February 15, 2024

Institute for the Study of War: Russian gains threaten Ukrainian hold on Avdiivka

Institute for the Study of War

Russian forces are conducting a tactical turning movement through Avdiivka likely to create conditions that would force Ukrainian troops to withdraw from their positions in the settlement. Ukrainian forces have yet to fully withdraw from the settlement and continue to prevent Russian forces from making gains that are more significant than the current incremental Russian advances. Geolocated footage published on February 15 indicates that Russian forces recently advanced to the southern outskirts of the Avdiivka Coke Plant in northwestern Avdiivka. Additional geolocated footage published on February 15 indicates that Russian forces captured a Ukrainian fortified position south of Avdiivka that has long been a Russian sub-tactical objective, and Russian milbloggers widely claimed that Russian forces effectively encircled nearby Ukrainian positions south of Avdiivka. Recently geolocated Russian advances indicate that Russian forces have cut the last road in Avdiivka connecting southern and northern Avdiivka, but Ukrainian Tavriisk Group of Forces Spokesperson Dmytro Lykhoviy stated that Ukrainian forces are currently using prepared secondary ground lines of communication (GLOCs) to supply Ukrainian forces in southern and eastern Avdiivka. Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces made further advances west of Avdiivka in an effort to cut dirt roads that Ukrainian forces are using to supply positions in Avdiivka from Lastochkyne and Sieverne (both west of Avdiivka), although ISW has not yet observed any confirmation of these claimed Russian advances. Lykhoviy acknowledged that Ukrainian forces are withdrawing from unspecified positions in the Avdiivka area but stated that Ukrainian forces also continue to recapture some unspecified positions from Russian forces. The spokesperson for a Ukrainian brigade previously deployed to the Bakhmut area stated on February 15 that elements of the brigade redeployed to Avdiivka and are counterattacking Russian positions within the settlement. Russian forces may be able to complete the envelopment of some Ukrainian forces if the Ukrainian forces do not withdraw or conduct successful counterattacks.

Key Takeaways:

  • Russian forces are conducting a tactical turning movement through Avdiika likely to create conditions that would force Ukrainian troops to withdraw from their positions in the settlement. Ukrainian forces have yet to fully withdraw from the settlement and continue to prevent Russian forces from making gains that are more significant than the current incremental Russian advances.
  • The Russian offensive effort to capture Avdiivka underscores the Russian military’s inability to conduct a successful operational envelopment or encirclement in Ukraine.
  • The potential Russian capture of Avdiivka would not be operationally significant and would likely only offer the Kremlin immediate informational and political victories.
  • The Russian command reportedly reorganized the command structures of the Russian grouping of forces in southern Ukraine.
  • Russian forces conducted a relatively larger series of missile strikes against Ukraine on the night of February 14 to 15.
  • Ukrainian security forces reportedly conducted a successful drone strike against an oil depot in Kursk Oblast.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to elaborate on an amorphous ideology for Russia to support geopolitical confrontation with the West by attempting to portray Russia as the leader of an international anti-Nazi movement.
  • Putin intentionally misrepresented a statement from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in an attempt to promote pseudo-history aimed at denying Ukrainian statehood.
  • Russian sources claimed that the Russian military officially removed Russian Black Sea Fleet (BSF) Commander Admiral Viktor Sokolov and replaced him with the BSF’s Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Sergei Pinchuk.
  • Select members of the US-led coalition the Ukraine Defense Contact Group (also known as the Ramstein format) formally launched an air defense coalition and agreed to form a drone coalition and demining coalition to support Ukraine following the group’s 19th meeting in Brussels on February 14.
  • NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced that NATO and Ukraine will create a joint analysis, training, and education center in Poland following the meetings of NATO Defense Ministers in Brussels on February 15.
  • Russian forces recently made confirmed advances near Kupyansk, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the Uralvagonzavod plant in Sverdlovsk Oblast, one of Russia’s largest tank producers, on February 15 to promote Russian efforts to expand Russia’s defense industrial base (DIB).
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