In its daily intelligence updates on the situation in Ukraine, the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has announced the “creeping gains” of Russian forces surrounding the Ukrainian-held town of Avdiivka in the Donbas region.

Avdiivka has been on the front line of the Donbas conflict since 2014, and “the city is now largely destroyed” due to its position. As the town was briefly taken by local separatist forces in April 2014, and soon re-taken by Ukrainian forces in July of the same year, the town’s fortifications have been strengthened significantly since 2014. This explains why Ukrainian forces remain in control of Avdiivka in today’s conflict.

“The Russian operation has largely been carried out by the 1st Army Corps of the Donetsk People’s Republic; local personnel who will know the terrain very well,” the MoD stated.

Russia’s envelopment strategy has made small, incremental gains where the pincers have recently stretched slightly in the past several months, however it remains difficult to close the noose around the town.

The creeping gains made by Russian forces around the town of Avdiivka tells us that the town will remain a thorn in the side of the Russian offensive westward as the town has yet to be secured by the separatists. At the same time however, Ukrainian supply lines are becoming increasingly endangered by the encirclement.

The MoD adds that “tactically, the situation [in Avdiivka] is similar to the larger town of Bakhmut, further north. Ukrainian forces continue organised defence, but their supply lines to the west are increasingly threatened by the Russian envelopment operation”.

Ukrainian supply lines

The Ukrainian positions in Avdiivka and Bakhmut both face encirclement, which therefore signals that they could soon be cut off from their western supply lines. Even though there are small Russian gains, territorial analysis is not the only thing to consider in these localised battles.

In fact, the fierce fighting on the flanks has depleted Russian resources to such an extent that sustaining their tactical progression will fail to reap any reward. For months, the Russian offensive, particularly in the ongoing battle for Bakhmut, has occupied the world’s attention due to Russian vulnerabilities as previously described by Army Technology.

This is what truly makes the Russia-Ukraine War an attritional conflict, whereby both sides are drawn to the limits of their means. The depletion of Russian ammunition will lead them to lose momentum, opening up the opportunity for Ukrainian force to wage a spring offensive that would push eastwards and undo the Russian Army’s reconstitution efforts that preceded its winter offensive. Meanwhile, the potential to close the gaps will enable the Russian forces to a greater tactical foothold in Ukraine and will only succeed in prolonging the war by entrenching forces to consolidate the Donbas region.