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Avdiivka: The Next Bakhmut?
“This is the largest offensive that has ever been carried out on Avdiivka during all the times of the war, starting in 2014” - Vitalii Barbash, the head of Avdiivka Military Academy
The Town of Avdiivka in Eastern Ukraine (Donestsk Region) has become victim to a renewed Russian offensive, which has quickly enflamed the settlement in the most intense combat currently underway. Avdiivka was briefly occupied by Russia during the 2014 conflict, but has since been retaken and fortified by the Ukrainian Armed Forces, and has served as a significant strategic position due to the city’s proximity to the frontline, and to Donetsk – which it has the ability to strike with artillery. Russia has attempted several offensives on Avdiivka, some of which have featured the use of White Phosphorus, an incendiary weapon which is internationally condemned. Recent waves of Russian attacks on the city have resulted in significant Russian casualties, although some territory has been captures – signalling that the Russian military command remains focused around taking the settlement. Current manoeuvres focus around encircling the city in order to sever Ukrainian supply lines (primarily via the railway feeding into the city), as an attempt to place the Ukrainian garrison under siege. The Ukrainian Armed Forces is estimated to have 10,000 troops stationed in Avdiivka, primarily consisting of the 110th mechanized brigade and the 2nd battalion of the Presidential Brigade, which have taken the brunt of the attack. Notably, the 110th mechanized brigade has been defending Avdiivka since the beginning of the 2022 War, without rotation. Russian Mil-bloggers have accredited the Ukrainian defence to heavy fortifications, such as minefields, elevated positions and potential underground bunkers, which are thought to house Ukrainian defenders. The Ukrainian General Staff report that the number of engagements has nearly doubled compared to just over a week ago. British Intelligence suggests that the recent Russian assaults on Avdiivka have contributed to a 90% increase in Russian casualties recorded by the Ukrainian MoD. Despite heavy resistance from Ukrainian forces, Russia maintains their assault. Quantity is in itself a quality.
The Russian 114th Motorized Rifle Brigade launched an offensive north of Avdiivka, on the villages of Stepove-Berdychy with the aim of cutting the main road connecting the city with Avdiivka. On October 10-14, the Russians launched the freshly motorized 15th and 21st rifle brigades for the offensive, which were joined by the 30th motorized rifle brigade on 19 October. On 20-22 October, the Russians stopped the heavy use of armoured vehicles for their offensives, due to heavy losses. To continue the assault, collective assault squads are being consolidated from the four brigades, alongside other divisions of the 1st Corps, including the Pyatnashka Special Forces brigade. The Russians are also drawing reserves from the 106th Airborne Division and separate tank battalions. The Russian forces are currently trying to gain an advantage by attacking south of Avdiivka, as part of an encirclement strategy. The 9th, 110th and 55th motorized brigades of the Russian Armed Forces are attacking here and have made advances. However, the Ukrainian forces have been able to inflict significant damage in the direction of Pervomaiske. More than 200 Russian armoured vehicles have been destroyed so far, with thousands of casualties.
British Intelligence suggests that Russia has suffered 150,000-190,000 permanent casualties (killed and permanently wounded) since the conflict began, with the total figure including temporarily wounded (recovered and due to return to the battlefield in some capacity) at 240,000-290,000. Notably, this is limited to the Russian Armed Forces and does not include the Wagner Group and their associated battalions – which would likely contribute tens of thousands of additional casualties. Ukrainian casualties are not officially disclosed, but have been estimated by various sources. According to an assessment collated by the U.S. Defence Intelligence Agency, Ukraine has suffered 124,500-131,000 total casualties, including 15,500-17,500 killed in action and 109,000-113,500 wounded in action. Real casualty counts will likely be higher, as the Ukrainian Military suffered setbacks with their summer offensive.
The US-based Institute for the Study of War has reported that Ukrainian troops have crossed the Dnipro and have taken up new positions in the South. The consolidation of Russian attacks in the East may therefore prove beneficial for Ukrainian ambitions in the South, especially for their beachhead in Kherson around Antonivsky Bridge, or the ambition to take Tokmak – the railway and logistics hub which facilitates much of the supply lines for the Russian Southern frontlines. Avdiivka may prove a favourable place for the Ukrainians to defend against the Russians, as the fortified location allots them the ability to disproportionally inflict more damage against the Russian Armed Forces than they would be able to elsewhere. Significant attrition in Avdiivka will likely weaken other fronts for both nations.
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