October 12, 2023

Institute for the Study of War: Russia launches a major offensive against Avdiivka in Donetsk

Institute for the Study of War

Russian forces likely launched a significant and ongoing offensive effort around Avdiivka, Donetsk Oblast on October 10. ISW observed Russian forces simultaneously attacking northwest, west, and south of Avdiivka using armored assault groups, rotary wing aircraft, and concentrated artillery starting on October 10. Avdiivka City Military Administration Head Vitaliy Barabash indicated that Russian forces are carrying out assaults with air support in 10 to 12 directions around the settlement. Ukrainian military observers framed Russian offensive operations against Avdiivka as a “major attack” and noted that Russian forces used an unusually high number of armored vehicles in combat. Russian forces’ increased use of armored vehicles and aviation – alongside persistent simultaneous ground attacks – indicates that Russian forces are conducting an offensive effort more significant in scope and intent than ISW previously assessed on October 10 and October 11. ISW is revising its assessment that Russian attacks around Avdiivka are local efforts intended solely to fix Ukrainian forces but is not prepared to assess the exact objectives and likely outcome of Russian efforts in the Avdiivka direction at this time.

Russian forces have not secured any major breakthroughs near Avdiivka as of October 12 and are unlikely to immediately cut off Ukrainian forces in the city. ISW estimates that Russian forces have captured 4.52 square kilometers of territory from different directions around Avdiivka since October 10 and that Russian forces are 3.32km away from a Ukrainian ground line of communication (GLOC) along the O0562 highway from the south and 5.25km from the north of Avdiivka, and Russian claims of advances beyond these distances are likely overstated. Russian sources claimed that Russian forces are attempting to create a cauldron around Ukrainian forces in Avdiivka, but quickly acknowledged that current advances are slow. Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) Head Denis Pushilin claimed that it is too early to discuss a “full-scale [Ukrainian] exodus from the city” despite some Russian advances in the area. A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces have already advanced 12km in the Avdiivka direction despite geolocated footage indicating only that Russian forces made limited advances northwest, south, and west of Avdiivka as of October 12 and did not immediately threaten Ukrainian forces with encirclement. Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces gained additional ground on a waste heap on Avdiivka’s northern flank near the Avdiivka Coke Plant; seized a section of a railroad south of Avdiivka; and advanced around the city, but ISW cannot confirm these claims at the time. Russian sources also claimed that Russian forces destroyed the Ocheretyne railway station (13km northwest of Avdiivka), which they claimed supports Ukrainian logistics to Avdiivka.

Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations near Bakhmut and in western Zaporizhia Oblast and reportedly advanced in both sectors of the front on October 12. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces achieved some unspecified successes east of Klishchiivka (7km southwest of Bakhmut) and east of Andriivka (10km southwest of Bakhmut). Ukrainian Eastern Group of Forces Spokesperson Captain Ilya Yevlash stated that Ukrainian forces are continuing offensives in the Bakhmut direction and have advanced several hundred meters in unspecified areas. The Ukrainian General Staff and Ukrainian Tavriisk Group of Forces Spokesperson Colonel Oleksandr Shtupun reported that Ukrainian forces improved their tactical positions west of Robotyne.

Key Takeaways:

  • Russian forces likely launched a significant and ongoing offensive effort around Avdiivka, Donetsk Oblast on October 10, and ISW is revising its initial assessment these attacks are a limited effort to fix Ukrainian forces.
  • Russian forces have not secured any major breakthroughs near Avdiivka as of October 12 and are unlikely to immediately cut off Ukrainian forces in the city.
  • Geolocated footage indicates that Russian forces have likely lost at least a battalion tactical group’s (BTG’s) worth of armored vehicles in offensive operations around Avdiivka.
  • The Russian information space is likely exaggerating the degree of Russian successes on the Avdiivka front and will continue to do so despite military failures or a slow pace of advance.
  • Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations near Bakhmut and in western Zaporizhia Oblast and reportedly advanced in both sectors of the front on October 12.
  • Russian “Vostok” Battalion Commander Alexander Khodakovsky advocated for Russian forces to freeze the frontlines in Ukraine in order to replace exhausted mobilized personnel with fresh contract servicemen and launch a renewed offensive effort.
  • Russian forces conducted a series of drone strikes across Ukraine, targeting port infrastructure in southern Ukraine and critical infrastructure in Kharkiv Oblast on the night of October 11 to 12.
  • Russian forces conducted offensive operations near Kupyansk, along the Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, near Avdiivka, around Donetsk City, in the Donetsk-Zaporizha Oblast border area, and in western Zaporizhia Oblast and advanced in some areas.
  • Russian Security Council Deputy Chairperson Dmitry Medvedev stated on October 12 that the Russian military has recruited more than 357,000 contract, volunteer, and conscripted military personnel since January 1, 2023.Ins
  • Russian authorities continue to persecute religious communities in occupied Ukraine as part of ongoing Russian efforts to destroy the Ukrainian identity.
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