NewsUkraine's Avdiivka falls to Russia after prolonged conflict and critical shortages

Ukraine's Avdiivka falls to Russia after prolonged conflict and critical shortages

UNSPECIFIED, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 18: Ukrainian gunner Vasyl Zozulia fires the gun, as soldiers of the Ukraine Armys 95th Brigade fire 105mm artillery shells from a British-made L119 howitzer at Russian positions in the Lyman direction on February 18, 2024 in an undisclosed location, Ukraine. Ukrainian units across the 600-mile frontline are facing severe shortages of weapons, artillery shells and other ammunition - supplies of which are dependent on critical but shrinking American and European aid. As the two-year anniversary of Russias all-out invasion of Ukraine nears on February 24, Russian forces have stepped up attacks all along the front, causing Ukrainian units like this in the eastern Donbas region to dig deeper into defensive positions. (Photo by Scott Peterson/Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED, UKRAINE - FEBRUARY 18: Ukrainian gunner Vasyl Zozulia fires the gun, as soldiers of the Ukraine Armys 95th Brigade fire 105mm artillery shells from a British-made L119 howitzer at Russian positions in the Lyman direction on February 18, 2024 in an undisclosed location, Ukraine. Ukrainian units across the 600-mile frontline are facing severe shortages of weapons, artillery shells and other ammunition - supplies of which are dependent on critical but shrinking American and European aid. As the two-year anniversary of Russias all-out invasion of Ukraine nears on February 24, Russian forces have stepped up attacks all along the front, causing Ukrainian units like this in the eastern Donbas region to dig deeper into defensive positions. (Photo by Scott Peterson/Getty Images)
Images source: © GETTY | Scott Peterson

5:33 AM EST, March 2, 2024

Avdiivka's battle, one of the most enduring in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, spanned over years with fluctuating intensity. Initially seized by Russia in April 2014, the city changed hands multiple times, showcasing the fierce contest it represented. Despite numerous attempts and employing substantial military resources, Russian forces struggled to maintain a significant foothold until overwhelming Ukrainian defenses earlier this year.

Despite early warnings, the Ukrainian command reportedly neglected reports of dwindling ammunition and fatigue among its defenders. This oversight, particularly regarding the shortage of compatible artillery ammunition, significantly hindered their capacity to sustain the defense. The ammunition crisis became especially acute under Avdiivka, where the daily consumption of shells vividly illustrated the dire situation.

Combat fatigue

Operational Command Taurida, which oversees Avdiivka, highlighted the urgent need for unit rotation amidst the prolonged conflict. The introduction of the reserve 3rd Assault Brigade, previously engaged near Bakhmut, aimed to rejuvenate the city's defenses. Despite the timely reinforcement, the defenders, including highly committed yet exhausted units, found themselves on the brink of capitulation.

The arrival of reserves proved critical, guarding one of the key access points to Avdiivka. However, the decision not to rotate these forces earlier, combined with the relentless push of Russian assaults, led to significant breaches and near-encirclement situations.

Meat grinder tactics

Russian forces, outnumbering their Ukrainian counterparts, enacted a strategy of incremental, heavily supported assaults with the goal of wearing down resistance. Despite the high cost in personnel and equipment, these continuous efforts facilitated a breakthrough, which Russian sources touted as a major accomplishment, albeit at a significant toll.

The sheer scale of casualties and material losses reported suggests the heavy price paid for these gains, with notable disparities in losses between the two sides. This phase of the conflict not only demonstrated the intense combat dynamics but also highlighted Ukraine's ongoing challenges in personnel and equipment sustainability.

Russian Preparations

Insights from the American Institute for the Study of War revealed substantial Russian military build-ups, indicating a strategic realignment and preparation for continued engagements. This concentration of forces, particularly against depleted Ukrainian units suffering from a lack of ammunition, underlines the severe pressures facing Ukraine's defenses.

Without significant external support, Ukraine faces the daunting prospect of having to cede territory, consequently enabling Russian forces to capture the strategic initiative in the conflict.

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