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It’s probably not a coincidence that just as everyone—including the commander in chief of the Ukrainian army—began admitting that progress on the southern front in Zaporizhzhia had ground to a near halt, that action along the Dnipro River intensified. What had been a handful of special forces holding a small position near the foot of the Antonivskyi Bridge has expanded to at least four distinct landing positions. There are now hundreds, if not thousands, of Ukrainian forces, ordinary troops in addition to special forces, across the Dnipro.
Ukraine has successfully secured a long stretch of riverfront and pressed east at the town of Kyrnky. They are still hampered by a shortage of armored vehicles, mortars, and the level of supplies that can be provided only by constructing a pontoon bridge. However, Russia relied on the kilometer width of the Dnipro to be all the buffer they needed on the west, so this part of Kherson is not overrun with the kind of defensive structures seen throughout Zaporizhzhia. Even with a limited force on the ground, Ukraine is making progress and is surely making Russia sweat.
Meanwhile, Russia is continuing its attack on Avdiivka. After weeks of losing an incredible number of tanks and armored vehicles, Russian commanders have been adopting a strategy of throwing unsupported infantry at the area in their effort to encircle the city. The result has been a lot of videos that won’t be shown on Daily Kos as those infantry are mowed down in scores. However, by throwing enough of those troops forward, Russia has managed to advance their area of control and is placing Avdiivka at serious risk.
East and west, two very different conflicts are now underway.
The Ukrainian military warns that Russia has now positioned over 40,000 troops at Avdiivka in its effort to encircle and capture the town. In addition to infantry, Russia is also trying to flood the field with drones. Those drones represent a huge threat to the Ukrainian artillery that, so far, has been able to prevent Russia from moving down from the north to reach shelter in an industrial site or move troops from the south to cut Ukraine’s supply lines to Avdiivka.
The red circles with white plane symbols spread across the map represent airstrikes against Ukrainian positions by Russian planes operating out of Donetsk. The Ukraine General Staff reported 10 such strikes on Friday.
Russia’s advances have not been large in scale, but some are at critical locations. This is open-source analyst Deep State’s view of the area to the northwest of Avdiivka.
Russia continues to attempt to cross the gap between the Terrikon hill of mining debris and the industrial complex where coal was turned into coke for making steel. From those buildings, Russia could fight the same kind of block-by-block advance it made at Bakhmut.
So far, Ukraine has kept them from reaching those positions, but as the Deep State map shows, Russia has been able to take and hold territory across the rail line as well as occupy fields northeast of Stepove. These are not good developments when it comes to maintaining Ukrainian control in this area.
Russia’s losses around Avdiivka continue to be extremely high, and unlike in the later weeks of the struggle over Bakhmut, or some other areas where Russia has launched an offensive, the ratio of losses is also extremely high. For the most part, Ukrainian forces are sitting back and using artillery, drones, and precision weapons to hold open the gap west of Avdiivka. As a result, Russia is reportedly losing between six and 10 troops for every loss by Ukraine. Equipment losses are similarly lopsided.
As Reuters notes, it’s now Russia complaining about “wet ground” and promising that they will make advances when it gets drier. On the other hand, Ukraine says its defensive positions are “solid” and the public affairs officer for the 3rd Assault Brigade, which is fighting in the area, tied Russia’s actions to an attempt to make a quick gain while the world is distracted. "All this started after the events in Israel," he said. "Perhaps they believe it is the best time to advance, but they have no serious successes."
Russia is paying an extremely high price for very small gains in this area. But then, Russia has demonstrated again and again that it’s willing to make this deal every day of the week and twice on Sunday. To hold Avdiivka, Ukraine doesn’t just have to bleed Russia. It has to maintain a level of fire that prevents Russia from advancing at any cost.
Three hundred kilometers to the west, Ukraine’s move across the Dnipro River is looking more serious every day.
For weeks, Deep State had been unwilling to classify any of this area as more than “in dispute.” But on Friday they finally conceded that Ukraine has solidified its control over at least 15 kilometers of waterfront centered around the Antonivskyi highway bridge and the rail bridge at Prydniprovske.
In the last two days, Ukraine has moved additional forces across the river at Antonivskyi, across from Kherson, at Prydniprovske, 6 kilometers to the north, at another point about 5 kilometers north near the Russian-occupied town of Kozachi Laheri, and finally another 20 kilometers north near Krynky.
Both the Krynky and Antonivskyi groups reportedly have over 300 troops and at least some number of armored vehicles. They’ve also been supported by drones and artillery, some of it from across the river.
On Friday, fighting is reportedly continuing southwest of Krynky in a forested area. Russia has some prepared defensive positions in this area, but they are nothing like Zaporizhzhia’s multiple trench lines and minefields. Ukraine is driving toward the T2206 highway, which would give them the option of moving south to connect with the bridgehead at Antonivskyi Bridge (potentially cutting off Russian forces closer to the river), moving north toward what could be a high-value position at Korsunka, or driving east into territory that is only lightly garrisoned by Russian forces.
This push fits nicely into RO37s image from yesterday’s update, showing the area that Ukraine needs to liberate in order to push Russian artillery out of range of its most likely bridging location.
On Friday, fighting has reportedly continued southwest of Krynky in a forested area. Russia has some prepared defensive positions in this area, but they are nothing like Zaporizhzhia’s multiple trench lines and minefields. Ukraine is driving toward the T2206 highway, which would give them the option of moving south to connect with the bridgehead at Antonivskyi Bridge (potentially cutting off Russian forces closer to the river), moving north toward what could be a high-value position at Korsunka, or driving east into territory that is only lightly garrisoned by Russian forces.
One key difference in this area is that Russia has reportedly lost its air defense systems. Without advanced S-300 and S-400 systems nearby, Russia has tried to fill the gap with the short-range SA-15 Tor system, but it reportedly lost one of those systems in the area this week. Russia has continued to use glide bombs to strike Ukraine’s crossing points along the river, but there are reports that Ukraine has moved its air defenses close to the position at Kyrnky, forcing Russia to maintain a longer standoff distance for its aircraft and reducing the accuracy of the glide bombs.
The more success that Ukraine has in this area, the more reason they have to bring additional forces across. New imagery out today from the Sentinel-2 satellite doesn’t show any obvious buildup of forces along the river or any pontoon bridge underway. It could be that Ukraine is waiting until it holds a longer stretch of riverfront, providing more options. Or, considering that Sentinel has produced sharp images of the area on its last three passes, Ukraine may just be waiting for a few back-to-back cloudy days.
It’s been a bad week for Russian Tor systems, and a good week for Ukrainian FPV drones. Not only was one reportedly lost near Krynky, but reportedly another Tor near Kupyansk.
Based on the last sale of these systems, they go for about $24 million each. That’s not a bad return on a $1,000 drone.
But wait! That loss in Kupyansk doesn’t represent Russia’s biggest-ticket item in the last few days. Overnight, Ukraine once again reminded Russia that the Black Sea Fleet has become little more than a costly target. This strike was made by some of Ukraine’s increasingly sophisticated aquatic drones.
Some descriptions of this attack refer to the two Russian craft that were damaged as “speed boats,” but that gives a completely incorrect impression. These boats are 25 meters long. One of them has a displacement of over 100 tons.
Each is capable of carrying a couple of main battle tanks, or four armored vehicles, in addition to infantry. They can also carry supplies in the case Ukraine cuts supply lines to Crimea from the north and the Kerch Bridge. As it happens, these two ships were not empty when Ukraine struck. Onboard one of them was reportedly … a Tor air defense system.
Russian ships aren’t safe in the water. They’re not safe in dry dock. They’re not safe anywhere near Ukraine. Russian ships are costly, inviting targets, but they no longer represent a serious threat.