Ukraine Situation Report: Multiple Russian Attacks On Avdiivka Repulsed

Russian losses continue to mount, but they continue to press home relentless attacks on the critical eastern Ukrainian city of Avdiivka.

byThomas Newdick|
Ukrainian Armed Forces Grad MLRS rocket artillery BM-21
Photo by Ozge Elif Kizil/Anadolu via Getty Images
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Fighting continues to rage around the eastern Ukrainian city of Avdiivka, where Russia launched a bloody new offensive earlier this month. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the situation in Avdiivka and the nearby town of Maryinka was “particularly tough.” However, multiple accounts so far suggest that Russia has suffered heavy losses in terms of manpower and equipment, without making significant gains. Meanwhile there are reports of Russia committing yet more personal to the offensive.

President Zelensky described “numerous Russian attacks” in the Avdiivka area but noted that “Our positions are being held. Every day, we need results for Ukraine, to withstand Russian assaults, to eliminate occupiers, to move forward. Whether it’s a kilometer or 500 meters, but forward, every day.”

A soldier of the 59th Motorized Brigade of the Ukrainian Armed Forces prepares to open fire on Russian positions with Grad rockets — as seen also at the top of this story. The Ukrainian Armed Forces were conducting operations to target trenches of Russian forces through the Donetsk region in the direction of Avdiivka, on October 20, 2023. Photo by Ozge Elif Kizil/Anadolu via Getty Images

It’s clear, meanwhile, that the Russian offensive focused on Avdiivka is unrelenting.

In the United Kingdom, the Guardian newspaper stated that Moscow’s forces have been making “a series of desperate and bloody lunges at the shattered town of Avdiivka,” while Reuters reported Sunday that Russian forces were maintaining “unrelenting pressure” on the city, while also intensifying their shelling in the southern region of Kherson.

According to Reuters, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces say that their troops have repelled almost 20 Russian attacks around Avdiivka. In the process, however, much of the city has been reduced to rubble and, according to the same source, Russian airstrikes have also hit nearby villages.

Vitaliy Barabash, head of the administration in Avdiivka, said, in quotes that were carried by the Irish Times: “Firefights rage around the clock. The enemy is trying to throw in very large amounts of armor and servicemen. Their losses are insane but it doesn’t stop them at all, new attacks begin all the time.”

“Logistics are very difficult. Twenty-two kilometers [of road] to the city are constantly under fire, day and night. It greatly complicates evacuation and bringing in humanitarian aid. All logistics go along one road. Of course, the enemy is trying to cut it,” Barabash added.

The offensive aimed at Avdiivka is part of the Kremlin’s strategy of containing the Ukrainian counteroffensive that was launched in early June. Ukraine is apparently pinning hopes on its own forces holding onto Avdiivka, from where they could potentially move to recapture the Russian-held Donetsk and perhaps also more of the Donbas region.

“It is true that Avdiivka has significance,” Andriy Yusov, spokesperson for the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense’s intelligence directorate told the Ukrainian Espreso TV news outlet. “This is not the first instance the occupying forces have boosted tension with declarations of taking over all of Donetsk and Luhansk … Their plans have failed, the deadlines pushed back. This is just another episode of tension.”

The situation in Avdiivka is also closely connected to what’s happening in the Kherson region, another focal point of the fighting in eastern Ukraine.

A year ago, Russian forces withdrew from Kherson, with tens of thousands of troops retreating to the eastern bank of the Dnipro River. That left Ukrainian forces better situated to continue to move toward Crimea, although Moscow has since held positions elsewhere in the Kherson region.

Now, the U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War stated that Ukrainian forces in Kherson have crossed from their (western) side of the Dnipro River to take up new positions from where they can pursue Russian forces. At the same time, Russia has continued to shell the western bank, with particularly heavy artillery assaults reported over the weekend.

The regional governor in Kherson, Oleksandr Prokudin, claimed that several villages had been struck by artillery, together with transport infrastructure and food production sites in the city of Kherson.

In the village of Stanislav, also in the Kherson region, overnight on 22 October, a Russian attack was said to have damaged over 30 houses, though no casualties were reported.

Russia has said only that the Ukrainian Armed Forces has attempted unsuccessful crossing attempts of the Dnipro. Meanwhile, Moscow claims that it has conducted successful operations against Ukrainian positions further to the east, around the city of Bakhmut. In turn, Ukrainian officials report that Russian attacks on villages near Bakhmut killed at least two people on Sunday.

Generally, official Russian accounts have made little to no mention of what’s taking place in Avdiivka, but a spate of videos posted to social media in recent days suggest that there may well have been more heavy Russian losses.

Meanwhile, Vladimir Rogov, a Russian-installed official in an occupied part of the Zaporizhia region, claims that a Ukrainian counterattack near Avdiivka has been defeated.

“The day before yesterday, the enemy tried to stop our successes near Avdeevka and even tried to organize a counterattack,” Rogov said. “But everything ended unsuccessfully for him, and our units, judging by the work of artillery and aviation, are preparing for the next jump.”

Before getting into the rest of the latest news from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can get caught up with our previous rolling coverage here.

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The Ukrainian unit known as Kraken has apparently been especially busy in the fighting of late — at least as far as can be ascertained from the flurry of videos purporting to show its forces fighting in an area around Kupyansk, in the Kharkiv region. These videos also reveal the use of some interesting and diverse Western-supplied equipment by Kraken troops, including the Turkish-made Otokar Cobra II armored vehicle and the U.S.-made Scorpion 120mm self-propelled mortar mounted on a modified Land Cruiser off-road chassis.

More evidence of the destruction of Russian armored vehicles is provided in the following videos, for which the locations and dates cannot immediately be verified.

Last Saturday saw a Russian missile strike against a postal distribution center in the Kharkiv region in northeast Ukraine. Local authorities have now announced that six people — all postal workers — were killed in the attack. Another 17 people were left injured, seven of them now in a serious condition.

The facility hit was the Nova Poshta depot, in the village of Korotych on the outskirts of Kharkiv city, according to regional governor Oleg Sinegubov.

“The victims, aged between 19 and 42, received shrapnel wounds and blast injuries,” he said, according to a report from AFP.

An eyewitness description of the strike came from Sergiy Nozhka, another Nova Poshta worker. He said that a missile “flew into the neighboring depot, but at ours too — the windows and shutters flew out. This is not the first time.”

“Russian missiles hit the Nova Poshta center, an ordinary civilian object,” said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. “We need to respond to Russian terror every day with results on the front line. And, even more so, we need to strengthen global unity in order to fight against this terror.”

Ukrainian accounts say that the missile strike used S-300 surface-to-air missiles, adapted for a land attack role, and fired by Russian troops in the Belgorod region north of Kharkiv. Two of the missiles are said to have hit the warehouse.

“Debris analysis continues at the site in order to establish the exact number of injured and dead,” office spokesperson Dmytro Chubenko told Ukraine’s state broadcaster Suspilne.

The U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Bridget Brink, took to X, formerly Twitter, to condemn the attack in Korotych, stating that “The Kremlin’s disregard for life is for all the world to see.”

According to the Ukrainian Air Force, the country’s air defenses were much more effective overnight, destroying what it says were all 14 drones and a single cruise missile launched by Russia against its territory.

The Ukrainian Air Force announced today on the Telegram messaging app that air defenses shot down 13 Iranian-designed Shahed kamikaze drones, one other unidentified drone, and one air-launched Kh-59 series standoff missile.

Most of these were launched against targets in the south and east of Ukraine, with nine Shaheds coming down over the southern region of Odesa alone. This region is home to Ukraine’s main Black Sea ports. Local governor Oleh Kiper wrote on Telegram that no one was reported injured, but that a warehouse in the port of Odesa was damaged.

Attacks against Odesa, and against Black Sea ports and grain infrastructure in general, have been stepped up since Moscow withdrew in July from the U.N.-brokered deal that had permitted Ukraine to ship its grain exports via the Black Sea.

Outside of the Odesa region, overnight Russian attacks were also directed against the regions of Kherson in the south, Donetsk in the east, and Sumy in the northeast, according to the Ukrainian Interior Ministry.

The successful tally claimed by the Ukrainian Air Force was attributed by a spokesperson, at least in part, to Western-supplied air defense systems.

“Western weapons have proven and continue to prove their effectiveness on the battlefield,” Mykola Oleshchuk, the commander of the air force, stated on Telegram. No details were provided of the particular weapons used overnight to down the Russian drones and missiles, although the Ukrainian Air Force today also published footage of the U.S.-made HAWK surface-to-air missile system in action, apparently the first time this has been seen. You can read our separate report about that here.

Russia, too, is reporting recent successes for its air defenses against Ukrainian strikes. According to a Russian official, three Ukrainian missiles were shot down yesterday in an attempted attack on Russian-occupied Crimea.

Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the U.S. Senate has provided what looks like firm backing to President Joe Biden’s planned $106-billion aid proposal for Israel and Ukraine. McConnell said that he and Biden were “in the same place” on the issue.

The move will come as a relief to the Biden administration, which had faced the possibility of a Senate Republican push for two separate packages, for Israel and Ukraine.

In a letter written to McConnell last week, nine Republican senators said: “These are two separate conflicts, and it would be wrong to leverage support of aid to Israel in an attempt to get additional aid for Ukraine across the finish line.”

In an interview with CBS, McConnell rejected that argument and said:

“I view it as all interconnected. If you look at the Ukraine assistance, let’s — let’s talk about where the money is really going. A significant portion of it’s being spent in the United States in 38 different states, replacing the weapons that we sent to Ukraine with more modern weapons. So we’re rebuilding our industrial base.”

“No Americans are getting killed in Ukraine. We’re rebuilding our industrial base. The Ukrainians are destroying the army of one of our biggest rivals. I have a hard time finding anything wrong with that. I think it’s wonderful that they’re defending themselves.”

The U.K.’s Ministry of Defense has provided its latest assessment of total Russian casualties since the start of the Kremlin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The defense ministry believes it’s likely that Russia has suffered permanent casualties of between 150,000 and 190,000. In this context, permanent casualties are those either killed or permanently wounded. Adding the numbers of temporary wounded — personnel who have recovered and returned to combat duties — raises that figure to between 240,000 and 290,000, the U.K. Ministry of Defense said.

As the tweets below make clear, however, getting troops back to the battlefield also poses a severe problem for Russia, with levels of morale understandably chronically low in some units, at least.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has arrived in Iran for talks with regional counterparts, Russia’s Ministry of Foreign confirmed today. The ministry posted to X a photo of Lavrov disembarking his plane in Tehran.

According to Iran’s official IRNA news agency, Lavrov has talks planned with his counterparts from Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Armenia. Likely most critical for the war in Ukraine will be Lavrov’s meeting with Iranian officials, however, with Tehran already established as one of the primary supporters of Russia’s offensive in Ukraine. In particular, Iran has provided Russia with large quantities of drones, with concerns that Iranian ballistic missiles could be on their way to the battlefield.

Russia and Ukraine have been making extensive use of drones in the conflict so far, with many of those being provided by China, or at least containing a significant proportion of Chinese-made components. In particular, Chinese off-the-shelf drones have proven highly popular, both for surveillance as well as for launching strikes — as seen below in a recent hit on a Russian T-80 tank.

Now, Ukrainian officials fear that there could be a drone shortage for its force, due to Beijing announcing restrictions on exports.

The concerns have been mirrored somewhat in Russia, too, where Finance Minister Anton Siluanov recently claimed that most of Russia’s drones were being sourced from China. To address this, Siluanov said that Russia will invest more than $618 million on a new project to kickstart the development of domestic drone manufacturing.

Drones are just one area in which Russia plans significant investment in defense spending in the coming years. In a recent intelligence update, the U.K. Ministry of Defense says that defense budgets will be hiked to meet Moscow’s demands to fund the war in Ukraine, with a knock-on effect likely being increased inflation in Russia.

Posting on X, the U.K. Ministry of Defense said:

The state’s proposed 2024 budget envisages an approximate 68% increase in planned defense spending compared to that allotted for 2023 — this puts defense spending for 2024 at around 6% of GDP. In contrast, education and healthcare spending will be frozen at the 2023 allocation, which amounts to a real-term spending cut due to inflation.”

“More spending will need to be allocated to fund payments and healthcare costs for the mounting numbers of wounded soldiers and the families of those killed in the conflict. More than half of those soldiers wounded severely enough to require longer-term medical care have lost limbs, with one in five requiring upper limb amputations, deputy labor minister Alexei Vovchenko stated last week. These injured soldiers will almost certainly require lifelong healthcare."

While Russia plans to spend more on its armed forces to meet the immediate demands of the war in Ukraine, European nations are also seeing additional defense expenditure to help backfill inventories depleted by arms transfers to Ukraine.

In France, for instance, Minister of the Armed Forces Sébastien Lecornu recently visited the KNDS factory where he saw the first new batch of Caesar self-propelled artillery pieces coming off the line. These Caesars are intended for the French Army to make up for the transfers to Ukraine.

France’s Directorate General of Armaments (DGA) ordered 18 examples of the 6x6 Caesar Mk I in July 2022. An “unprecedented reduction in production times” means that the first of these weapons are ready for delivery, just 15 months later, effectively halving the normal production cycle. Six Caesars are currently being produced each month, compared to two to four before the start of 2022.

In Germany, meanwhile, the Budget Committee of the Bundestag (the federal parliament) has approved the procurement of various weapons, including the Arrow 3 ballistic missile defense system from Israel, primarily driven by concerns about the growing Russian threat.

Also signed off was a reorder of anti-tank mines of a type that has been transferred to Ukraine. The Budget Committee approved the production and delivery of an initial 2,600 Model 22 (PARM DM22) anti-tank directional mines, a weapon you can read all about here. These new mines are scheduled to be delivered beginning in 2026, at an approximate cost of $72.5 million. A framework agreement provides for a possible follow-on order for a further 10,000 units.

“As the Bundeswehr has refocused on national and alliance defense, anti-tank mines have become more important again,” the German Ministry of Defense said in a statement “Anti-tank directional mines are mainly used to secure roads and paths against enemy vehicles.”

There are reports today that the Russian Armed Forces may have accidentally shot down another of their own aircraft. The Fighterbomber channel on Telegram, which has close links to the Russian military, reported that Russian air defenses shot down a Russian Mi-8MTV-5 Hip transport helicopter in a friendly fire incident. “Lately we have to dodge our missiles more and more often,” Fighterbomber commented.

Another photo has appeared that purports to show damage to a Russian Ka-52 Hokum attack helicopter that was sustained during the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) strike against the airbase at Berdyansk a week ago. Once again, the holes punched in the fuselage by the ATACMS submunitions are clearly evident.

Finally, a weapons combination that we have not seen previously in this conflict: a BMW X3 towing a Soviet-era MT-12 100mm anti-tank gun. When and where is not clear, although the SUV appears to be well up to the job — at least as long as it sticks to highways, as seen here.

That is all for now. This story will be updated when there’s more news to report about Ukraine.

Contact the author: thomas@thedrive.com

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