A Blog by Jonathan Low

 

Feb 19, 2024

The Tactical Decisions That Determined the Avdiivka Withdrawal

The Ukrainian command had a number of options as it evaluated its best course of action at Avdiivka. 

Ultimately Ukraine's lack of artillery ammunition combined with Russian troop reinforcements despite the slaughter to which its troops were subjected led to the decision that Ukraine had inflicted as many casualties on the Russians as it was likely able to do without seeing a rise in its own troops and so the withdrawal was ordered. JL 

Euromaidan Press reports:

The Ukrainian Command evaluated the situation and refused to conduct large-scale counteroffensive operations for four main reasons. The first was the conservation of manpower, as a deep penetration would risk thousands of soldiers' lives. The second was the lack of artillery shells. The third was that Russia reinforced the 40,000 strong Avdiivka Group. Tens of thousands of troops from other directions increased Russian forces to 50,000 despite their losses. The last was the weather conditions. That is why the Ukrainian Command decided to conduct an unblocking operation combined with a withdrawal.

After Ukrainian reinforcements arrived in Avdiivka, many military analysts anticipated a rapid counterattack. The first scenario was a massive flank attack that was meant to slice off the Russian vanguard, the second scenario was to force Russians to overstretch their forces along the contact line, and the last one was the unblocking operation combined with a withdrawal.

The Ukrainian High Command evaluated the situation and refused to conduct large-scale counteroffensive operations for four main reasons. The first reason was the conservation of manpower, as a deep penetration would require risking the lives of thousands of soldiers.

Screenshot from video by Reporting from Ukraine

The second reason was the lack of artillery shells – Ukrainians did not even have enough shells to hold the defense, so conducting a large-scale flank offensive would cost a lot of lives.

 

The third reason was the fact that Russians have reinforced the Avdiivka Group. If you still remember, at the start of the offensive operation four months ago in October, Russians allocated forty thousand troops. According to the Tavriisk Group of Forces Spokesman, Russian forces relocated tens of thousands of troops from other directions to sustain the offensive operation, and right now, Russian forces have about fifty thousand troops here.

The last reason is the weather conditions. Attacking from the north or even along the entire contact line would mean fighting in the fields, which have become increasingly hard to cross. That is why the Ukrainian High Command decided to conduct an unblocking operation combined with a withdrawal.

The decision was not received positively by the Ukrainian soldiers who were hoping to save Avdiivka, as many of them had fought here since day one, however, it was still the right decision. The first step of the operation involved a massive counterattack in the central part of Avdiivka.

Screenshot from video by Reporting from Ukraine

As reported earlier, the newly arrived Ukrainian fighters from the third assault brigade attacked Russian forces south of the railways with Max-Pro armored vehicles with machine guns and temporarily pushed Russians back by around one hundred fifty meters. By taking upon themselves the Russian vanguard, Ukrainians alleviated the pressure on many critical zones and started the process of withdrawal.

The first group of Ukrainian forces that received the order to withdraw was the one that held defense at the water filtration station. As you can see, they were very far from the main Ukrainian positions and were facing attacks from three sides. Before the Ukrainian High Command decided to withdraw, it was beneficial for Ukrainians to hold such positions because they stretched the front line and made it harder for Russians to advance.

Screenshot from video by Reporting from Ukraine

The second group of Ukrainians to withdraw was the one holding an extensive trench network in the vineyards. The last two groups to withdraw were holding virtually an all-round defense on the former air defense base and fortifications under the bridge. The situation here was extremely dire, the order to withdraw was given too late, so Ukrainians incurred losses during withdrawal and had to leave six wounded soldiers on the base.

Screenshot from video by Reporting from Ukraine

Ukrainian Tavriisk Group of Forces Commander admitted that several Ukrainians were taken captive. According to some Russian sources, there are two thousand Ukrainians in the southern part, while according to others, there are up to three thousand troops. Russian analysts also claimed that up to thirty percent of Ukrainian forces have already been evacuated. Russian sources claimed that, in total, there are no more than eight thousand Ukrainians in the Avdiivka direction. Given that there are fifty thousand Russians in the same area, Russians outnumber Ukrainians six to one.

Screenshot from video by Reporting from Ukraine

After the Ukrainian reinforcements conducted a successful counterattack, the Russians intensified their assaults even more. A Ukrainian fighter from the twenty-fourth battalion reported that Russians now use assault groups consisting of up to fifty soldiers, which they have not seen even during the peak heat of the Battle for Bakhmut. This, combined with the devastating Russian artillery and airstrikes, allowed Russians to regain control over the highway and even move beyond it into the fields. According to the latest updates, Ukrainian fighters from the third assault brigade assumed their positions in Lastochkine and conducted a number of drone strikes, followed up with counterattacks.

Screenshot from video by Reporting from Ukraine

The fighters reported that they also destroyed a huge Russian column north of Avdiivka, which saved Lastochkine and gave Ukrainians up to three days of relative freedom of movement.

Screenshot from video by Reporting from Ukraine

This was confirmed in the latest report of prominent Russian analysts, which stated that Ukrainian supply lines were not cut off, and Ukrainians continued to move through the gully

Screenshot from video by Reporting from Ukraine

The Ukrainian Tavriisk Group of Commander stated that his main goal right now is to continue conducting a successful withdrawal to the previously prepared defensive positions.

Screenshot from video by Reporting from Ukraine

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