Ukraine's Retreat from Avdiivka and its Implications on Russia-Ukraine War
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 01 Mar , 2024

The fall of Avdiivka is the first major gain for Russian forces since May of last year. The recent decision by Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief Oleksandr Syrskyi to withdraw units from Avdiivka in the Donetsk region has changed the dynamics of the Russia-Ukraine conflict and bears a significant impact on the geopolitical landscape. 

Avdiivka is considered a strategic transportation hub for Russian forces since it captured the nearby city of Bakhmut in May of the previous year. The Ukrainian army’s tactical redevelopment of defense from Avdiivka is aimed to reduce the attrition of its forces and military assets in the ongoing war. Gen. Syrskyi said in a statement, “Based on the operational situation around Avdiivka, in order to avoid encirclement and preserve the lives and health of servicemen, I decided to withdraw our units from the city and move to defense on more favorable lines.”

According to the battle situation in Avdiivka, Russia enjoyed superiority in firepower and ground forces over Ukraine. In addition, Russian forces were highly motivated to recapture Avdiivka, supported by heavy artillery bombardment, even though its fighters suffered a staggering number of casualties. There was a report that some Ukrainian servicemen were also captured and taken prisoners by Russian forces .

However, the retreat from Avdiivka comes amidst challenges for Ukraine, including a shortage of artillery ammunition supply. Moreover, the Biden administration is struggling to pass the foreign aid budget of US$60 billion in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. The Pentagon spokesman, Patrick Ryder, stated a few months back that Washington would have to choose between its combat readiness and the provision of weapons to Ukraine due to a shortage of financial resources. Additionally, at a summit in Brussels last year, EU leaders failed to agree on a four-year plan of €60 billion for Ukraine. Definitely, this uncertainty in Western support has weakened Kyiv’s confidence and lowered the morale of its servicemen.

As the conflict went past its two-year mark, Western leaders have become a bit reluctant to provide long-term and unconditional support for Ukraine. Moreover, the Hamas-Israel conflict has distracted and deprioritized the Ukraine issue for Western leaders. After the month of April, the Biden administration will have to be more calculated regarding the Ukraine issue. If Donald Trump or the Republican Party wins the upcoming 2024 US presidential election, it could lead to a significant change in the course of the Russia-Ukraine war. A Republican POTUS (President of the United States of America) would likely reduce assistance to Ukraine and engage in diplomatic talks to end the conflict.

In my previous article, “Zelenskyy’s Fate Hangs in Delusion and Illusion,” I predicted Russia’s extensive offensive operations with the ambition to seize new territories, which would play a crucial role in shaping the narrative that could fuel Mr. Putin’s election campaign. Consequentially, this new battlefield victory in Avdiivka will enhance Mr. Putin’s popularity and legitimacy among the Russian people in the upcoming 2024 presidential election. No doubt, the Avdiivka issue will present Mr. Putin as a strong leader and defender of their national interests and sovereignty against foreign interference.

The Western media also provided meticulous analysis and expressed frustration regarding the loss of Avdiivka. CNN commented that the loss of Avdiivka is an undeniable blow to Ukraine. The New York Times described the chaotic situation of the Ukrainian army’s retreat from Avdiivka. A military analyst, Mykola Bielieskov from the National Institute for Strategic Studies in Ukraine, said in an interview, “Taking control of Avdiivka is an opening for Russia because Avdiivka was a crucial strong point in the Ukrainian system of defense. It protected Pokrovsk, about 30 miles (48.28 kilometers) to the Northwest, a logistical hub for the Ukrainian army.”

From a military perspective, there are some tactical advantages and disadvantages of Avdiivka for Russian forces. Firstly, Avdiivka will serve as a gateway to Donetsk for Russia, acting as terrain for launching offensive operations to capture Donetsk. It also holds strategic importance for any commander to utilize as a communication and logistic hub. There is a Coke Plant in Avdiivka that will facilitate electricity supply to the Russian forces. Air superiority in Avdiivka would facilitate operations of the Russian ground force. 

However, there are also challenges for the Russian force. Holding Avdiivka requires more troops due to its fortified build-up area. Mechanized infantry would face challenges due to large concrete fortifications and infrastructure. According to the intel report, Russia has very limited reserves in this region, hindering any further offensive against Ukraine.

Putin stated in the interview with Western journalist,Tucker Carlsonthat Russia will not attack Poland or the three Baltic countries. If Russia maintains such strong combat capabilities and domestic stability, then it is obvious that internal pressure would be created from Ukraine to change the leadership. And, of course, from a military standpoint, the victory is now tilted towards Russia, making it a daydream for the Ukrainian force to launch another counteroffensive when logistic aid is waning.

The Ukrainian side claims that Russian forces enjoyed ten times more artillery firepower in Avdiivka. Following the Avdiivka attack, Russia is now in the driver’s seat to determine regional stability and its geopolitical implications. Thus far, Russia has not initiated a nationwide war mobilization, a decisive factor for the winning side. Currently, the optimum course of action for the West could be taken by strengthening the Ukrainian military-industrial complex and providing training facilities for Ukrainian forces. Until the presidential election concludes in the USA, maintaining the ‘status quo’ is the most favorable scenario for both countries. Undoubtedly, Mr. Putin will be in a cheerful mood, regardless of future developments.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

M A Hossain

is a political and defense analyst based in Bangladesh. He can be reached at:

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