Russian forces advance towards Avdiivka in Ukraine, pressure on new army chief increases

(CNN) — As the second anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine approaches, and with a new military leadership team in Kiev, Ukrainian troops find themselves on the defensive along the eastern front line.

A series of reports on social media and national television this weekend paint a picture that the Russians have continued to commit large numbers of people to the war and have further intensified their use of drones, which is now clear. They are one of the major weapons. On the battlefield.

Avdiivka, northwest of the city of Donetsk, remains the site of the heaviest fighting as Russian forces advance toward the city center from the north.

The DeepState mapping site has shown a series of Russian advances in recent days and Moscow fighters now taking control of part of the railway line just north of the city station.

The commander of southern Ukraine forces, Oleksandr Tarnavsky, said on Saturday that his logistics teams were still able to bring supplies into the city and that he was deploying new fighters to the battle, as well as setting up additional firing positions.

Nevertheless, the mapping site DeepState suggests that Russian forces may be no more than several hundred meters from the main supply route into the city.

Serhiy Tsykhotsky, an officer with the 59th Separate Motorized Infantry Brigade, told Ukrainian television that Russia was deploying large numbers of troops to the battle for Avdiivka. Many people are being killed, he stressed.

“They don’t forgive their people, so we have a lot of work to do,” he said.

He once again drew attention to the prevalence of drones, saying that in a single day about 70 bombs were dropped from Russian unmanned aerial vehicles on brigade positions in the city.

“Their stocks (of drones) are being replenished, they are constantly improving their unmanned aerial vehicles and they are also using electronic warfare,” he said.

Both sides are engaged in technological competition with each other, developing increasingly sophisticated drones as well as refining jamming capabilities designed to disable incoming UAVs.

Reports from Russian military bloggers paint a similar picture of slow but steady progress by Russian forces inside Avdiivka, although they emphasize that some key locations in the city, including the giant coke plant at the northwestern end of the city Including, they remain in Ukrainian hands.

One such blogger, Boris Rozhin, wrote, “Military officials on the ground are reporting that there is no need to rush into victory speeches.”

Just as Bakhmut had taken on immense symbolic significance a year earlier, when Russian forces captured the city and destroyed it in the process, Avdiivka appears to have taken on a similar meaning.

Located just a few kilometers north of Donetsk airport, captured by Russian forces in early 2015 after months of heavy periodic fighting, Avdeevka has since remained firmly in Moscow’s spotlight. Just weeks before the Russian presidential elections, his potential arrest has taken on even greater significance.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky with Oleksandr Syrsky in the Kharkiv region of Ukraine on November 30, 2023.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky with Oleksandr Sirsky in the Kharkiv region of Ukraine on November 30, 2023. Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Reuters

A challenge for the new boss

What to do with Avdiivka is perhaps the biggest challenge facing Ukraine’s new army chief, Oleksandr Syrsky, who was appointed on Thursday to give the war a new focus.

As commander of the Ground Forces, Syrsky was seen as the main driver behind Ukraine’s decision to defend Bakhmut until the end rather than a prompt withdrawal, as the United States and other allies were reportedly urging. . The decision to continue fighting despite heavy Russian fire earned him a reputation among his troops as a man willing to endure heavy losses.

In his first statement after being named Commander-in-Chief, he acknowledged, at least partially, the need to address that issue, saying: “The life and health of soldiers has always been and will always be the core value. ” Ukrainian Army… Therefore, maintaining a balance between combat operations and the restoration of units and sub-units with intensive education and training of personnel remains more relevant than ever.

However, Syrsky is under pressure from Ukraine’s political leaders to come up with a new plan to avoid a battlefield “stalemate” while not emphasizing too many new recruits, while a new draft law on mobilization makes its way into parliament. Used to be.

His predecessor, Valery Zaluzhny, was ousted for describing the war as a “stalemate” after last year’s long-awaited counter-offensive failed to make significant progress.

President Volodymyr Zelensky was also irritated by Zaluzny’s suggestions that he needed a major mobilization to turn things around. Although the army chief said he had not given any figures, it was linked to the idea that five lakh new soldiers were needed.

Regardless of how many recruits Syrsky requested, evidence from many front-line locations continues to suggest that the increased numbers of Russian troops are making a difference.

East of Kupyansk and on the Oskil River, the northernmost part of the fighting, an army spokesman told Ukrainian television on Saturday that Russian forces were applying pressure.

“The enemy continues to move its reserves to replace those already lost… The enemy is deploying Storm Z units (incarcerated soldiers) and motorized infantry units, supported by artillery and drones. “They are trying to move forward,” the spokesperson said.

In total, he said, Russia had 42,000 men deployed in the area – though not all on the front lines – along with 500 tanks and infantry fighting vehicles.

Chasiv Yar, a town about 15 kilometers west of Bakhmut, is also under heavy pressure. Once again, a local Ukrainian commander reported that the Russians had attacked with “a large force of personnel”.

Army spokesmen also said that Ukraine’s other major shortage today is being keenly felt: low ammunition reserves.

Russian forces attacking from the shore at Chasiv Yar had a “many-fold advantage in the number of bombards”. “We need more shells, thousands and thousands of shells, especially 155 mm shells,” he told national television.

(tags to translate) Russia Ukraine

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