After losing hundreds of armored vehicles in direct attacks on Ukrainian positions in and around Avdiivka, in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, the Russian Armed Forces are turning to dismounted infantry attacks.
It’s not a bad idea tactically. Ukrainian brigades switched from dismounted attacks to dismounted attacks this summer during their counteroffensive in southern Ukraine and, as a result, advanced ten or ten miles along at least two important axes.
But infantry attacks can be risky when the enemy is entrenched, the weather is wet and cold, and perhaps most dangerously, soldiers on foot do not have good air and artillery support.
Yes, the Russian Air Force is dropping more cluster bombs on Avdiivka, as well as dropping more heavy glide bombs. But it is not clear that the Air Force is coordinating these strikes with the infantry. In switching to foot attacks without to support With these attacks, Russian brigades and regiments may have condemned thousands of infantry to death on foot rather than in their vehicles.
Russian forces first attacked Avdiivka in mid-October, just as the Ukrainian counteroffensive in Zaporizhzhya and Donetsk Oblasts slowed. The Kremlin’s goal is clear: to seize a Ukrainian stronghold located a few miles from the city of Donetsk, the center of the Russian occupation of the surrounding eastern region.
Day after day, week after week, brigades of the 2nd Combined Arms Army and other Russian field armies launched company- and battalion-sized attacks on Avdiivka. Repelled by mines, artillery and drones, the brigades quickly redirected their attacks to Avdiivka’s flanks.
In response, the Ukrainian General Staff deployed the 47th Mechanized Brigade on Avdiivka’s northern flank, and the 53rd Mechanized Brigade on its southern flank, and directed at least two artillery brigades to support the 47th and 53rd Brigades as well as the exhausted 110th Mechanized Brigade, which had garrisoned Avdiivka itself for more than a year without rest. .
The terrain around Avdiivka is mostly flat fields surrounded by tree lines and railways, and to the north, overlooked by a long, barren pile of industrial waste that abuts a sprawling coke plant. There’s not much cover. Just getting to the starting point of an attack on Ukrainian positions would require the Russians to face a miles-long gauntlet of Ukrainian drones and artillery.
Russian vehicle losses were staggering in those first few weeks when attacks were largely vehicle-borne. The British Ministry of Defense said: “Over the past three weeks, Russia has likely lost around 200 armored vehicles during its attacks on the town of Avdiivka in Donbas.” mentioned On November 4th. At the same time, the losses of Ukrainian vehicles were very low.
The ministry added that Russia’s staggering losses “are likely due to a combination of the relative effectiveness of modern Ukrainian anti-armor weapons, mines, drone-dropped munitions, and precision artillery systems.” In the Battle of Avdiivka both sides fired cluster munitions at the other, but these munitions work best against an exposed force – and in and around Avdiivka, it is the Russians who are at risk.
Even Russia, with its vast reserves of vintage vehicles dating back to the Cold War, cannot afford to continue losing these vehicles at a rate of hundreds per week throughout Ukraine. Perhaps in a nod to the Ukrainians’ success in dismounted infantry attacks in Zaporizhia and Donetsk this summer, the Russians began blocking their surviving vehicles and, instead, sending in their infantry on foot.
“In contrast to the first month of attacks, Russian forces are using fewer vehicles in smaller numbers,” according to Ukrainian analysis group Frontiliens Insight. male. “There is a marked increase in the use of small tactical groups, constantly moving into the same areas despite previous losses.”
So far, it’s not working well. “We advanced towards the coke plant [in northern Avdiivka]He covered another hundred meters in the face of enemy fire.” mentioned. Shock groups also advanced from the right [southern] A side of the village [of] Stepovo is on the north side.
“We were able to eliminate the enemy with two landings. Here the advance amounted to several hundred metres, but it was achieved with great effort.
“Major effort” in this case means potentially thousands of casualties in the bloody fields around Avdiivka. The British Ministry of Defense stated: “It is plausible that Russia has suffered several thousand casualties across the city since the beginning of October 2023.”
To put this into perspective, 70,000 Ukrainian soldiers died in the first eighteen months of Russia’s broader war on Ukraine, while 120,000 Russians died in the same period. This depends August report by New York times. This means that about 3,900 Ukrainians and 6,700 Russians die every month on average.
But these casualty figures relate to a 600-mile-long front. In October, three or four thousand Russians died In one continuous attack on one city.
Ultimately, Russia’s shocking losses may not matter. The British Ministry of Defense explained that “the Russian leadership continues to demonstrate its willingness to accept heavy personnel losses to achieve marginal territorial gains.”
It was this willingness to send thousands of men to their deaths, and the unwillingness of Russian society to object to this bloodshed, that proved decisive in the Russian attack on Bakhmut last spring. That battle also cost the Russians thousands of casualties. But they persisted and eventually captured the city’s ruins.
But the fighting power that the Kremlin deployed in Bakhmut was a fighting power that it could not deploy anywhere else. It is no coincidence that the outnumbered Ukrainians were able to break through Russian defenses in the south this summer and liberate several important settlements. Russian fortifications were daunting everywhere, but Russian manpower was unevenly distributed.
Likewise, it was no coincidence that Ukrainian Marines were able to cross the Dnipro River in southern Kherson Oblast at the same time that the Russians were losing entire battalions in doomed attacks on Avdiivka. The Russians could have reinforced the front line on Dnipro. But they were busy dying outside Avdiivka.
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