October 20, 2023

Institute for the Study of War: Russian forces make marginal gains near Avdiivka but suffer heavy losses of troops and armor

Institute for the Study of War

Russian forces launched a renewed offensive push near Avdiivka on October 20 and marginally advanced, indicating that the Russian military command remains committed to offensive operations in the area despite heavy materiel and personnel losses. Geolocated footage published on October 20 shows that Russian forces secured minor advances west of Krasnohorivka (5km north of Avdiivka). Russian milbloggers and a Ukrainian military observer claimed that Russian forces captured a Ukrainian stronghold near the waste heap just northeast of Avdiivka, advanced to a rail station north of Avdiivka, and advanced near the “Tsarska Okhota” restaurant south of Avdiivka. One prominent Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces unsuccessfully attacked near Sieverne (6km west of Avdiivka), south of Avdiivka, near Stepove (8km northwest of Avdiivka), and near Novokalynove (11km northwest of Avdiivka), however. Other milbloggers claimed that Russian forces advanced up to one kilometer on the Stepove-Berdychi line (8-10km northwest of Avdiivka) on October 19 and that fighting is ongoing near Berdychi on October 20. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian attacks near Avdiivka, Novokalynove, Stepove, Pervomaiske (11km southwest of Avdiivka), and Sieverne.

The Ukrainian General Staff reported on October 20 that Ukrainian forces damaged and destroyed almost 50 Russian tanks and over 100 armored vehicles during the past day of fighting near Avdiivka. Ukrainian soldiers operating in the Avdiivka area reported on October 20 that Ukrainian forces have destroyed 200 Russian armored vehicles in the past four days. Avdiivka City Military Administration Head Vitaliy Barabash stated that Russian forces are attempting to repair damaged equipment while still in the field. Footage published on October 20 shows Ukrainian forces striking a Russian TOS-1 thermobaric artillery system near Avdiivka. A Russian milblogger complained that Russian counterbattery fire near Avdiivka is decreasing in effectiveness due to poor communication and the failure to stockpile munitions ahead of the offensive effort, very likely exacerbating material losses in the area. The initial Russian offensive operations in the Avdiivka area on October 10 also resulted in high verified Russian equipment losses, and the fact that Russian forces regrouped and re-launched assaults after the initial attacks suggests that either Russian forces believe they can feasibly take Avdiivka, or that the Russian military command is poorly prioritizing offensive operations regardless of cost.

Ukrainian forces continued larger-than-usual ground operations on the east (left) bank of Kherson Oblast on October 20 and established a confirmed presence in a settlement on the east bank. Geolocated footage published on October 19 indicates that Ukrainian forces advanced into northeastern Krynky (27km east from Kherson City and 2km from the Dnipro River). Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces are establishing a foothold near Krynky and continue to maintain their presence near the Antonivsky roadway and railway bridges. A prominent Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces temporarily advanced further into Krynky up to the Kozachi Laheri-Krynky-Korsunka road before Russian airstrikes pushed Ukrainian troops back to the northern outskirts of the settlement. Another Russian milblogger claimed that fighting is ongoing near Pishchanivka (14km east from Kherson City and 4km from the Dnipro River) and that a Ukrainian sabotage and reconnaissance group is operating on the southern outskirts of the settlement. The prominent Russian milblogger suggested that Russian forces only maintained positions on the southern outskirts of Pishchanivka as of the afternoon of October 18, and the Ukrainian General Staff reported on October 19 that Russian aviation struck Pishchanivka, implying that Ukrainian forces were still operating in the settlement. ISW has not observed any other visual confirmation of Ukrainian forces maintaining positions in east bank settlements other than Krynky, however.

Key Takeaways:

  • Russian forces launched a renewed offensive push near Avdiivka on October 20 and marginally advanced, indicating that the Russian military command remains committed to offensive operations in the area despite heavy materiel and personnel losses.
  • Ukrainian forces continued larger-than-usual ground operations on the east (left) bank of Kherson Oblast on October 20 and established a confirmed presence in a settlement on the east bank.
  • Russian and Ukrainian sources continue to indicate that the Russian units defending the east bank of Kherson Oblast are relatively less combat effective than other Russian forces elsewhere on the front.
  • Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations near Bakhmut and in western Zaporizhia Oblast but did not make confirmed advances.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the Southern Military District (SMD) headquarters in Rostov-on-Don, Rostov Oblast, on October 19 to discuss the battlefield situation in Ukraine with Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov.
  • Russian forces conducted offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, around Avdiivka, west of Donetsk City, in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area, and in western Zaporizhia Oblast and made limited advances in some areas. 
  • Russian Investigative Committee Head Alexander Bastrykin argued on October 20 that Russian authorities should strip migrants of acquired Russian citizenship if they are unwilling to fight in Ukraine.
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