Russia launches renewed frontline attacks as top Ukrainian general warns of a hard year ahead

By Isaac M December 28, 2023

Russia appears to have launched a renewed attack on a key eastern Ukrainian town as Kyiv’s top general warned that without the supply of more weapons, the Kremlin could destroy key positions on the front line.

Geolocated footage has shown dozens of Russian vehicles advancing north of Avdiivka, a Ukrainian town on the front line in the eastern region of Donetsk.

The Institute for the Study of War confirmed that Russian forces had made gains northwest, southwest and southeast of Avdiivka over Christmas and Boxing Day.

Russia has spent months attempting to take the eastern city, launching multiple waves of mechanised assaults using hundreds of vehicles and thousands of men.

A Ukrainian police officer takes cover in front of a burning building that was hit in a Russian airstrike in Avdiivka

(AP)

Thus far, the troops have made only minor gains, measured in single kilometres and, at times, mere metres, all the while incurring significant losses in materiel and men.

General Oleksandr Tarnavsky, head of the Tavria group of Ukraine’s military, which oversees Avdiivka, claimed that as many as 20,000 Russian soldiers had been killed or wounded in the last three months since the assault on the city was ramped up.

But the general also admitted that the situation in Avdiivka is extremely difficult.

He said that the Kremlin is constantly increasing its efforts to take Avdiivka, and believes that the Russian military has prioritised taking the eastern city in 2024.

His comments came as Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu claimed that Kremlin forces had taken the nearby city of Marinka after months of heavy fighting.

While that claim was disputed by Ukrainian officials, Ukraine’s military commander-in-chief General Valery Zaluzhny admitted that Russia had destroyed the city.

Ukrainian general Valery Zaluzhny says Russia has the power to destroy entire cities in Ukraine next year

(AFP via Getty)

The strategic value in gaining Marinka and Avdiivka is questionable, but recent successes suggest that Russia has seized the initiative at least on parts of the front line.

These successes are underscored by growing concern that the failure of Ukraine’s Western allies to send additional military support to Kyiv could lead to further Russian gains in 2024.

Earlier this month, Republican politicians in the US blocked a $61bn (£48bn) military support package proposed by the Biden administration for Ukraine.

In Europe, the Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban, an ally of Vladimir Putin, has blocked billions in additional military aid to Ukraine as well as a €50bn (£43bn) financial assistance package.

Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban, an ally of Vladimir Putin, has blocked further European Union aid to Ukraine

(Sputnik)

Borja Lasheras, a special adviser on Ukraine to the European External Action Service, the European Union’s foreign and defence policy arm, told The Independent that these obstructions meant there would be no substantial military support for Kyiv for the first three to six months of 2024.

“This gap significantly worries me,” he said. “Ukrainians need ammunition desperately.”

John Foreman, who served as the UK defence attache to Moscow from 2019 to 2022 and to Kyiv in 2014, accused the Western alliance of handcuffing Ukraine.

“Making the Ukrainians fight with one hand tied behind their backs – whether on land, sea or air – has provided time and space for the Russians to regroup,” he told The Independent.

During his first press conference since Russia’s full-scale invasion last February, General Zaluzhny lamented that without proper support from Kyiv’s Western backers, as well as a more extensive mobilisation campaign inside Ukraine, Russia could reduce Ukrainian cities to rubble in a matter of months.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, he said: “Every piece of our land is dear to us, whether it’s Bakhmut or Avdiivka. We will defend our land as fiercely as possible. But if we do not have enough forces on this end, it is better to preserve our people’s lives.”

He added: “The enemy has the opportunity to amass forces, including artillery and aviation, in any sector, and they can turn any city into another Bakhmut in a matter of two to three months.”


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