February 16, 2024

Institute for the Study of War: Ukrainian troops begin withdrawal from Avdiivka

Institute for the Study of War

Ukrainian forces have begun to withdraw from Avdiivka, and Russian forces appear to be focused on complicating or preventing a complete Ukrainian withdrawal. Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi stated early in the morning Ukrainian time on February 17 that he ordered Ukrainian forces within Avdiivka to withdraw to more favorable defensive positions in order to avoid encirclement and save the lives of Ukrainian personnel. Syrskyi’s announcement comes after several confirmed Russian advances on the outskirts of Avdiivka in the past 24 hoursGeolocated footage published on February 16 indicates that Russian forces advanced further south along Hrushevskoho Street on Avdiivka’s western outskirts and south of the Avdiivka Coke Plant in northwestern Avdiivka, made marginal gains in dacha areas in northeastern Avdiivka, and captured the Avdiivka City Park in central Avdiivka. The Ukrainian Tavriisk Group of Forces acknowledged earlier on February 16 that Ukrainian forces withdrew from an established fortified position south of Avdiivka and that Ukrainian forces are withdrawing from unspecified positions to new prepared defensive positions. Ukrainian officials reported that Ukrainian forces are transferring reinforcements to the area to stabilize the situation and further degrade attacking Russian forces. It is normal practice to bring in reinforcements to function as a receiving force that can allow withdrawing units to reconstitute behind prepared defensive positions. Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces are withdrawing en masse and that Ukrainian withdrawals are becoming increasingly chaotic and costly. ISW has not observed any visual evidence of large or chaotic Ukrainian withdrawals, however, and the continued marginal rate of Russian advance in and around Avdiivka suggests that Ukrainian forces are currently conducting a relatively controlled withdrawal from Avdiivka.

Ukrainian forces may have to conduct counterattacks to conduct an orderly withdrawal from Avdivika, and Russian efforts to complicate or prevent a Ukrainian withdrawal may become increasingly attritional. Ukrainian forces may have to stabilize the frontline by counterattacking in the area where Russian forces are trying to close the encirclement of Ukrainian forces in Avdiivka in order to conduct an orderly withdrawal. A Ukrainian brigade that recently redeployed to conduct counterattacks within Avdiivka stated on February 16 that it has recently helped Ukrainian forces render elements of the Russian 74th Motorized Rifle Brigade (41st Combined Arms Army [CAA], Central Military District [CMD]) and the 114th Motorized Rifle Brigade (Donetsk People’s Republic [DNR], 1st Army Corps [AC]) combat ineffective. Further Russian gains within Avdiivka aimed at complicating the Ukrainian withdrawal and Ukrainian counterattacks covering withdrawing Ukrainian forces will likely result in further Russian losses. Russian forces would likely struggle to advance west of Avdiivka towards secondary prepared positions to which Ukrainian forces are withdrawing and would likely suffer considerable losses if they decided to frontally attack these Ukrainian positions across open fields. Russian forces likely aim to complicate or prevent the Ukrainian withdrawal in hopes of inflicting operationally significant losses on Ukrainian forces in the area, since the capture of Avdiivka itself would not offer any operationally significant benefits or avenues for operationally significant advances.

Key Takeaways:

  • Ukrainian forces have begun to withdraw from Avdiivka, and Russian forces appear to be focused on complicating or preventing a complete Ukrainian withdrawal.
  • Ukrainian forces may have to conduct counterattacks to conduct an orderly withdrawal from Avdivika, and Russian efforts to complicate or prevent a Ukrainian withdrawal may become increasingly attritional.
  • Germany and France both signed bilateral security agreements with Ukraine on February 16.
  • NATO officials are increasingly warning that Russia poses a significant threat to NATO’s security.
  • Independent Russian survey data suggests that most Russians are largely apathetic towards Russia’s war in Ukraine, particularly Russians who have not personally lost family members in Ukraine and are thus able to avoid thinking about the war entirely.
  • The Russian reaction to the reported death of imprisoned opposition politician Alexei Navalny on February 16 was relatively muted.
  • Russian forces recently made confirmed advances along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, northwest of Bakhmut, and near Avdiivka.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to posture himself as an involved and effective wartime leader.
  • Russian-controlled courts in occupied Ukraine continue to pass harsh sentences on Ukrainian prisoners of war (POWs).

Full report: https://understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-february-16-2024 

Share the Post: