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For over a month, Russia has sent wave after wave of both armor-protected and unprotected infantry against Ukrainian defenses in the town of Avdiivka, a suburb of the Russian-occupied regional capital city of Donetsk with a population of nearly 1 million.
Russia is obsessed with Avdiivka for a couple of reasons. First of all, it’s a festering reminder of Russia’s inability to push Ukraine away from the edge of Donetsk that dates back to 2014. Second, it puts Ukrainian forces close to key Russian assets in the city, and Russia would prefer to give their regional stronghold some breathing room. And third, Russia doesn’t have to worry about logistics when Ukraine’s defenders are literally across the street from its supply lines.
Now, the battle for Avdiivka is about to enter its decisive phase—and it all rests on the fate of the chemical/coke plant on the northern tip of the town.
For Ukraine, the strategic equation is simple: Russia is bleeding itself dry trying to take the town. Yesterday I wrote up the visually confirmed equipment losses in Bakhmut, compared to Avdiivka:
The end result? The visually confirmed equipment losses in the Zaporizhzhia counteroffensive were almost identical:
Ukraine: 485 Russia: 490
But here are the numbers of visually confirmed losses around Avdiivka:
Ukraine: 16 Russia: 221
That’s a 14-to-1 ratio, and it’s likely far worse in terms of manpower losses, as Ukrainian cluster munitions shred Russian infantry who are assaulting across open fields.
As a Russian military instructor wrote on Telegram:
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.
Meanwhile, Russia continues to send more vehicles to slaughter in those open fields.
However, the endless waves have managed to push Ukrainian defenses back in the northern half of the town, as Russia attempts to surround it in a pincer movement. And while the southern pincer is stalled given those open fields, Russia is now in position to assault the now-famous coke (for mining, not drinking) plant on the northern tip.
We all know about the debris pile across the the railroad tracks from the sprawling factory-industrial complex.
Ukraine has shown a strong ability to defend industrial complexes, and the coke factory should prove no different. Even crossing that strip will prove insanely costly to Russia, as it is likely seeded daily with anti-personnel mines, as well as being covered by mortar and machine-gun fire from the sprawling complex. Artillery is of little use in that strip, as its inherent inaccuracy would threaten Ukrainian positions, but reinforcements coming in from behind that debris pile will face constant bombardment.
Both sides know the stakes. And as usual, it comes down to logistics.
By controlling the coke factory, Russia would have complete fire control of all supply routes into Avdiivka. If Russia takes it, there is no way the Ukrainian garrison can stay in place.
With the heights of the factory buildings, Russia would have all those roads within visual range, not relying on reconnaissance drones. Mortar, sniper, and guided-missile weapons would all be in range, and suicide drones could be called in against Ukrainian supply vehicles.
Inured to caring about its casualties, it’s clear Russia is getting excited. Russia’s big push to the northwest against the settlement of Stepove and beyond secures its flanks (though it would be nice if Ukraine had the combat power to smash that Russian salient from the north).