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Main War — ISW: Potential Russian capture of Avdiivka: limited operational impact, primarily symbolic

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ISW: Potential Russian capture of Avdiivka: limited operational impact, primarily symbolic

16 Feb, 2024
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ISW: Potential Russian capture of Avdiivka: limited operational impact, primarily symbolic

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The potential Russian capture of Avdiivka would not be operationally significant and would likely only offer the Kremlin immediate informational and political victories. 

Russian forces have been conducting offensive operations to capture Avdiivka since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022 and Avdiivka has been a notable Ukrainian strongpoint defensive position since the Russian invasion in 2014.

Russian forces began a localized offensive operation to capture Avdiivka in October 2023 and only recently began to make tactical progress through the settlement after months of costly infantry assaults and waves of mass mechanized attacks.

Avdiivka is a small settlement with a pre-war population of roughly 31,000 people and offers Russian forces limited avenues for future advance.

(Bakhmut had a pre-invasion population of 70,000 people, in comparison.) Ukrainian forces have long fortified many of the surrounding settlements, which Russian forces are also struggling to capture, and subsequent Ukrainian positions west and north of Avdiivka are likely similarly fortified.

The nearest relatively large settlements in the area are at least 30 kilometers west of Avdiivka, and Russian forces have not shown that they can conduct the rapid mechanized forward movement that would be required to reach these settlements in the near or even medium-term.

Russian forces have expended a considerable amount of manpower and materiel on their effort to capture Avdiivka and will likely need to engage in a prolonged period of consolidation, reconstitution, and rest before attempting a further concerted offensive effort in the area.

Russian forces would be highly unlikely to make rapid operationally significant advances from Avdiivka if they captured the settlement, and the potential Russian capture of Avdiivka at most would set conditions for further limited tactical gains.

The potential capture of Avdiivka would give the Kremlin a battlefield victory, however tactical, to promote to a domestic audience ahead of the Russian presidential election in March 2024. The Kremlin has reportedly increasingly desired any battlefield victory ahead of the presidential elections and has reportedly set objectives in Ukraine specifically to generate informational effects.

Russian ultranationalists, specifically those with ties to the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), have long argued that the capture of Avdiivka would push Ukrainian forces out of strike range of Donetsk City and thereby secure the regional center of occupied Donetsk region.

Ukrainian forces would be able to continue to strike Russian targets in near rear areas in the vicinity of Donetsk City, both with indirect fire and long-range strike capabilities, regardless of the Russian capture of Avdiivka. Putin will nevertheless likely attempt to sell the potential capture of Avdiivka as a significant victory cementing control over occupied Donetsk City to the Russian ultranationalist community and the wider Russian public.

The Odessa Journal

The Odessa Journal

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