On Ukraine’s side both the optimists and pessimists point to Avdiivka to back their ideas and positions. Here are five key takeaways you should learn about Avdiivka to get a more balanced, realistic picture of Ukrainian strategy and tactics.

1. The Russians really are gaining ground and the pace really is accelerating.

The Russian army captured the city of Avdiivka in February after nearly six months of attacking, taking fortifications the Ukrainians had held since 2014. Since then, the Kremlin’s forces have pushed northwest about 10 kilometers (6 miles) – about 2 kilometers in the past ten days.

The bulge in Ukrainian lines is about a kilometer wide at the tip and five or six at the base, so it’s not a breakthrough. But, at the same time, this pace of advance – roughly a kilometer a week or a few hundred meters a day – is the fastest pace of Russian advance since the early months of the war.

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The Russian tactics are exploiting Ukrainian manpower shortages and particularly near-total Russian dominance of the air. The Russian Air Force is dropping glide bombs in quantity, which are not too accurate but are often able to saturate a wood line or village the Ukrainians are trying to hold. Ukraine is starved for long-range air defense systems and has almost no air force, so the Russian bombers drop the glide bombs with impunity.

Next, the Russians shell a Ukrainian position, and their shell supplies typically outnumber the Ukrainians’ five to one. Then the Russians send troops aboard armored vehicles to assault the Ukrainian positions. The Russians often take heavy losses, but if the attacks are kept up the Ukrainians have run out – of ammunition, unwounded soldiers, or even just fighting positions not wrecked by artillery or bombs.

British Defence Intelligence Update Ukraine 18 May 2024
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British Defence Intelligence Update Ukraine 18 May 2024

Latest from the British Defence Intelligence.

Local Russian commanders act intelligently, have searched for Ukrainian weak points and take advantage of them when they can. To the west of Avdiivka, a muddled Ukrainian troop rotation was hit with a Russian assault, breaking up elements of Ukraine’s 115th Brigade and netting the Kremlin more than a kilometer of ground overnight. Isolated Ukrainian strongpoints are outflanked and hit simultaneously from several sides. Initial loads of attacking troops are often less well-trained reservists, while skilled regular army troops carry out follow-up assaults.

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Once the Ukrainians retreat the Russians take aim at another wood line or defensive position 200-500 meters away, and the process repeats itself. From the Ukrainian point of view the most worrying aspect of the Russian attacks is that the Ukrainian military clearly has ways to slow them down, but so far has not shown itself able to stop them completely.  

This handout photograph taken and released by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Service on Nov. 30, 2023 shows Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (C-L) and Colonel General Oleksandr Syrsky (C-R) visiting a Ukraine's army command post in Kupiansk, Kharkiv region. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Feb. 8, 2024 appointed commander of the ground forces Oleksandr Syrsky as the country's new army chief, in a dramatic military shakeup nearly two years into Russia's invasion. (Photo by Handout / UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE / AFP)

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2. Partly, the Russians are advancing faster because the Ukrainians changed strategy and tactics.

In February President Zelensky replaced General Valery Zaluzhny – a hugely-popular officer with both troops and civilians – with Oleksandr Syrsky, a less well-known and older, but also professionally respected officer.

Zaluzhny was most famous for pulling the Ukrainian military together in the early days of Russia’s full-scale invasion, enforcing iron-rigid chain-of-command discipline, and for demanding frontline troops employ hard-core, die-in-place defense tactics that eventually stalled the Russian attacks. He attempted an ambitious counteroffensive in June 2023 that failed against strong Russian defenses, and when Ukrainian lack of progress was clear he took responsibility for the failure, called off the attacks, but often ordered troops to fight to the death to hold even marginal ground gains.

Syrsky’s battlefield tactics, and the junior commanders he has chosen to execute them, have shifted Ukrainian priorities from holding ground to preserving Ukrainian troops and inflicting as many casualties on Russian forces as possible. Drones – instead of artillery or tanks – have become the main strike weapon of the Ukrainian Ground Forces. In defense, the Ukrainian infantry mostly lays low as FPV and bomber drones, sometimes operating in swarms, seek out approaching Russian combat vehicles and even individual soldiers. Artillery and mortar ammunition is saved for quick barrage when the Russians are caught out in the open, hopefully when they hit a minefield. Since mines (like almost everything else) are short in the Ukrainian army, drone operators sometimes wait to see where a Russian attack column is driving, and then dump mines in their path.

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Ukrainian soldier losses are kept relatively low by allowing local commanders to pull troops out of a position before the Russians swamp it, or, if the bombs and shells are coming in too thickly, before the defensive line is plowed up and troops no longer are able to shelter there. Also, the Syrsky-led army places a minimum number of soldiers in forward position, so that overall losses are reduced but, at the same time, accepting that if Russian infantry reaches a Ukrainian position the few defenders might get overwhelmed.

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3. General Syrsky’s strategy and tactics arguably are working, and the Russians are taking brutal losses.

By almost any objective measure – and there are more than a few – the Ukrainian delaying tactics are inflicting vicious casualties on Russian forces. Open-source statisticians reviewing confirmed kill evidence – for the most part battlefield video – estimate that for every Ukrainian tank or armored personnel carrier lost on the battlefield the Russian military loses between three or four combat vehicles. Troop losses are harder to compute, but the Ukrainian military has reported that its internal count of Russian soldiers killed or severely wounded on the battlefield are at an all-time high.

Anecdotal evidence of how that is playing out for the average soldier is limited but seems to confirm that Russian soldiers see themselves as being thrown into repeated, bloody attacks against 24/7 drone swarms. Ukrainian soldiers see themselves as up against massive assaults where, sometimes, there is no option but to retreat from.

Repeatedly, Russian armored attacks have been cut to pieces by Ukrainian drone defenses, but, in a local battle lasting days or even weeks the Ukrainians in the Avdiivka sector have not been able to stop the Russian infantry assaults completely. This means Syrsky’s tactics, though excellent for destroying Russian troops and equipment, have been unable to halt Russian ground advances in sectors where the Kremlin particularly wants “success,” like Avdiivka.

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4. Remember All those weapons Congress Just “Gave” Ukraine? Definitely not in Avdiivka.

After four months of delay, the US Congress approved a new $61 billion arms assistance package to Ukraine, and on April 24, the same day that he signed the aid package, US President Joe Biden also signed off on an emergency delivery of $1 billion of critically needed weapons and ammunition.

Russian troops, a week later, on April 30, in fighting west of Avdiivka took over about six square kilometers of Ukraine’s territory.

Promised American assistance in the April 24 emergency assistance package, that are specifically designed to destroy ground attacks like the ones Russia is making around Avdiivka, included: 155mm artillery rounds (including High Explosive and Dual Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions rounds); 105mm artillery rounds;  60mm mortar rounds; Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles; Tube-Launched, Optically-Tracked, Wire-Guided (TOW) missiles; Javelin and AT-4 anti-armor systems; Precision aerial munitions; Anti-armor mines and Claymore anti-personnel munitions.

Aside from scattered artillery strikes potentially caused by US-made 105mm or 155mm shells, Kyiv Post reviews of battlefield accounts and video geo-located to Avdiivka found no evidence that any of that American assistance had reached the Avdiivka battlefield.

5. The key things to watch are Russian troop losses and Ukrainian artillery shell supplies. Syrsky’s doctrine depends on plenty of firepower.

Ukraine’s European allies likewise have promised Kyiv a great deal of battlefield assistance but been slow to deliver, but in the Europeans’ case the problem appears to have been less Washington-style political wrangling and ineffectiveness, and more logistics and production capacity.

By far, the Western battlefield assistance Ukrainian soldiers ask for the most is artillery ammunition which, were it available in quantity in Avdiivka, would be pounding Russian attack columns the moment they drove out into the open and not stopping until survivors retreated or were crushed.

A Czech-led initiative kicked off in March to give Ukrainian artillery gunners the shells to do that job found plenty of political backing and funding across the continent, and according to news reports once the shells get manufactured and delivered the Ukrainian army shell reserve will receive a million-round backfill. That would probably be more than enough to allow a Ukrainian howitzer more than a couple of or half-a-dozen shells a day, to shoot at the Russians.

The problem is that the shells need to be manufactured in places that don’t normally supply NATO with artillery shells – India, Turkey, South Africa and South Korea have been mentioned most often – and then shipped to Europe, and then shipped to Ukraine, and then delivered to Ukrainian army depots, and then trucked to Ukrainian artillery batteries. The Russian army will be safe from those shells because they won’t be in Ukraine yet, at least until early June, analysts generally agree.

The US military funding bill has hundreds of millions of dollars of seed money baked into it to raise US shell manufacturing capacity eight-fold. The two stumbling blocks there are that a full gearing up will take about three years, and that, since it is government funded, the next Congress or President could decide more shell production capacity in the US is a bad idea.

The Ukrainian strategy under the circumstances has been to try to increase production capacity of its own (not so easy when the Russians are using bombs and missiles to destroy it) and to figure out ways to make do with cheap substitutes to artillery shells, almost always drones, and just inflict the most casualties on the next Russian attack.

Optimists point to Russian assaults around Kyiv and Mykolaiv in 2022, and the Serebryansky Forest and Avdiivka in 2023 as evidence that if the terrain and ammunition allow it, the Ukrainian military is fully capable of making Russian attacks so bloody the Kremlin calls them off. No army can take casualties forever, they argue.

Pessimists also point to Avdiivka, and the fact after six months of failed assaults and heavy losses Russian troops finally prevailed, even though Ukraine told Western allies for more than two years that it needed enough firepower to prevent something like that.

Map published by the Ukrainian military information platform Deep State showing recent Russian ground advances in the Avdiivka sector, May 1. The red-slashed territory is the most recent Kremlin ground gains. Two weeks ago, almost the entire red-shaded area of the map was under Ukrainian army control. The depth of the

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Comments (10)

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Annie Williams
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What an absolute work of fiction from start to finish in this laughable pro government article. Zelensky and his spongebob square pants IQ advisors and generals are spewing out this nonsensical propoganda, painting running away and getting decimated by the Russians as some sort of tactical and strategic master plan!? 🤣.

He is an absolute clown who needs to stand down and go fight at the front

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THE KYIV POST IS FOR PSYCHOTIC LOSERS
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I'm done with this pathetic joke of a website. If the head of the Kyiv Post news room has migrated to the Kyiv Independent, I'm migrating there as well. So long psychotic losers.

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David
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Perhaps a focused counterattack with SAM support against the reservists attacking a designated Ukrainian position. The attack should roughly follow the reservist attack route into Russian held space where a multi pronged attack on experienced Russian units waiting to conduct a follow up attack. Stinger, artillery, and IFV support is essential for success.

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It's Over
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Ukraine doesn't lack artillery or air defense, it lacks soldiers. No one wants to die in Zelensky's suicide war. The only Ukrainians still fighting are those that got suckered into it in the first weeks of the war, or whatever poor meat the commissars kidnap off the street. Once all the nationalist Ukrainian men are dead in ditches, Russia will take everything east of the Dnieper River and Zelensky will sell off western Ukrainian to Blackrock. Maybe they'll import a few million Africans or Muslims to replace the dead Ukrainian men.

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John
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The fear in the MRGA troll ranks is palatable and rising. The list below summarizes what MRGA troll content generally includes. I moved to the top, the troll comment that sounds most similar to what ULE K is saying below. Let's see how many the MRGA trolls will shortly attempt when commenting on this article:



1. Claim that Russia will inevitably win and defeat Ukraine. 

2. Criticize mainstream media covering Ukraine news in an attempt to discredit it.

3. Spread false news about the Ukraine support of allies.

4. Bash President Biden 

5. Praise Donald Trump whose statements and actions generally directly align with the Kremlin’s interests.

6. Insult other Ukraine allied leaders or supporters.

7. Have a standard set of narratives justifying russia's its full-scale invasion and war against Ukraine: fakes narratives about “Nazis in Ukraine,” and “self-defense” against “NATO’s eastward expansion.” 

8. Blame the West and NATO for all wars. 

9. Promote conspiracy theories and disseminating the opinions of “pseudo-experts” about the decline and imminent fall of the United States, the European Union, and the Western world

10. Support protests in democratic nations.



It is an exciting time to be a supporter of Ukraine. The long docile democratic & Ukraine allied juggernaut has finally awakened. Its weapons production rising in step with its growing anger towards the Kremlin gangster regime.

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Ule K.
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Ukraine cannot win the war. We all believed it at the beginning, but we do not believe it anymore. Reality has it that the only war that matters is Israel's. F-16s will solve nothing. Leopards and Abrams MBTs have been abandoned by your troops for Russians to easily capture them. The same will happen with the F-16 if they are ever delivered. One of the countless backstabbers in your ranks will fly one of those to Russia and will be held a hero. It cannot happen any other way. It is cheaper for the Western World to rebuild its weapon stockpiles and prepare in the long run for a NATO-Russia conventional war. You can throw the lives of another half a million of your youngsters to the Russian meat grinder and it will only mean less mouths to feed on your side. We held extremely high expectations on you two years back. We now know your lack of moral integrity to be the backbone of your doom. We are fed of your corrupt oligarchs and government officials stealing from the army and selling weapons in black markets. The solution to this carnage is to allow Russia to keep what it has taken already and set new borders. You will lose the entire country in the end if you continue to fight. It is safer for you to return to your vassal life as in the times of the CIS/USSR. It is your time to give up and survive.

David Steel
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@Ule K., What complete horse shit.

It is Russia who cannot win unless Ukraine kindly gives up and stops fighting - and here you are to beg them to do just that.

Fuck off Russian rat.

Annie Williams
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@David Steel, it must be hard work seeing the Ukraine being beaten on all fronts with your head wedged so far up Zelenskys ass hole?

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David Steel reply
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@David Steel, please reply to Annie. Curious to know how far up Zelenskys asshole your head is.

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John
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The fear in the MRGA troll ranks is palatable and rising. The list below summarizes what MRGA troll content generally includes. I moved to the top, the troll comment that sounds most similar to what what your are saying today: 



1. Claim that Russia will inevitably win and defeat Ukraine. 

(like troll ULE does below)
2. Criticize mainstream media covering Ukraine news in an attempt to discredit it.


3. Spread false news about the Ukraine support of allies.


4. Bash President Biden 


5. Praise Donald Trump whose statements and actions generally directly align with the Kremlin’s interests.


6. Insult other Ukraine allied leaders or supporters.


7. Have a standard set of narratives justifying russia's its full-scale invasion and war against Ukraine: fakes narratives about “Nazis in Ukraine,” and “self-defense” against “NATO’s eastward expansion.” 


8. Blame the West and NATO for all wars. 


9. Promote conspiracy theories and disseminating the opinions of “pseudo-experts” about the decline and imminent fall of the United States, the European Union, and the Western world

10. Support protests in democratic nations.

Let see how many the MRGA trolls will shortly attempt when commenting on this article: 



It is an exciting time to be a supporter of Ukraine. The long docile democratic & Ukraine allied juggernaut has finally awakened. Its weapons production rising in step with its growing anger towards the Kremlin gangster regime.

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Becky
This comment contains spoilers. Click here if you want to read.

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Sussan
This comment contains spoilers. Click here if you want to read.

𝐈 𝐦 𝐦𝐚𝐤𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐨𝐯𝐞𝐫 𝟗-𝐤 𝐝𝐨𝐥𝐥𝐚𝐫𝐬 𝐚 𝐦𝐨𝐧𝐭𝐡 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐤𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐩𝐚𝐫𝐭 𝐭𝐢𝐦𝐞. 𝐈 𝐤𝐞𝐩𝐭 𝐡𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐨𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫 𝐩𝐞𝐨𝐩𝐥𝐞 𝐭𝐞𝐥𝐥 𝐦𝐞 𝐡𝐨𝐰 𝐦𝐮𝐜𝐡 𝐦𝐨𝐧𝐞𝐲 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐲 𝐜𝐚𝐧 𝐦𝐚𝐤𝐞 𝐨𝐧𝐥𝐢𝐧𝐞 𝐬𝐨 𝐈 𝐝𝐞𝐜𝐢𝐝𝐞𝐝 𝐭𝐨 𝐥𝐨𝐨𝐤 𝐢𝐧𝐭𝐨 𝐢𝐭. 𝐖𝐞𝐥𝐥, 𝐢𝐭 𝐰𝐚𝐬 𝐚𝐥𝐥 𝐭𝐫𝐮𝐞 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐡𝐚𝐬 𝐭𝐨𝐭𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐲 𝐜𝐡𝐚𝐧𝐠𝐞𝐝 𝐦𝐲 𝐥𝐢𝐟𝐞..

H­E­R­E O════►►► w­w­w­.­­R­­­­i­­­­c­­h­­­­n­­­­o­­­­w­­0­5­­­­­­­­

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Sasha
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you have to find a way to eliminate the russian commanders

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Edlund
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This is a very good analysis. But it should put more emphasis on the consequences of the six months of stalled US aid. For that matter, Ukraine beat Putin in 2022. Had him retreating from huge swaths of territory. He snuck out of Kherson in November 2022 in the middle of the night with 25,000 men. Then the US dithered about Abrams tanks and ATACMs, so he had time to dig in behind the Dniepro River and to mine everything.

That Ukrainian success and their strategic defense around Avdivka are clear signs that Ukraine can win this war if given the kit. I'm sure they're going to make good use of this $61 billion in new aid. And pretty damn quickly too, I bet! The setbacks this article accurately presents are only temporary.

Ule K.
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@Edlund, You cannot place the blame on the USA or Europe or anyone else. The ones losing the war are the Ukrainians. They need to publicly execute their endless plethora of corrupt governmental officials, tycoons, and oligarchs who have stolen billions from all the assistance already sent to their people. Truth is often unwelcome, but it is truth all the same. Time to grow a thicker skin.

Joseph
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@Ule K., Fuck off Ruzzian rat!

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