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Russia could take Avdiivka from Ukraine very soon

Feb 6

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Russia is on the verge of capturing its first Ukrainian settlement in eight months. Avdiivka, in eastern Ukraine, is home to some of the war’s fiercest fighting and is seen as crucial territory by both Kiev and Moscow.

Before the war broke out, around 32,000 people lived in Avdiivka. Now, fewer than a thousand people remain. There isn’t a building still intact. So, whoever is still there is forced to seek safety in basements and bomb shelters.

The city is about nine miles north of the Russian-controlled city of Donetsk, in the industrial Donbas region of Ukraine.

Avdiivka is known for its coke plant, which produces fuel for industrial work like iron ore smelting. The plant would be a welcome addition to the Russian war machine, but in the meantime, it’s providing Ukraine with one of the last defensible positions in the area.

Ukrainian soldiers said Russia is launching near constant “meat wave” attacks; a tactic of trying to overwhelm defenses through sheer personnel numbers. Despite the huge casualty rate associated with these tactics, one soldier with Ukraine’s 47th Mechanized Brigade told Radio Liberty Russian soldiers were literally crawling over their own dead comrades to keep advancing.

British military intelligence said the fighting in Avdiivka contributed to some of the highest Russian casualty rates of the war. Even Russian military bloggers, who face stiff scrutiny from the Kremlin, acknowledged the high Russian losses.

Nevertheless, the Russians persist. Vladimir Putin stressed in late January the significant role Avdiivka plays in Moscow’s plan to consolidate power and control in the Donbas — one of the regions illegally annexed by Russia — but still not fully under its control.

Ukraine is holding on so it can deny Russia the battlefield victory, but it’s taking great losses as well.

Ukrainian forces are running critically low on manpower and ammunition for both small arms and artillery. Ukraine can fire just 2,000 artillery shells a day. Russia is firing around 10,000. The United States and some European countries keep pledging to up their output of 155 mm artillery shells, but so far production is failing to meet demand.

Ukraine isn’t being too picky, though, and said it will take most anything anyone can spare, such as the thousands of old CRV7 rockets Canada has marked for disposal.

Lt. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, the head of Ukraine’s military intelligence services, said instead of spending millions of taxpayer dollars to essentially throw them away, Canada could give the rockets to Ukraine. The CRV7s can be used by Ukrainian attack helicopters or ground launched, essentially filling in for traditional artillery.

The CRV7s can also be broken down by their component parts and repurposed to use in other areas like Ukraine’s drone industry.

Ukraine is also supposed to finally start taking possession of the Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bombs the U.S. promised to send last March. So, those could conceivably be used to help defend Avdiivka as well. But there is only one supply route left for Ukrainian troops to use, and there’s no guarantee the next Russian meat wave attack won’t be the one to finally break Ukraine’s defenses.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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[RYAN ROBERTSON]

RUSSIA IS ON THE VERGE OF CAPTURING ITS FIRST UKRAINIAN SETTLEMENT IN EIGHT MONTHS. AVDIIVKA, IN EASTERN UKRAINE, IS HOME TO SOME OF THE WAR’S FIERCEST FIGHTING, AND IS SEEN AS CRUCIAL TERRITORY BY BOTH KIEV AND MOSCOW.

BEFORE THE WAR BROKE OUT, AROUND 32,000 PEOPLE LIVED IN AVDIIVKA. NOW, FEWER THAN A THOUSAND PEOPLE REMAIN. THERE ISN’T A BUILDING STILL INTACT. SO, WHOEVER IS STILL THERE IS FORCED TO SEEK SAFETY IN BASEMENTS AND BOMB SHELTERS.

THE CITY IS IN THE INDUSTRIAL DONBAS REGION OF UKRAINE, AND KNOWN FOR ITS COKE PLANT WHICH PRODUCES FUEL FOR INDUSTRIAL WORK LIKE IRON ORE SMELTING. THE PLANT WOULD BE A WELCOME ADDITION TO THE RUSSIAN WAR MACHINE, BUT IN THE MEANTIME, IT’S PROVIDING UKRAINE WITH ONE OF THE LAST DEFENSIBLE POSITIONS IN THE AREA.

UKRAINIAN SOLDIERS SAY RUSSIA IS LAUNCHING NEAR CONSTANT MEAT WAVE ATTACKS; A TACTIC OF TRYING TO OVERWHELM DEFENSES THROUGH SHEER NUMBERS. DESPITE THE HUGE CASUALTY RATE ASSOCIATED WITH THESE TACTICS, ONE SOLDIER WITH UKRAINE’S 47TH MECHANIZED BRIGADE TOLD RADIO LIBERTY RUSSIAN SOLDIERS WERE LITERALLY CRAWLING OVER THEIR OWN DEAD COMRADES TO KEEP ADVANCING. BRITISH MILITARY INTELLIGENCE SAID THE FIGHTING IN AVDIIVKA CONTRIBUTED TO SOME OF THE HIGHEST RUSSIAN CASUALTY RATES OF THE WAR SO FAR. EVEN RUSSIAN MIL-BLOGGERS, WHO FACE STIFF SCRUTINY FROM THE KREMLIN, ACKNOWLEDGE THE HIGH RUSSIAN LOSSES.

BUT NEVERTHELESS, THE RUSSIANS PERSIST. VLADIMIR PUTIN STRESSED IN LATE JANUARY THE SIGNIFICANT ROLE AVDIIVKA PLAYS IN MOSCOW’S PLAN TO CONSOLIDATE POWER AND CONTROL IN THE DONBAS, ONE OF THE REGIONS ILLEGALLY ANNEXED BY RUSSIA, BUT STILL NOT FULLY UNDER ITS CONTROL.

UKRAINE IS HOLDING ON SO IT CAN DENY RUSSIA THE BATTLEFIELD VICTORY, BUT ITS FORCES ARE RUNNING CRITICALLY LOW ON MANPOWER AND AMMUNITION FOR BOTH SMALL ARMS AND ARTILLERY. UKRAINE IS ABLE TO FIRE JUST 2,000 ARTILLERY SHELLS A DAY. RUSSIA IS FIRING AROUND 10,000.

THE UNITED STATES AND SOME EUROPEAN COUNTRIES KEEP PLEDGING TO UP THEIR OUTPUT OF 155MM ARTILLERY SHELLS, BUT SO FAR PRODUCTION IS FAILING TO MEET DEMAND.

UKRAINE ISN’T BEING TOO PICKY, THOUGH, AND SAYS IT WILL TAKE MOST ANYTHING ANYONE CAN SPARE. LIKE THE THOUSANDS OF OLD CRV7 ROCKETS CANADA HAS MARKED FOR DISPOSAL. THE HEAD OF UKRAINE’S INTELLIGENCE SERVICES SAID INSTEAD OF SPENDING MILLIONS OF TAXPAYER DOLLARS TO ESSENTIALLY THROW THEM AWAY, CANADA COULD GIVE THE ROCKETS TO UKRAINE. THE CRV7s CAN BE USED BY UKRAINIAN ATTACK HELICOPTERS OR GROUND LAUNCHED, ESSENTIALLY FILLING IN FOR TRADITIONAL ARTILLERY. THE CRV7s CAN ALSO BE BROKEN DOWN BY THEIR COMPONENT PARTS AND REPURPOSED TO USE IN OTHER AREAS LIKE UKRAINE’S DRONE INDUSTRY.

UKRAINE IS ALSO SUPPOSED TO FINALLY START TAKING POSSESSION OF THE GROUND LAUNCHED SMALL DIAMETER BOMBS THE U.S. PROMISED TO SEND LAST MARCH. SO, THOSE COULD CONCEIVABLY BE USED TO HELP DEFEND AVDIIVKA AS WELL.

BUT THERE IS ONLY ONE SUPPLY ROUTE LEFT FOR UKRAINIAN TROOPS TO USE, AND THERE’S NO GUARANTEE THE NEXT RUSSIAN MEAT WAVE ATTACK WON’T BE THE ONE TO FINALLY BREAK UKRAINE’S DEFENSES.

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