Russians closing in on Ukrainian city dubbed ‘the next Bakhmut’
Intense fighting is ongoing for the crucial city.
Russian forces are closing in on a vital Ukrainian city which is fast-growing into a gruelling battle reminiscent of the one for the nearby Bakhmut.
Vladimir Putin’s army suffered huge losses of men and equipment in the fiercely contested year-long drawn out campaign to capture Bakhmut before it finally fell in May this year.
But the commander of Ukraine’s ground forces Oleksandr Syrskyi said Russia has now ‘significantly strengthened’ in the Donetsk Oblast region and switched from defence to offence.
As a result, the Russian military is now mounting efforts to retake the initiative in other areas on the eastern front and have turned their attention to capturing Avdiivka city.
It lies 55 miles to the south of Bakhmut and has been described as the gateway to the crucial Ukrainian city of Donetsk, which is occupied by Russia, just 13 miles away.
Avdiivka has remained under Ukrainian control despite Russia’s advances further inland since the start of the invasion back in February 2022.
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However, significant fighting has intensified near Avdiivka in the last few weeks in particular and Putin’s forces are closing in around the town.
Since October 10, Russia has poured in thousands of troops, as well as tanks and armoured vehicles as part of a concerted effort to take control of the entire Donetsk region.
President Volodymyr Zelensky has already praised his troops for defeating a major Russian onslaught last month and said at the time: ‘These days, the Russian losses are really staggering, and it is precisely losses by the occupier that Ukraine needs.’
Russia is thought to have suffered its worst losses of the war so far during the Avdiivka campaign with up to 8,000 troops killed in the area.
But the area has again been coming under heavy fire this week and Ukraine’s General Staff said on Friday that its soldiers had already repelled 17 attacks on and around Avdiivka.
Having made reported gains on both its north, east and south flanks, Russian fighters are gradually surrounding the city and laying up to launch yet more attacks.
Mr Zelensky admitted the situation on the ground in Avdiivka is ‘particularly tough’ and latest war analysis suggests Russian troops could be on the brink of seizing control of the city.
The Institute for the Study of War, a US-based think tank, published a new map on Thursday showing Russian’s advances around Avdiivka.
A Russian source claimed on November 2 that Russian forces had advanced near Krasnohorivka, Sieverne and southern Avdiivka.
According to the analysis, Russian assault operations have been ongoing in the nearby areas of Stepove, Sieverne, Tonenke and Pervomaisk.
Ukrainian Tavriisk group of forces spokesman Colonel Oleksandr Shtupun said his troops expect ‘the situation to worsen’.
The think tank said: ‘A Ukrainian military observer stated that Russian forces are quickly constructing fortifications in the rear areas close to the areas of intended advance in the Avdiivka area so that they can more quickly commit reserves to combat.’
Ukrainian officials and Russian sources reported that Russians are preparing for a third series of larger assaults near Avdiivka.
Avdiivka’s mayor Vitaliy Barabash said on Friday that Russian forces are also now focused on seizing the huge coke plant on the north-west outskirts of the city, after intercepting audio transmissions.
‘They have a new aim and that’s the coking plant,’ Mr Barabash said. ‘They have to take it. Period.
‘We understand that a (new) third wave of attacks is bound to start any day once the ground dries out and they can move forward. They are engaged in a build-up. We see and hear that.’
Ukrainian military analysts say a sustained assault on Avdiivka had more political than military significance and could be little more than a propaganda prize for Moscow.
Ukrainian officials said a heavy overnight set of drone strikes on widely separated regions showed new attacks on infrastructure were to be expected as winter approaches.
Russia’s military has focused on the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk after abandoning the initial aim of capturing Kyiv in the early days of the invasion.
Ukraine has captured villages in the south and east in its four-month-old counteroffensive, but president Zelensky denies Western criticism that it has moved too slowly.
Russian accounts of the fighting said Moscow’s forces beat back Ukrainian attempts to advance near Kupiansk and struck Ukrainian forces in a series of towns south and west of Donetsk.
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