NewsUkraine reinforces defense lines amidst 20 daily Russian attacks

Ukraine reinforces defense lines amidst 20 daily Russian attacks

Ukrainians have not finished building the fortifications. Russians may attack any day.
Ukrainians have not finished building the fortifications. Russians may attack any day.
Images source: © MON Ukraine | Sztab Generalny Sił Zbrojnych Ukrainy
4:47 AM EDT, March 10, 2024, updated: 5:27 AM EDT, March 10, 2024

Having pulled back from Avdiivka, the Ukrainians have started reinforcing new positions to the west of the destroyed city. Before this, their military spent several months without preparing extra defense lines, seemingly not foreseeing a need to retreat from the main defense line.

In the meantime, relentless Russian assaults, which disregarded their losses, not only caused the Ukrainians to withdraw from the city but also pushed them into a defensive position. Around Berdyansk, Tonenky, Orlovka, and Pervomaisky, they're repelling around 20 daily attacks.

The focus of Russian attacks has shifted to Semenivka, located between Orlovka and Berdyansk. Fierce battles occur along the canals and fish ponds on the settlement's western edge. Under Russian artillery fire, the Ukrainians quickly set up defenses to block the Russian advance westward.

Building defenses

Last spring, the scene was quite different. Back then, in Zaporizhzhia, the Russians were building fortifications, initially fragile and undermanned. The Ukrainians did little to interfere. This allowed the Russians time to bolster their defenses significantly, laying minefields that largely impeded the Ukrainian summer offensive.

Now, in Zaporizhzhia and the Donbas, the Ukrainians are the ones forced into defensive constructions. They're mainly setting up wooden field defenses, and occasionally, prefabricated infantry bunkers with machine gun posts are erected. However, constant Russian bombardments are making this work challenging on many fronts.

The Ukrainians lost several more months, for reasons not entirely clear. Perhaps they overestimated their initial success or underestimated the possibility of a Russian broad offensive. They're now in a race against time as the Russians amass larger forces, particularly around Kupiansk, Sloviansk, and Kramatorsk.

The next phase of the conflict

Two weeks ago, I argued that the most logical Russian move would be to target Kupiansk, a crucial communication hub. This would isolate operations near Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, setting them up as targets. At that point, their forces were insufficient.

Two weeks have brought changes. The Russians have been preparing for an attack north of Bakhmut. In the Kupiansk sector, they've positioned elite air assault units – the 98th and 106th Divisions, along with independent air assault brigades – the 11th and 83rd. Recently, mercenaries from the so-called 1st Volunteer Assault Corps have also joined the front lines.

The Russians now have about 30 assault battalions at the ready. Despite the lower training level of recruited soldiers, these units are better quality than mechanized ones. The question now is not if but when they will launch their attack. Despite the Ukrainian mud, revised tactics have allowed them to keep advancing, although at a high personnel cost.

Ukrainian preparations

The new Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky, is reviewing the battlefield performance of field commanders. Assessments that find errors could lead to dismissals and "severe consequences" if a commander's actions directly endanger their troops.

With an attack on Kupiansk expected, the Ukrainians are not just rapidly constructing fortifications but also focusing on minimizing civilian casualties. The Kharkiv Oblast Defense Council has endorsed mandatory evacuations from certain areas near Kupiansk.

"The Kharkiv Oblast Defense Council has approved the mandatory evacuation of children, with their parents or guardians, from 18 community settlements of Velyky Burlyuk and Vilkhuvatka," stated Oleg Sinehubov, head of the Council.

Following Russian movements near Avdiivka and anticipating an offensive on Kupiansk, the decision was made to evacuate residents from 57 localities. These deserted villages and settlements are being fortified. The crucial question for the Ukrainians remains: can they finish their preparations before the Russian attack begins?

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