A Blog by Jonathan Low


Mar 17, 2024

Russia's "Unprepared Reserves'" Post-Avdiivka Assaults Fail Vs Ukraine Defenses

Russian losses at Avdiivka were so severe that some units attempting to continue attacking had to be withdrawn because they had lost operational effectiveness. The Russian command then attempted to use operational reserves, some of which were completely untrained. Mobile Ukrainian strike forces disrupted Russia's attempts at replacement and reinforcement.

This gave Ukraine time to strengthen its defenses around Avdiivka so that when Russia resumed its assaults, its troops and their equipment were decimated. The implication is that Ukraine has degraded Russia's long term offensive capabilities, especially as it is reportedly having trouble replacing the soldiers it has lost with new recruits. JL 

The Euromaidan Press reports:

Russian forces "completely lost momentum," failing to cross the Durna River before Ukrainians established cohesive defensive lines stabilizing the front. This was unexpected because Ukraine's Durna defense line was considered weak. Mobile Ukraine strike forces conducted raids to disrupt the Russians. That Kremlin forces had to switch from offense to defense led to a slowdown in Russian attacks. Russian forces had to deploy unprepared reserves. As revealed by captured documents, some Russians sent to attack were mobilized just eight days prior to the assault. That some deployed units were in the midst of reconstitution means Ukraine is undermining long-term Russian offensive capabilities.

Today, there are a lot of important updates from the Avdiivka direction in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk Oblast.

Screenshot from a Reporting From Ukraine video.

Here, the most intense clashes are taking place right in front of Avdiivka, and the further Russians have gone, the harder it became for them to gain ground. In fact, the moment the Russians reached the Durna River, Russian forces completely lost momentum, giving Ukrainians a perfect opportunity to retake the initiative.

Screenshot from a Reporting From Ukraine video.

This is somewhat unexpected because both Ukrainian and Russian analysts speculated that the Ukrainian defense line along the Durna River is underdeveloped and too weak to receive oncoming Russian offensive operations.

Nonetheless, the Institute for the Study of War assessed that Russian forces failed to seize the opportunity and cross the river before Ukrainians could establish more cohesive and harder-to-penetrate defensive lines. As a result, Ukrainians gradually stabilized the frontline, consolidated control over the new defensive positions, and unlocked the possibility of conducting counterattacks.

Russian sources reported that the Ukrainian Command decided to deploy reinforcements into the region and claimed that these mobile independent strike forces conduct rapid raids to dislodge Russians from newly captured positions. The fact that Russian forces had to switch from a purely offensive stance to a semi-defensive lead to a significant slowdown in the pace of the Russian operations.

What complicated the Russian advancements even more was the local geography, especially in the central part of the region. The geography of the region reduced the versatility of attack vectors and forced Russians to operate within very narrow pathways between the rivers.

Screenshot from a Reporting From Ukraine video.

Moreover, to assault Ukrainian positions along the river, Russians were forced to overextend themselves by having to move through the vast fields.

Ukrainian fighters from the Third Assault Brigade released combat footage showing Ukrainians detecting and destroying Russian assault units with cluster munitions en route. Since very few assault units managed to get to the Ukrainian positions intact, the intensity of the Russian attacks naturally decreased.

Screenshot from a Reporting From Ukraine video.

The rapidly changing dynamics forced Russians to adjust their tactics if they wanted to continue moving forward. The first thing that Russians did was shift their focus to the northern part of the defense line.

Screenshot from a Reporting From Ukraine video.

Here, Russian forces did not have the limitations in the form of the rivers and gullies, which gave them more room for maneuver. What is more, by breaching the Ukrainian defense in Berdychi, Russians would be able to attack Ukrainians from two sides and slice of the Ukrainian defense much more easily.

The second thing Russians did was adapt to Ukrainian counterattacks by deploying basically suicide units. These units would try to penetrate the Ukrainian defense as deep as possible, entrench themselves, and hold an all-round defense to draw Ukrainian troops, buying Russians in the back some time to consolidate control over the grey zone. These units were usually too far from the rest, with no prospects of receiving supplies or reinforcements.

Screenshot from a Reporting From Ukraine video.

In order to get so far behind the contact line, Russians deployed multiple armored fighting vehicles that rushed at full speed towards the settlement. As you can see, most of these vehicles did not manage to get too far and were immobilized or destroyed by the artillery.

Russian armored vehicle stuck in a crater near Berdychi, Avdiivka area, Donetsk Oblast. Screenshot from a Reporting From Ukraine video.

Other footage revealed the consequences of one of such assaults for the Russian infantry, showing dozens of corpses scattered across the field.

Screenshot from a Reporting From Ukraine video.

The freshest reports from this region indicate that in order to avoid losing the initiative to Ukrainian counterattacks completely, Russian forces started deploying their valuable operational reserves. The commitment of the operational reserves to sustain the movement towards the tactical-level objectives means only one thing – the Russian detachments that lost their combat capability due to losses are sent to the front line without being fully reconstituted with fresh troops, reducing the overall quality of the striking groups.

This has already resulted in a series of disastrous assaults. Ukrainian fighters from the 47th Mechanized Brigade released a video showing how Russians attempted to enter Berdychi from the south. As revealed later by the documents, some of the soldiers that were sent into this suicidal attack were officially mobilized just eight days prior to this assault.

The assault unit consisted of three armored fighting vehicles and around forty troops. The first vehicle was hit by Ukrainian artillery already in the fields.

Screenshot from a Reporting From Ukraine video.

The second vehicle suffered the same fate on the approach to the village.

Screenshot from a Reporting From Ukraine video.

One vehicle managed to get Russian troops to the outskirts, where Russians immediately tried to assume positions in as many buildings as possible.

Screenshot from a Reporting From Ukraine video.

Unfortunately for Russians, Ukrainians sent a Bradley into the region the moment the Russian assault was detected.

Ukrainians arrived on time and opened fire from the machine gun while Russian troops were still dismounting. As a result, the whole Russian assault unit was completely liquidated.
Overall, Russians underestimated the level of preparedness of the Ukrainian defense line in front of Avdiivka.

Screenshot from a Reporting From Ukraine video.

Ukrainian forces managed to put the Russian advancement to a halt and even ramp up the number of counterattacks in the region to the point where the Russian command was forced to deploy operational reserves.

The fact that the deployed detachments were in the middle of reconstitution means that Ukrainians are undermining the long-term Russian offensive capabilities, which should lead to even greater stabilization of the front line.


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