October 14, 2023

Institute for the Study of War: High Russian casualties due to ‘human wave’ tactics in Avdiivka offensive 

Institute for the Study of War

US and Ukrainian officials reported on October 12 and 13 that they anticipated the Russian offensive operations around Avdiivka and expressed confidence in Ukrainian defenses. US National Security Council Spokesperson John Kirby reported on October 13 that the new Russian offensive operations near Lyman and Avdiivka “did not come as a surprise.” Kirby stated that the US is confident that Ukrainian forces will repel these Russian attacks. Kirby also reported that Russian forces appear to be using human wave tactics, wherein the Russian military uses masses of poorly trained and equipped Russian soldiers to attempt to advance – the same practice Russian forces used during their failed winter offensive in winter 2023. ISW has additionally observed Russian forces using higher than usual numbers of armored vehicles in ongoing operations. Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) Representative Andriy Yusov similarly reported on October 12 that Ukrainian forces knew about and prepared for the Russian attack near Avdiivka and that Russian forces did not form sufficient reserves to attack along the entire frontline, but only in certain sectors. Several Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian mines are slowing Russian advances near Avdiivka, indicating Ukrainian prior preparations for the attack.

The Russian information space remains divided on the prospects of Russian successes near Avdiivka and on current Ukrainian capabilities. Geolocated footage published on October 13 indicates that Russian forces marginally advanced north of the waste heap north of Avdiivka. Additional geolocated footage published on October 14 indicates that Russian forces also advanced south of Avdiivka. Some Russian sources claimed on October 13 and 14 that Ukrainian defensive fortifications pose a significant challenge to Russian advances around Avdiivka. Some Russian sources indicated that Russian problems with medical support are also impeding Russian advances in the Avdiivka area. One Russian source claimed on October 12 that there is a shortage of surgeons in occupied Horlivka and Donetsk City near Avdiivka and called on Russian doctors to travel to the front to help treat wounded Russian soldiers. Ukrainian Tavriisk Group of Forces Spokesperson Colonel Oleksandr Shtupun similarly stated on October 14 that the majority of Russian casualties in the Avdiivka direction are due to low-quality medical treatment and local hospitals reaching capacity.

Other Russian milbloggers continued to praise Russian offensive efforts on October 13 and 14 and reiterated the Kremlin’s desired narrative that the Ukrainian counteroffensive is over. One Russian milblogger warned that Russian officials and sources have likely dismissed the Ukrainian counteroffensive too quickly and noted that it is too early to determine if the Russian attacks near Avdiivka will develop into an organized offensive operation.

Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations in eastern and southern Ukraine on October 14 and advanced west of Donetsk City. Geolocated footage published on October 14 indicates that Ukrainian forces advanced north of Marinka (just west of Donetsk City). Ukrainian and Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces continued to attack Russian positions on Bakhmut’s southern flank. A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces marginally advanced west of Robotyne (10km south of Orikhiv) towards Rivne (24km southwest of Orikhiv) in western Zaporizhia Oblast.

Key Takeaways:

  • US and Ukrainian officials reported on October 12 and 13 that they anticipated the Russian offensive operations around Avdiivka and expressed confidence in Ukrainian defenses.
  • The Russian information space remains divided on the prospects of Russian successes near Avdiivka and on current Ukrainian capabilities.
  • Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations in eastern and southern Ukraine on October 14 and advanced west of Donetsk City.
  • The Russian Black Sea Fleet (BSF) will maintain some vessels at its main Sevastopol naval base amid Ukrainian strikes on Russian vessels, as the Russian Navy’s main dry dock on the Black Sea is in Sevastopol.
  • Armenia ratified the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) Rome Statute on October 14, obliging Armenia to arrest Russian President Vladimir Putin if he enters Armenia due to the ICC’s outstanding arrest warrant, directly after Putin’s efforts on October 13 to claim that the Russia-Armenia relationship is not deteriorating.
  • Ukrainian forces will reportedly begin training on F-16 fighter jets in the US next week.
  • Russian forces conducted offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line, in the western Donetsk-eastern Zaporizhia Oblast border area, and in western Zaporizhia Oblast and advanced in some areas.
  • Relatives of Russian mobilized men and recruited prisoners continue to complain that the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) and the Russian military command are mistreating troops on the frontlines – especially on the Kupyansk-Svatove line.
  • Russian officials and occupation authorities continue to establish patronage programs between Russian federal subjects and occupied areas in order to integrate occupied territories into Russia.
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