Avdiivka, the other Bakhmout that the Russians seek to encircle
The city, fortified by the Ukrainians since 2014, is struggling with the Russian army, which has advanced in several localities in the North and South to bypass it.
Surround, shell and conquer the adjoining villages. To conquer Avdiivka in the Donbass, 30,000 inhabitants before the war, the Russian army uses the same methods as in Bakhmout, 70 kilometers further north. Its position, which places it high above Donetsk, capital of the oblast (Ukrainian administrative region, Ed) of the same name, is strategic. Moscow, which annexed this oblast even though it only controls half of it militarily, also wants to show that it is capable of protecting its new regional “capital” and loosening the noose around this city of a million people. ‘residents.
But his method, frontal for several months, has not met with the expected success. From now on, the encirclement is privileged to besiege the city which the Russians seek to surround at the same time by the West and by the North. Since January 1, the Russian pincer movement has tightened, as shown in the dark red areas on the map below.
“For five weeks, the Russian army has been developing a real strategy. It should be understood that the area has been fortified since 2014, that it is very high up (with the buildings, editor’s note) and in depth (with several lines of defense, Ed)”, deciphers General (2S) Olivier Kempf. Despite this, to the west of the city, the Russians have conquered the hills north of Vodyane (in dark red on the map, editor’s note) and now dominate Sjeverne, only a few kilometers from Avdiivka. “The Ukrainian rear to the west of the city is less urbanized, and the ground will therefore be more difficult to defend», stresses General Kempf. But to the east and to the north, the Russian tenaille also closes in on a Krasnohorivka-Vesele-Kamianka line. Avdiivka now finds himself half surrounded.
To completely bring down the city, the Russians could cut off supplies. “Avdiivka is mainly supplied by railway and road. Cutting off these accesses would force the Ukrainians to withdraw, as in Severodonetsk (a town in Donbass where the Ukrainians have retreated after a month of fierce fighting, editor’s note)”, adds General Kempf. A method that the Russians are also using in Bakhmout at the moment, although a last road still allows supplies there.
But the Ukrainians could, as in Bakhmout, take advantage of this siege to “to starethe Russian troops, thus preventing them from attacking elsewhere or defending a territory against a Ukrainian counter-offensive announced for the spring. “In this type of siege, a city has the advantage of forcing the adversary to fix their forces and ‘consume’ shells or soldiers“says the general. In Bakhmout, for example, the Russians have lost 10,000 to 15,000 soldiers in Bakhmout since the start of the battle in May, according to Mykhaïlo Podoliak, adviser to the Ukrainian presidency.
To conquer Avdiivka, Russia and its separatist auxiliaries carried out several attempts as early as February 20, four days before the outbreak of “special military operationby Vladimir Putin. But the Russian army has been putting in a lot of resources since last July, bringing in troops that had been assigned to conquer Lyssytchansk, further north in the Donbass. A decision that was not understood at the time. The road to Kramatorsk (Ukrainian capital of Donetsk Oblast since 2014, editor’s note) and Sloviansk was open to them, but they preferred to focus on clearing Donetsk, and therefore taking Avdiivka.
Its conquest would allow the Russians to clear Donetsk, occupied by pro-Russian rebels since 2014 and annexed last September by Russia. During the first Donbass war, the pro-Russian forces, supported by the Russian army, had already tried to conquer the city but were driven out after four months of occupation. Since then, Avdiivka has been fortified in good standing by the Ukrainians and remained an important point of kyiv’s defense system on the front line.
For now, the Ukrainian army is announcing “Russian unsuccessful actionsat Avdiivka, but the encirclement continues, however, surely, albeit slowly. And the spring counter-offensive has not yet arrived.