You can read more great Ukraine coverage by both staff and community members here.
Ukraine can hardly believe its luck. Fought to a standstill in southern Ukraine, on the Zaporizhzhia front, the defenders were struggling to make gains against the deeply entrenched Russian occupiers. Vladimir Putin took stock of the situation, decided that not enough of his people were dying, and likely ordered his forces’ costly attack on Avdiivka.
The end result? The visually confirmed equipment losses in the Zaporizhzhia counteroffensive were almost identical:
But here are the numbers of visually confirmed losses around Avdiivka:
The casualty numbers are likely even more lopsided, as suggested by the endless stream of gruesome videos of wide-open fields littered with the corpses of Russian infantrymen. Cluster munitions, in particular, are proving particularly effective at mowing down this latest round of Russian Zerg rushes. So much so, that the Battle of Bakhmut might’ve ended differently if Ukraine had access to these artillery rounds early last year.
Yesterday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke about this front, as well as the Ukrainian advances in Kherson.
"Russia is already losing men and equipment near Avdiivka faster and on a larger scale than, for example, near Bakhmut," Zelenskyy said yesterday in his nightly address. "Withstanding their pressure is extremely difficult ... The more Russian forces that are destroyed near Avdiivka, the worse the overall situation will be for the enemy and the overall course of this war."
Bakhmut took a brutal toll on Russian occupiers, with at least 20,000 Russians killed (confirmed by then-Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin), and anywhere between 40,000 to 80,000 wounded, depending on the estimate. But Ukraine was careful to conceal the cost to its forces. It was the steady stream of Twitter and Telegram memorials that hinted at Ukraine’s high price, and toward the end, when Russian forces had the city surrounded in three directions, that casualty ratio was reportedly 1-to-1. As I’ve written before, war historians will argue for decades whether the cost was justified, particularly since there were perfectly defensible heights west of the city that would’ve presented as much of a hindrance to Russian advances, as Russian defenses in the south halted the Ukrainian counteroffensive.
There is no moral ambiguity around Avdiivka. This is what the typical daily loss report looks like these days, with red signifying Russian losses, and blue being Ukrainian ones:
Per the numbers above, the equipment kill ratio is almost 14-to-1. Ukraine would be happy to keep that going, with Russia’s war machine ground down in a mildly important Ukrainian salient.
That said, Russia has made some advances in the area, and unless Ukraine counterattacks their flanks and pushes them back, there may be a reckoning in the weeks ahead. But for now, Ukraine is happy with the Avdiivka meat grinder.
Imagine if Ukraine had cluster munitions during the Bakhmut battle. A Russian military instructor talks about their impact on Russia’s war effort, and how cluster munitions are even more impactful than HIMARS rocket artillery or even kamikaze drones:
Here, in terms of the specific means of destruction available to the enemy, I would highlight three elements that radically complicate the situation: HIMARS, kamikaze drones, and the cluster shells.
It is cluster shells that are now knocking out a huge mass of our infantry with the layering of a number of negative factors.
The infantry suffers heavy excess losses directly on the battlefield, as a result of which the execution of combat missions is disrupted, and in addition to this there is an overstrain of evacuation logistics and an overload of the military medical infrastructure.
The rapid depletion of infantry units, coupled with the overload of hospitals, leads to the fact that people are massively returned to the battle, primarily undertreated, and often with small damaging elements in the soft tissues not removed.
In addition, as I said above, cluster shells have a very favorable ratio of the quantity used to the quality of fire damage inflicted on infantry.
The general situation at the front, of course, consists of a whole complex of various factors, but weapons like these also have a significant impact on it.
It would seem logical to ask the question: well, where is the "game change"? After all, there are no radical shifts in the front line, much less breakthroughs from the enemy! However, there aren't any on our side either! And there is a price. Very high and sad.
Exhausting and bleeding the enemy on the defensive, and then collapsing the front with powerful counterattacks would be an excellent plan if implemented. But in fact, along the way, we ourselves were pretty exhausted and bled dry. Here is a "game change" in which cluster shells have already played and continue to play their role.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian government acknowledged its Kherson advances for the first time. Speaking at the Hudson Institute, the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, Andriy Yermak, noted that, “Against all odds, Ukraine's Defense Forces have gained a foothold on the left bank of the Dnipro.” In this part of Ukraine, the left bank is the southern side of the Dnipro River. We’ve had extensive coverage of the Kherson operation here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
On the ground, Russia has moved armor into the area to try and stop the Ukrainian advance around Krynky. Check out how well that’s going for them:
It’s hard to tell what hit the tank, but after the smoke clears, it looks to be in pretty good shape. Its crew certainly wasn’t sticking around to find out—they high-tailed it out of there. After some repairs, Ukraine may have itself a new tank, and one less to transport across the river. Meanwhile, geolocated video released by Russia shows that Ukraine has advanced slightly both to the west of Krynky, toward Kozachi Laheri, and to the west, toward Korsunka.
As we’ve noted all week, Korsunka is the place to watch, as Ukraine’s most likely bridging location is on the riverbank northwest of the village. Ukraine must liberate it to create the breathing room for a pontoon bridge.
In the meantime, Ukrainian FPV suicide drones are swarming all over the region, shutting down Russian logistics.
Around Avdiivka, cluster munitions might be king, but kamikaze drones rule the Kherson front.
Russia’s continued diplomatic isolation continues.