October 21, 2023

Institute for the Study of War: Russia presses assault on Avdiika despite heavy losses of personnel and equipment

Institute for the Study of War

Ukrainian forces have likely repelled another intensified Russian offensive effort towards Avdiivka in the past several days and inflicted further heavy personnel and equipment losses on Russian troops in the area. Ukrainian and Russian sources indicated that Russian forces mounted another offensive push on Avdiivka between October 19 and 20, and geolocated footage posted on October 21 confirms that Russian forces did make marginal gains northwest of Avdiivka in the waste heap area. Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces are gradually advancing north of Avdiivka near the waste heap towards Berdychi (5km northwest of Avdiivka). A Ukrainian military observer noted that Russian forces are attacking towards Stepove (3km northwest of Avdiivka), towards Novokalynove (7km north of Avdiivka), and towards the waste heap from the Krasnohorivka-Vesele area. However, Ukrainian military officials noted that Russian forces have somewhat decreased the pace of offensive operations near Avdiivka on October 21, and reiterated earlier Ukrainian reporting that Russian forces lost 50 tanks, 100 armored vehicles, and 900 personnel during attacks on Avdiivka on October 19. Estonian Defense Forces Intelligence Center Head Ants Kiviselg notably identified the Avdiivka push as a potential avenue for a new Russian offensive alongside offensive operations along the Kharkiv-Luhansk Oblast border. The fact that Russian forces continue to recommit waves of personnel and equipment to offensive efforts in the Avdiivka area suggests that Russian command will continue to prioritize this axis, despite high losses and the general low quality of Russian forces on the offensive. A Ukrainian military official noted that Russia’s regular infantry and tactics writ large are “consistently bad” and that Russian forces are relying instead on unmanned aerial systems (such as Lancet drones), artillery, and aviation. It appears that Russian forces are continuing to use ineffective and costly tactics in offensive efforts near Avdiivka leading to high personnel and vehicle losses, and that they have continuously done so in several waves of attacks over the past week suggests that the Russian military command is prioritizing this axis, despite continued and growing losses.

Russian forces are struggling to interdict Ukrainian efforts to supply and reinforce newly captured positions on the east (left) bank of Kherson Oblast. BBC Russia Service reported on October 21 that Ukrainian personnel involved in ground operations on the east bank stated that they are fighting to take full control of Krynky (30km northeast of Kherson City and 2km from the Dnipro River). Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces maintain positions in Krynky, but disagreed about the extent of these positions. A prominent Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces advanced up to almost two kilometers south of Kyrnky. Another milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces control all of Krynky, although a different milblogger directly refuted this claim and claimed that Russian forces pushed a Ukrainian sabotage and reconnaissance group out of positions on the southern outskirts of the settlement. Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces are firing on Ukrainian positions near the Antonivsky roadway bridge north of Oleshky (7km south of Kherson City and 4km from the Dnipro River) and the Antonivsky railway bridge north of Poyma (10km southeast of Kherson City and 4km from the Dnipro River). One milblogger claimed that there were combat engagements near Krynky and Pishchanivka (12km southeast of Kherson City and 3km from the Dnipro River), although most Russian sources claimed that Russian forces are primarily using aviation and artillery units to try to dislodge Ukrainian forces from positions on the east bank. Select Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces are evacuating wounded personnel and transferring new forces and light equipment across the Dnipro River to support positions on the east bank. Ukrainian forces have maintained a presence on the east bank since starting larger-than-usual ground operations on the night of October 17–18, suggesting that Ukrainian forces have been able to adequately supply and reinforce the groups conducting these operations despite increased Russian aviation activity along the Dnipro River.

Key Takeaways:



  • Ukrainian forces have likely repelled another intensified Russian offensive effort towards Avdiivka in the past several days and inflicted further heavy personnel and equipment losses on Russian troops in the area.
  • Russian forces are struggling to interdict Ukrainian efforts to supply and reinforce newly captured positions on the east (left) bank of Kherson Oblast.
  • Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations near Bakhmut and in western Zaporizhia Oblast on October 21.
  • Russian forces may be diversifying the mix of missiles, guided bombs, and drones used in strikes on Ukrainian rear areas, likely in an attempt to find gaps in Ukrainian air defenses ahead of further strikes over the winter.
  • Disgraced Moscow City Duma Deputy Yevgeny Stupin formally requested on October 20 that the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) investigate Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin for “divulging state secrets.”
  • Russian forces continued offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, near Avdiivka, southwest of Donetsk City, in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area, and in western Zaporizhia Oblast and advanced in various sectors of the front.
  • The Russian federal government is reportedly taking steps to rectify some discrepancies in the treatment of personnel in irregular and regular formations.
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