Russia Switching Up Tactics in Bid To Topple Avdiivka: Ukraine

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Russian forces are upping the number of armored vehicles bearing down on Avdiivka, according to a senior Ukrainian commander, in an apparent switch of tactics as Moscow’s onslaught on the embattled Donetsk town passes the 5-month mark.

Russian forces are “increasingly adding armored groups to assault infantry groups” around Avdiivka, Brigadier General Oleksandr Tarnavskyi, the head of Ukraine’s Tavria group of forces covering Avdiivka, said on Sunday.

Russia launched its offensive around Avdiivka on October 10, triggering thousands of deaths on both sides just ahead of the grueling winter season settling in across Ukraine. Moscow has made slow but steady gains around the industrial settlement in the months since.

However, Russian vehicle losses quickly became a defining part of the Kremlin’s attacks on Avdiivka.

Two Ukrainian soldiers on October 26, 2023, in Avdiivka, Ukraine. Russian forces are upping the number of armored vehicles bearing down on Avdiivka, according to a senior Ukrainian commander.

Vlada Liberova/Libkos via Getty Images

Russian forces switched to infantry-led attacks around Avdiivka to “conserve armored vehicles following the first two waves of assaults on the settlement,” the U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) think tank said in mid-December.

Newsweek has reached out to the Russian Defense Ministry for comment via email.

Tarnavskyi previously shared footage appearing to show an image of Russian military vehicles littering the fields around Avdiivka.

“We see the enemy’s goal—to capture Avdiivka, Novomykhailivka and the territories [Russia] lost last summer at any cost and as soon as possible,” Tarnavskyi said on Sunday.

Russia took control of the small village of Marinka in late December, southwest of Avdiivka. Ukraine’s grasp around Novomykhailivka, a settlement just south of Marinka, “will significantly deteriorate” now that Russia controls the settlement, former Ukrainian Colonel Serhiy Hrabsky previously told Newsweek.

Seizing Avdiivka would allow Moscow to greatly expand its logistical operations, jeopardize Ukraine’s operations against Russian positions in the regional capital, Donetsk City, and could pave Russia’s path to Kostyantynivka—a “quite important stronghold,” Hrabsky added.

Russian forces lost 458 troops, nine tanks and 11 armored fighting vehicles on the section of the front line around Avdiivka in the past day, Tarnavskyi said. Ukraine “repelled” 33 attacks around the town in same time frame, plus 35 more assaults around Marinka, the Ukrainian military said early on Sunday.

Tarnavskyi said on Saturday that Russia was attempting to cut off Ukraine’s logistical supply lines on the northern flank of Avdiivka.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Sunday that Ukrainian forces along the Donetsk front line had lost 325 personnel, one tank and two armored combat vehicles in the past 24 hours.

Western analysts were initially optimistic about Ukraine’s chances of holding Avdiivka. The town, perched on the northwestern outskirts of the regional capital, Donetsk City, has weathered a decade on the front line of fighting, and was seen as a Ukrainian stronghold.

Despite the heavy costs, Russia has slowly but surely gained territory, working to encircle Avdiivka.

Prominent Ukrainian journalist Yuriy Butusov said earlier this week that Russia was just 1,200 meters (3,940 feet) from “the entrance to the city” of Avdiivka. “The destruction is extensive,” he said in a post to messaging app Telegram.

Russian forces had advanced in southern Avdiivka in recent days, the ISW, said on Saturday.