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UK intel: Russia’s focus remains on Avdiivka axis in attempt to split Ukraine forces in Donetsk Oblast

Despite opening a new axis in Kharkiv Oblast, Russia’s operational focus remains on attacks northwest of Avdiivka, seeking gains to split Ukrainian forces in Donetsk Oblast, per UK intelligence.
uk intel russia's focus remains avdiivka axis attempt split ukraine forces donetsk oblast situation bakhmut axes 21 may 2024 map donetsk-oblast-21-may-2024-map
Situation at the Bakhmut and Avdiivka axes in Donetsk Oblast as of 21 May 2024. Map: Deepstatemap
UK intel: Russia’s focus remains on Avdiivka axis in attempt to split Ukraine forces in Donetsk Oblast

The UK Defense Ministry says in its intelligence update that although Russia has recently opened a new axis in the northeastern Kharkiv oblast, Russian attacks remain high in eastern Ukraine, focused on the area northwest of Avdiivka along the E50 highway. In the area, the Russians have likely made small tactical gains over the past 72 hours at heavy cost, likely aiming to create a salient and split Ukrainian forces in Donetsk.

The E50 highway is described as the main line of communication between Russian-held Donetsk and the Ukrainian-held town of Pokrovsk, which is approximately 30km from the current frontline position and likely a Russian operational objective. Ukrainian forces reported heavy clashes with Russian forces on 18 and 19 May in the areas of Bilohorivka, Verknokamianske, and Rozdolivka to the north of Bakhmut near Siversk, though Russian gains there remain highly limited, according to the report.

Situation northwest of occupied Avdiivka in Donetsk Oblast as of 21 May 2024. Map: Deepstatemap

The ministry wrote:

  • Although Russia has opened a new axis in the north-eastern Ukrainian oblast of Kharkiv, Russian attacks remain high in eastern Ukraine.
  • Russian forces continued their operational focus on the axis north-west of Avdiivka with attacks on a broad frontage either side of the E50 highway. Russian forces have likely made a series of small tactical gains over the last 72 hours, though probably at heavy cost.
  • The E50 highway represents the main line of communication between Russian held Donetsk and the Ukrainian held town of Pokrovsk, which remains approximately 30km from current frontline position, but is likely a Russian operational objective. Russian attacks in this direction likely seek to create a salient and split Ukrainian forces in Donetsk.
  • To the north of Bakhmut, in the vicinity of the town of Siversk, Ukrainian forces reported heavy clashes with Russian forces on 18 and 19 May 2024 with attacks against Ukrainian positions in Bilohorivka, Verknokamianske, and Rozdolivka. Russian gains in this area remain highly limited.

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