April 25, 2024

Institute for the Study of War: Russian forces advance near Avdiivka, threatening Ukrainian tactical positions

Institute for the Study of War

Russian forces are stabilizing their small salient northwest of Avdiivka and may make further tactical gains that could cause Ukrainian forces to withdraw from other tactical positions along the frontline west of Avdiivka to a more defensible line. Geolocated footage published on April 25 indicates that Russian forces advanced into central Solovyove (northwest of Avdiivka) from Novobakhmutivka after likely seizing all of Novobakhmutivka on the night of April 24 to 25. Russian sources claimed that Russian forces seized all of Solovyove on April 25 and advanced up to two kilometers in depth in eastern Novokalynove (northwest of Avdiivka) on the night of April 24 to 25. Russian sources claimed that elements of the 15th Motorized Rifle Brigade (2nd Combined Arms Army [CAA], Central Military District [CMD]) and the Arbat Spetsnaz Battalion made the advances in Novobakhmutivka and Solovyove. Russian forces have committed roughly a reinforced division’s worth of combat power (comprised mainly of four CMD brigades) to the frontline northwest of Avdiivka and appear to be attempting to widen their penetration of the Ukrainian defense in the area following significant advances into Ocheretyne (northwest of Avdiivka) as of April 18. These recent Russian gains northwest of Avdiivka have been relatively quick but still relatively marginal, with Russian forces advancing at most roughly five kilometers in depth since April 18. Russian forces continue offensive operations throughout the frontline west of Avdiivka but have so far only achieved gradual marginal gains west and southwest of Avdiivka.

The recent Russian advances in Novobakhmutivka and Solovyove widen the salient Russian forces are advancing along northwest of Avdiivka and afford Russian forces a more stable position from which to pursue a wider penetration. This salient is roughly two kilometers in width at its widest section, however, and would still be vulnerable to Ukrainian counterattacks should Ukrainian forces stabilize the tactical situation in the area. Ocheretyne notably sits on a junction between the Ukrainian defensive line that Russian forces have been attacking since their seizure of Avdiivka in mid-February 2024 and a subsequent defensive line further west, which Russian sources have identified as a more heavily fortified line. Russian forces could further stabilize their salient northwest of Avdiivka and advance further west of Ocheretyne, making positions along the Berdychi-Semenivka-Umanske line increasingly difficult for Ukrainian forces to hold. The Ukrainian command could decide to withdraw Ukrainian forces further west if it deems Russian tactical gains in the area to be too threatening to current Ukrainian positions. Ukrainian forces withdrew from Avdiivka to relatively poorly prepared defensive positions immediately west of Avdiivka following the Russian seizure of Avdiivka in mid-February and proceeded to slow Russian advances. Positions further west would likely afford Ukrainian forces similar or better opportunities to blunt Russian advances, and Russian forces would likely have to maintain a relatively high tempo of offensive operations to place these subsequent Ukrainian defensive positions under immediate pressure. Russian forces will likely have to replenish and reinforce attacking units northwest of Avdiivka and will likely not be able to maintain the tempo of offensive operations required to rapidly advance west of the Berdychi-Semenivka-Umanske line. Russian forces will likely continue to make tactical gains northwest of Avdiivka, but these gains are unlikely to develop into an operationally significant penetration, let alone cause the collapse of the Ukrainian defense west of Avdiivka.

Russian offensive operations west of Avdiivka aim to exploit opportunities for tactical gains while the Russian offensive operation to seize Chasiv Yar offers Russian forces the most immediate prospects for operationally significant advances. Russian forces in the Avdiivka area remain roughly 30 kilometers from their reported operational objective of Pokrovsk and roughly 17 kilometers from relatively large villages east of Pokrovsk. Even if Russian tactical gains do cause Ukrainian forces to withdraw to positions further west, the current Russian gains northwest of Avdiivka are unlikely to become operationally significant advances in the near term. Russian pressure on Chasiv Yar is more significant. Russian forces currently on the eastern outskirts of Chasiv Yar have been intensifying efforts to seize the city since March 2024. The offensive effort to seize Chasiv Yar offers Russian forces the most immediate prospects for operationally significant advances as the seizure of the town would likely allow Russian forces to launch subsequent offensive operations against cities that form a significant Ukrainian defensive belt in Donetsk Oblast. Russian forces do pose a credible threat of seizing Chasiv Yar, although they may not be able to do so rapidly. Russian forces are likely attempting to seize as much territory as possible before the arrival of US security assistance significantly improves Ukrainian defensive capabilities in the coming weeks, and the Russian military command may be intensifying offensive operations northwest of Avdiivka because the area provides greater opportunities for making more rapid tactical gains despite the relative operational insignificance of those gains.

Key Takeaways:

  • Russian forces are stabilizing their small salient northwest of Avdiivka and may make further tactical gains that could cause Ukrainian forces to withdraw from other tactical positions along the frontline west of Avdiivka to a more defensible line.
  • Russian offensive operations west of Avdiivka aim to exploit opportunities for tactical gains while the Russian offensive operation to seize Chasiv Yar offers Russian forces the most immediate prospects for operationally significant advances.
  • US officials are reportedly worried that the latest package of US military aid to Ukraine may not be enough for Ukraine to regain all of its territory. US military assistance is only part of what Ukraine currently needs, moreover; but Ukraine is itself working to address other war fighting requirements — primarily manpower challenges and the expansion of its defense industrial base (DIB).
  • Russian forces are reportedly fielding drones adapted to be more resilient against Ukrainian electronic warfare (EW) capabilities on critical sectors of the frontline, likely in an attempt to leverage new technological capabilities to exploit a limited window before US security assistance arrives in Ukraine.
  • A prominent Kremlin-awarded Russian milblogger channel announced that it opened a “media school” in the Balkans, likely supporting Kremlin efforts to expand its reach in the international information space.
  • French President Emmanuel Macron emphasized the importance of Europe’s self-sufficiency for its defense and sovereignty during an April 25 speech.
  • Ukrainian forces recently made confirmed advances near Siversk, and Russian forces recently made confirmed advances near Avdiivka and the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin justified Russia’s ongoing efforts to nationalize Russian enterprises, including defense industrial base (DIB) enterprises on April 25.

For full report:  https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-april-25-2024 

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