The Strategic Implications of Avdiivka's Capture by Russian Forces

Ukraine T-84 Tank
February 20, 2024 Topic: Security Region: Europe Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: RussiaUkraineWar In UkrainePutinRussian MilitaryAvdiivka

The Strategic Implications of Avdiivka's Capture by Russian Forces

After intense combat, Russian forces have seized Avdiivka and its adjacent coke plant in the Donbas region, both strategic locations since 2014. This development underscores the Ukrainian military's ammunition shortages and highlights the broader struggle for territorial control. Despite this setback, it is assessed that the Russian military lacks the capability for an immediate operational breakthrough beyond Avdiivka, requiring time to regroup

Summary: After intense combat, Russian forces have seized Avdiivka and its adjacent coke plant in the Donbas region, both strategic locations since 2014. This development underscores the Ukrainian military's ammunition shortages and highlights the broader struggle for territorial control. Despite this setback, it is assessed that the Russian military lacks the capability for an immediate operational breakthrough beyond Avdiivka, requiring time to regroup. Meanwhile, Ukraine continues to display resilience, strategically withdrawing to defendable positions while understanding the significance of holding urban centers like Avdiivka and Bakhmut for their strategic and psychological value amidst ongoing conflict in the Donbas.

The Ukraine War: Advantage, Russia? 

After months of fierce fighting, Russian forces captured what remains of the town of Avdiivka in the Donbas.

The capture of Avdiivka highlights ongoing ammunition shortages in the Ukrainian military and the need for more security assistance.

Avdiivka Falls

“Within the past week Russian forces have taken control of Avdiivka as well as the coke plant situated to the north of the town, both of which have been heavily contested since October 2023 and have been on the front line since 2014,” the British Military Intelligence assessed in its latest estimate of the war.

The Ukrainian military has withdrawn its forces west of the town in new defensive positions around Avdiivka. Despite the Russian tactical success, it is unlikely that Moscow will be able to break the Ukrainian defenses in the Donbas and achieve an operational breakthrough. Rather, the fall of the urban center is part of a bloody slugfest between the two militaries.

“It is likely that Russian forces lack the combat effectiveness to immediately exploit the capture of Avdiivka and will require a period of rest and refit. In coming weeks Russia will seek to gradually extend its territorial control beyond Avdiivka,” the British Military Intelligence estimated.

Ukrainian forces have set a pattern of fighting for an urban center for an extended period of time and only withdrawing when their position becomes unattainable. Otherwise, the Ukrainian military leadership has shown a tendency to commit large forces to defend positions, even if operationally and tactically, it doesn’t make much sense. Bakhmut is an example of this. The Ukrainian military could have better defended if it had pulled its forces on the outskirts of the town. But Kyiv understood the strategic and psychological value of defending the town and committed large numbers of troops and resources in its defense.

“Russian forces continue operations in the Donbas, with its primary effort focused on the town of Avdiivka. Russia has been making a concerted effort to seize the town since October 2023, and have made gradual, sustained progress in cutting off the city, with the Ukrainian Armed Forces reinforcing in response,” the British Military Intelligence assessed last week.

Avdiivka isn’t new to fighting. The destroyed town has been at the frontline of the fighting since 2014, when the Russian forces and pro-Russian insurgents first attacked Ukraine. Thus far, the Russian forces have lost more than 400 main battle tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, armored personnel carriers, and support vehicles. In addition, the Russian forces have lost tens of thousands of troops killed or wounded.

But there is action elsewhere in the Donbas. The Kremlin is looking to advance in that region and make a Ukrainian large-scale counteroffensive much harder.

“Further north, Russian forces around Bakhmut continue attacks to the west, almost certainly with the objective of seizing the town of Chasiv Yar. Russia has not been able to advance further beyond Bakhmut since taking control in May 2023,” the British Military Intelligence added.

About the Author  

Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations and a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ). He holds a BA from Johns Hopkins University and an MA from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP. Email the author: [email protected].