoviy stressed that the situation is dynamic, and the frontline shifts in the other direction as well.

However, director of the Center for Military Legal Studies Oleksandr Musienko believes that Ukraine should keep a mind an imminent withdrawal from the city but that it is no “tragedy,” as Ukraine halted the pace of Russia’s offensive, inflicted heavy losses to Russia’s manpower and equipment and reserves.

“It is now clear that it is difficult for us to repel attacks, almost impossible to advance and open the flanks. The garrison is holding out with the last of its strength, but the enemy has thrown almost everything it has into the battle. I would especially mention the guided aerial bombs that cause significant damage,” he said.

A change in strategy: Russia storms Avdiivka with armored vehicles

Russia’s strategy in Avdiivka has changed: according to military experts and Lykhoviy, Russia is no longer using only small tactical groups, increasingly storming Avdiivka with tanks and IFVs, as well as deploying well-trained special forces units.

This strategy differs from the one Russia used in Bakhmut, a city Ukraine defended for 10 months, grinding down Wagner units, albeit to great Ukrainian losses, expert Museinko believes. In Bakhmut, Russia attacked with small Wagner groups in infamous “meat assaults,” aviation, and artillery, employing virtually no tanks or APCs.

“Perhaps they have problems with assault groups, since they are hiding behind armor,” Museinko comments on the Avdiivka strategy. “In any case, it is important for them to win a propaganda victory for Putin, for his election. And they are changing their tactics because they are being destroyed in large numbers,” the expert told RBC-Ukraine, referring to the upcoming March “election” where incumbent Putin is all but guaranteed a victory.

According to Avdiivka’s head of military administration, Vitaliy Barabash, Russia’s assault on Avdiivka is a political decision made in the Kremlin. He notes that many deadlines for seizing the city have been made before: on the eve of Vladimir Putin’s birthday, 7 October, 14 December, then New Year’s Day, and now the election.

“The military will try to do everything possible by that date, because they have no other options. There is not a single person in Russia who would give the command to stop these offensives, except for Putin,” Barabash told Hromadske.

Apparently, this strategy of using armored vehicles for urban battles is leading to huge losses, as follows from an analysis of the Top Lead agency based on visually confirmed losses observed by OSINTer @naaalsio26. According to a list of destroyed equipment that he has compiled, Russia’s losses are 13 times higher than Ukraine’s during the Avdiivka offensive.

There are three scenarios for Avdiivka, Museinko says. Either Ukraine will deploy additional forces to Avdiivka, deal a blow to the north or southern flanks of Russian units surrounding the city, or it will have to retreat. The third one is most optimal, he believes: reinforcements are complicated, and summoning enough forces for surprise blows to the Russians is difficult, as well.

Ukraine plans on defending the city

In his evening address, President Zelenskyy said that Commander-in-Chief Syrskyi and Defense Minister Umerov visited all the hotspots of the front, including Avdiivka and Marinka, and that “existing problems are being solved,” including strengthening units command positions, and reinforcements of drones and EW.

This indicates that Ukraine is keeping to its plans to fortify the defense of Avdiivka. 

Supporting this idea are reports that Ukraine has deployed one of its best brigades, the 3d Assault Brigade, in attempts to save the city. Forbes reported this on 11 February.

There has been no official confirmation, but a speaker for the 110th Mechanized Brigade, part of the garrison defending Avdiivka, informed that some of his fighters have been sent for rest and rotation for the first time in two years because reinforcements have arrived.

“I won’t name the unit, but it is powerful support, we felt a bit calmer when it arrived,” he said, adding that Ukrainians are outnumbered by Russian troops.

OSINT analyst Dnipro | OSINT offers confirmation that the 3d Assault Brigade is in Avdiivka based on a video where a fighter of the brigade is seen attacking the Russians in the sector where they cut off the supply road — an operation that was reportedly successful.

Artillery shortages exacerbate the defense of Avdiivka

“The general feeling is that if Avdiivka falls, it will be the fault of America. The delays in support have been too great, the Ukrainians are running out of everything, and the Europeans haven’t been able to up their game yet to compensate for that loss. The main thing is just lack of artillery ammo and rockets – they are down to almost nothing at times,” Glen Grant, a former UK defense attaché to the Baltics, and one-time adviser to Ukraine’s defense ministry, told The Telegraph.

In the US, partisan squabbling has delayed the provision of an aid package; however, the EU has also delayed the supply of ammunition to Ukraine. However, also to blame are Russian classic “meat wave” tactics, an overall prevalence in numbers, reflecting challenges in Ukraine’s mobilization, and Russian drones with night vision, which enabled to cut off Ukrainian supply lines that relied on the cover of night, The Telegraph wrote.


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