Kremlin troops advanced hundreds of meters in the battleground city of Avdiivka over the weekend, as Ukrainian military spokesmen said Kyiv forces manning front lines will hold and were inflicting heavy losses on Russian attacks.

The most advanced Russian forces reportedly were locked in close battle for Avdiivka’s Coke and Chemical plant, a hulking complex of industrial buildings overlooking the key 00542 highway, the main Ukrainian supply route in and out of the Soviet-era factory town.

According to the usually reliable military information platform DeepState, Russian infantry attacking Avdiivka from the northeast advanced across a key rail line running parallel to the Coke Plan. Fighting was still in progress across Avdiivka’s factory district, and in a residential district to the north, the report said.

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Pro-Russia information platforms reported that Russian attacks had left Ukrainian troops inside Avdiivka almost completely encircled and without reliable means of receiving food and ammunition, or evacuating casualties. The Kremlin-sponsored RVvoenkory channel said Russian paratrooper infantry led the successful attacks and shoved Ukrainian forces rearward 1.5 km across a 1.1-km front. Russian troops are “moving confidently forward,” the channel said.

Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) spokesmen admitted Russian advances around Avdiivka without offering details. Ukrainian military social media described a battlefield dominated both by Russian shell fire, and swarms of Ukrainian FPV drones. The Ukrainian supply line into Avdiivka was still open but at times under indirect fire, those accounts said.

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Both sides confirmed Russian air strikes around Avdiivka, with bomber aircraft dropping guided glider bombs from well out of the range of anti-aircraft systems. One video reportedly recorded by a Russian soldier showed a heavy 1.5-ton guided aerial bomb striking the Avdiivka coking plant premises, with unclear results.

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In a Sunday post on his personal Telegram channel, “war correspondent” Aleksandr Sladkov, sponsored by Russian state media, argued that the Kremlin’s firepower and manpower advantages over Ukrainian forces at Avdiivka had become overwhelming and that troops attempting to defend the town were doomed.

“The AFU is losing at Avdiivka not only because they have few soldiers. Firepower assets are limited as is technical support. That is extremely important in this war. You can’t hold a front with just bodies,” Sladkov said in part.

The Washington-based think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW) in a Sunday situation update said Russian advances near Avdiivka were “confirmed.” Kremlin infantry appeared to be gaining ground in house-to-house fighting along the main road Zaliznychnyi Lane in northern Avdiivka, and to the southwest of Avdiivka, near the village Nevelske, the report said.

Brig. Gen. Oleksandr Tarnavsky, the overall commander of Ukrainian forces deployed around Avdiivka, said that the situation in his sector, though difficult, is under control. The Russian Federation’s top priority across the entire front in Ukraine is to capture Avdiivka but Ukrainian forces will hold, he said.

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“The enemy is currently concentrating its main efforts on the Avdiivka direction. The intention of the Russian aggressors is clear: they first of all want to establish control over the logistical routes supplying our troops by attacking our northern flank. However, we are responding to the enemy’s actions effectively. We are strengthening defensive lines, setting up additional firing positions, and bring up fresh reserves. Logistical deliveries [into Avdiivka] are continuing,” Tarnavsky said in a Feb. 10 statement.

A television interview with Dmytro Riumshyn, commander of the 47th Mechanized Infantry, a key combat brigade fighting in the Avdiivka sector for more than two months, said Russian attacks were primarily by small groups of infantry following up air strikes or artillery barrages. The Russian infantry has taken heavy casualties approaching Ukrainian positions but the bloody assaults have been repeated week after week, Riumshyn said in a Feb. 12 broadcast aired by the My-Ukraina channel.

“The [Kremlin] goal is to show the Russian civilians that there are at least some kind of successes somewhere on the front. They want to show ‘How clever we [Russian forces] are!… But military people don’t talk that way… all the wood lines and fields filled with their corpses and destroyed armored vehicles, say something else [than the Russian propaganda],” Riumshyn said.

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Drone and combat video published by the 47th and other Ukrainian combat units in the Avdiivka sector show repeated instances of Russian soldiers or combat vehicles struck by kamikaze drones or howitzer shells, and battlefields geolocated to the area littered with human remains and burnt out vehicles. Video published by the 110th Mechanized Brigade, another unit geolocated to the Avdiivka sector, showed Russian soldiers and armored vehicles pelted by drones carrying explosives.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Feb. 10 as part of a housecleaning of nearly two dozen senior AFU command billets promoted Tarnavsky, who had served since fall 2022 as the de facto commander of Ukrainian forces holding positions around Avdiivka.

Ukrainian fortifications in and around the town, some constructed in 2014 and improved since then, are among the strongest on the entire front. Since Russia’s repeat invasion in Feb. 2022, Kremlin forces had until February 2024 advanced only a few hundred meters in the Avdiivka sector.

On Sunday Tarnavsky said of the fighting: “The enemy now is adding armor more often to its attacks of by infantry groups. However, Ukrainian warriors are fiercely holding defenses. They are actively destroying the Russian aggressor and taking prisoners. As a matter of fact, our fresh troops [who have just entered combat] are taking prisoners as well.”

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A Monday Tarnavsky statement claimed AFU troops in his sector had captured around 25 Russian prisoners in the past 24 hours. There was no immediate confirmation of Tarnavsky’s claims.

Forbes magazine followed by most major Ukrainian media on Saturday reported that the Kyiv-raised 3rd Assault Brigade, a veteran AFU formation with two year’s of combat experience, was deploying to Adviivka. There was no independent confirmation of the 3rd Assault Brigade’s commitment to combat.

Social media operated by both 3rd Assault’s headquarters and by individual soldiers from the unit, over the weekend, was empty of updates on unit location and activity. A backbone of Ukrainian defenses in the Bakhmut and other sectors, the 3rd was rotated off the fighting line in mid-December, those accounts said.

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