Putin scales up attack on key town in eastern Ukraine as three dead in drone strikes on Russia

By Isaac M October 12, 2023

Vladimir Putin’s forces have launched the “largest-scale offensive action” in eastern Ukraine’s Avdiivka town since the start of Russia’s invasion.

The major push on the battlefield comes after Avdiivka witnessed two days of intense fighting as Russian tanks and equipment were seen moving towards Ukrainian lines. Major attacks, including hundreds of rocket and artillery strikes on the town, have been underway since Tuesday.

“This is the largest-scale offensive action in our sector since the full-fledged war began,” said Vitaliy Barabash, the head of Avdiivka administration.

Russia is pouring in a large number of troops and equipment in the region as they look to wrest the town from Kyiv, Ukrainian military officials said.

The flare-up comes as drone attacks killed three people, including a child, in Russia’s Belgorod region and injured another two, regional officials said. The Russian defence ministry blamed Ukraine for carrying out the attack. Belgorod governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said debris from a drone downed by Russia’s anti-aircraft units damaged several houses and cars in the region.

Mr Barabash said while the situation in Avdiivka on Wednesday was not quite as heated as the day before, battles have continued.

Nearly two dozen attacks were made on the town’s old district and others in the city centre.

A group of up to three Russian battalions with tanks and armoured vehicles support intensified operations near Avdiivka, the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said.

It said 10 enemy attacks on the town had been repelled. Russian accounts of the situation in Avdiivka also suggested fighting had intensified, but claimed its forces had “improved their position in the immediate outskirts around Avdiivka”.

Avdiivka was retaken by Ukraine last month in a successful counteroffensive push in the east, but is facing the same fate as Bakhmut as it remains under siege for months now. Most of the town has been reduced to rubble.

Russia’s gains around Avdiivka have been limited to the southwest of the town and its troops have not managed to complete an operational encirclement of the settlement, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said.

Mr Putin’s forces will likely struggle to encircle the town if that is their intent, said the US-based think-tank monitoring the war.

It said Avdiivka is “notoriously well-fortified and defended Ukrainian stronghold, which will likely complicate Russian forces’ ability to closely approach or fully capture the settlement”.

Any hypothetical capture of the town will not offer Russia new routes to the rest of the Donetsk oblast as Russian forces already control critical segments of the nearby highway and routes, it said.

The territorial control of the region, however, could be a bonus for Ukraine.

“Russian forces likely intend attacks in the Avdiivka area to fix Ukrainian forces and prevent them from redeploying to other areas of the front. However, Ukrainian officials have already identified the Avdiivka push as a Russian fixing operation, and they are unlikely to unduly commit Ukrainian manpower to this axis,” the ISW said in its latest assessment.

Ukrainian gains elsewhere along the frontline and on the battlefield continued on Wednesday as the General Staff said its forces were successful in the east of Klishchiivka and Andriivka near Bakhmut.

The tactical positions held by Ukrainian forces were improved in the west of Robotyne, another critical battlefield zone in Zaporizhzhia oblast, the Ukrainian general staff and Tavriisk group commander Brigadier General Oleksandr Tarnavskyi said.

In southern Ukraine, Russian forces were pushing their attacks “sometimes using infantry and in some areas deploying quite a lot of vehicles into battle”, said Oleksandr Shtupun, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s southern group of forces.

Now in its fifth month, Ukraine’s counteroffensive has two major battle zones as Kyiv’s troops look to secure areas around Bakhmut.

They aim to retake the town and recapture villages in the south in a drive towards the Sea of Azov to sever a Russian land bridge between positions Moscow holds in the south and east.

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