Ukraine Situation Report: Russia’s Localized Offensive “Failing,” Ukraine Claims

It’s now been 600 days since Moscow launched its all-out invasion of Ukraine and one of Kyiv’s top commanders has declared that one of Russia’s biggest offensives in months is failing. With claims that the Russian offensive aimed at the town of Avdiivka, north of the city of Donetsk, is stalling, the fact remains that Ukraine’s own counteroffensive is also in difficulty, a reality that the same commander accepted.

Speaking to the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper, Col. Dmytro Lysyuk, who heads up the 128th Separate Mountain Assault Brigade of the Ukrainian Ground Forces, said he was convinced that the Russian Army would not now achieve the breakthrough it was looking for in Avdiivka.

A Ukrainian soldier with an SPG grenade launcher in the direction of Avdiivka as the war between Russia and Ukraine continues at the frontline Donbas in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine. Photo by Ercin Erturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Four days ago, we reported that, while heavy fighting continues there, there were indications that Russia had already sustained significant losses while, at the same time, making only limited progress. The Russian offensive at Avdiivka has involved thousands of soldiers supported by heavy armor, artillery, and attack helicopters. The aim of the operation appeared to be the encirclement of a pocket of Ukrainian troops.

Were Russia to take the territory in and around Avdiivka, they would be able to link up with Russian-held territory surrounding the city, on the eastern Donbas front.

Reports suggest that Russia committed at least three Russian battalions, each with around 2,000-3,000 troops when they launched an assault on Avdiivka early last week. Accounts from there, supported by videos, apparently indicate that Russia has lost large numbers of tanks, artillery, and personnel in the assault, although these claims cannot be confirmed.

According to the Guardian article, at least 36 Russian tanks and other armored vehicles were destroyed in the first 24 hours. The Kyiv Post now reports that Russia has lost 102 tanks and 183 armored vehicles, with 2,840 troops killed.

Col. Lysyuk noted that Russia had sent a long column of fighting vehicles into battle, ending in failure. Some of the videos that have emerged from Avdiivka also appear to show tactics of this kind, including one in which the lead tank falls off a pontoon bridge and ends up in a river.

“The Russians should have realized this a long time ago,” said Lysyuk, in reference to those tactics. “They have not managed to achieve even tactical success.”

Today, the Ukrainian General Staff said that its forces had repelled 15 Russian attacks against Avdiivka from four directions, over the previous 24 hours, although this cannot be independently verified.

Col. Lysyuk also provided some interesting details of the ways that Ukraine has changed its own tactics.

He described using teams of eight soldiers, backed up by a 12-person evacuation team, supported by accurate firepower. In this way, the units have been able to advance “100-500 meters a day” — equivalent to 109-547 yards. These “small group” formations have been used instead of heavy armor, which has proven vulnerable.

In particular, the 128th Brigade has struggled with Russian minefields, extensive defensive trench networks, and first-person view (FPV) drones carrying explosive payloads.

Col. Lysyuk said that the enemy still had an advantage in terms of its numbers of troops, as well as its electronic warfare and reconnaissance equipment.

While the 128th Brigade still uses Soviet-era T-72 tanks and 2S1 self-propelled artillery, Lysyuk’s men have received Western anti-tank weapons, mortars, and night-vision equipment.

Col. Lysyuk’s account provides some valuable insight into one unit’s travails in the ongoing counteroffensive, launched back in June. While there has been no shortage of criticism from some quarters about the pace and effectiveness of the counteroffensive, it’s clear that there is still optimism among Kyiv’s fighters and that tactics have been adjusted to better deal with Russia’s deep defenses and its own war plans.

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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Outside of Avdiivka, fierce fighting continues in the adjacent Zaporizhzhia region, in southeast Ukraine. Apparently taken on October 14, the video below shows all that was left of a Russian T-80 main battle tank, purportedly the victim of a Ukrainian drone strike. What little is left of the tank suggests that the drone triggered a catastrophic detonation of the ammunition that is stored directly underneath the turret. This has become an all-too-common feature of Soviet-era tank designs in the conflict.

Meanwhile, in northeast Ukraine, the commander of Ukraine’s Ground Forces, Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrskyi, has said that Russia hopes to break through Ukrainian defenses in the Kupiansk-Lyman sector of the front line, according to a Reuters report.

In footage posted on Telegram, Syrskyi said that fighting in the Kupiansk-Lyman sector had “significantly escalated.”

“The enemy is preparing, seriously preparing for offensive actions, bringing in staff,” Syrskyi added. “The main goal is to break through our troops’ defenses and recapture our territory.”

Ukrainian forces recaptured the city of Kupiansk and nearby areas almost a year ago, but Russian forces have since gone on the attack in the region again.

The Kremlin has confirmed that China will be the Russian President Vladimir Putin’s destination for his first trip outside the former Soviet Union since a warrant for his arrest was issued by an international criminal court. Back in March, the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague issued a warrant for Putin, over Russia’s deportation of children from Ukraine.

President Putin will meet his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, in Beijing for talks on Wednesday. Ahead of that, Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs arrived in the Chinese capital today.

Putin sought to strengthen relations with China immediately ahead of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 although Beijing’s position since then has been more ambivalent. While blaming NATO enlargement as the reason for Russia starting the war, China has also stressed respect for Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

In related news, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov has claimed that most of Russia’s drones are currently being sourced from China. Likely referring to the kinds of commercial and hobbyist-type drones that can be bought off the shelf, Siluanov said that, in response, Russia will invest more than $618 million on a new project to kickstart the development of domestic drone manufacturing.

“We are spending additional money on drones — and more than 60 billion roubles on a new national project to develop our own drone base,” said Siluanov. “The task is that 41 percent of all drones by 2025 should have the label ‘Made in Russia’. Today, drones are mainly from the People’s Republic of China. Drones have played a major part in the war in Ukraine, being used for attacks and reconnaissance.”

It seems the country’s own industry is already being forced to adapt to the reality of the conflict, and its demand for drones, at least according to Russian media accounts — although it may well not be exactly what Siluanov had in mind.

The following video, broadcast on Russian state TV, shows a bakery in Tambov that has apparently switched from fresh bread to drones. At one stage, the TV presenter observes a conveyor belt, on which a line of baked goods gives way to quadcopter-type drones, although exactly how this transformation has taken place remains generally unclear if not outright suspicious.

Multiple reports from news organizations and think tanks alike, as well as statements from the White House, say that North Korea is now shipping large quantities of ammunition to Russia. This comes after Kim’s visit to Russia where he met with Putin and a widely expected arms deal between the two.

Russia getting supplied by North Korea is highly troubling in multiple ways. North Korea can mass produce artillery shells as their defensive strategy relies very heavily on artillery and they had to become self sufficient at producing ammo for their Soviet calibers. The artillery tide was just starting to turn where Ukraine out-fired Russia on a daily basis, too. Now that North Korea is in play, it’s unlikely that will remain the case.

It also points to the larger issue of North Korea getting very close to Russia and raises the question of what they will get in return for the ammo? Fighter aircraft seems to be that the top of Pyongyang’s list. You can read all about this situation in this recent piece of ours.

According to Ukrainian accounts, reported by Reuters, Russia launched five missiles and 12 suicide drones into Ukraine overnight. The Ukrainian Air Force said that it shot down two of the missiles, which were launched against the northern and eastern regions of the country. The missiles included both Iskander-M short-range ballistic missiles and air-launched Kh-59 series standoff missiles.

The air force also said that it shot down 11 of the drones, which were Iranian-designed Shaheds. Most of them were reportedly sent toward objectives in western Ukraine.

In the eastern region of Poltava, the local governor, Filip Pronin, said the region had been attacked by drones and missiles, leaving three civilians hospitalized. “Fortunately, no civilian or critical infrastructure was hit,” Pronin wrote on Telegram. “However, missile fragments damaged several private homes,” he added.

In its latest intelligence update on the conflict, the U.K. Ministry of Defense says that Redut, a purported private military company, is now recruiting mercenaries to fight in Ukraine, including former personnel from the notorious Wagner Group. The mercenaries are being recruited under the guise of “volunteers”, the U.K. Ministry of Defense claims.

Posting on X, formerly Twitter, the U.K. Ministry of Defense wrote: “The Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate likely supervises and finances the group’s activities, including its recruitment. Since the start of the invasion, Redut has been involved in combat operations in Donetsk, Kharkiv, Kyiv, and Luhansk oblasts. The group highly likely has over 7,000 personnel… It is a realistic possibility that the Russian Ministry of Defence’s practice of recruiting through ‘volunteer’ units has contributed to Russia avoiding further unpopular mobilizations.”

To finish today’s coverage, some high-quality video showing one of the many types of Western-supplied armored vehicles now being used in Ukraine, namely a Canadian-donated Roshel Senator. This 4×4 armored car is based on a Ford F-550 chassis and is designed to offer protection against small arms fire. While originally developed for peacekeeping and law enforcement activities, the Senator can also be used as an armored personnel carrier. Reportedly, 330 examples of the Senator were supplied to Ukraine starting in May 2022.

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

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Thomas Newdick

Staff Writer

Thomas is a defense writer and editor with over 20 years of experience covering military aerospace topics and conflicts. He’s written a number of books, edited many more, and has contributed to many of the world’s leading aviation publications. Before joining The War Zone in 2020, he was the editor of AirForces Monthly.