Over the past week, none of the parties recorded major territorial gains. Ukrainian forces liberated some territory in the Kherson region, while the Russians remained offensively engaged near Avdijivka in the Donetsk region, where they advanced slightly at the cost of heavy losses.
From a strategic point of view, the past seven days did not bring any fundamental changes. However, the situation is changing and Russian forces are much more active than in the past weeks. In the last days of October, the Ukrainian General Staff reported up to 90 clashes with Russian troops, which is roughly double the September figures.
Kharkiv and Luhansk regions
In the Kharkiv region, the front remained unchanged. The Russians continued their artillery strikes on Ukrainian civilian areas, otherwise they did not take any significant actions. There was also no Ukrainian raid (formally, a raid by foreign troops) on Russian territory.
In the northern Luhansk region, Russian forces increased the pace of ground attacks. The generally very reliable Ukrainian account DeepState said that since the beginning of autumn, Ukrainian troops have lost almost all the territorial gains made during the summer by the Ukrainian 95th brigade operating in the area (apparently east of Kupyansk).
According to analysts, this only confirms that Moscow intends to continue its attacks in the Lyman-Kupjansk section. According to DeepState, in recent weeks, the Russian command has also transferred additional units from the Zaporozhye region to the eastern and northern fronts to the northern region and intends to launch another offensive in this region during the fall or rather winter (when the mud hardens), the main target of which will most likely be the city of Kupjansk. It is an important railway junction. The Russians have repeatedly bombed river crossings near Kupjansk in recent months to limit Ukraine’s logistical options.
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An interesting observation from the northern part of the front is the information that the attacks of the Russian Storm-Z penal detachments have decreased. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that most of these assault units practically cease to exist after a few days of fighting. According to reports from the Russian army, their losses are huge and reach 40-70 percent in such a short time (Russian original, English translation).
Whether Storm-Z’s attacks dropped due to exhaustion or some other reason, of course, we don’t know. So far, however, it does not seem that the Russian command would change its approach when deploying similar forces and sends them into battle ill-equipped, and above all poorly trained and without good preparation. So they literally exhaust the Ukrainian defense with numbers.
From a terminological point of view, however, in the case of such attacks, it is not possible to speak (with exceptions) of “human waves”. Attacks are usually carried out in smaller groups, with the support of only a few units of equipment, which are intended to gradually wear down and exhaust the defense rather than overcome it purely in quantity.
On this stretch, Russian forces continued to try to encircle the town of Avdijivka. They achieved partial success, albeit at the cost of high losses in both people and technology. The Russians also launched other attacks across the Donetsk region, but without significant impact on the front line.
Ukrainian troops basically only attacked south of Bakhmut, and their progress here was rather slow and cautious. Major changes are not reported.
We focus mainly on Avdijivka, where very heavy fighting is still going on. After the first wave of unsuccessful major attacks, the invading forces gradually managed to advance several kilometers, especially on the northern flank of the attack, near Krasnohorivka.
Russian forces appear to have managed to establish positions on a giant dump east of Avdijivka during several costly assaults. While the dump gives them a good view, occupying it doesn’t mean the city is cut off from supplies or in imminent danger of anything like that. However, Russian forces can now attack Ukrainian positions in the industrial complex in the north of the city, the occupation of which would represent an extremely serious problem for Ukrainian forces.
The Russians are gradually making less and less frequent attacks with large mechanized convoys in this area, although such an attack did take place in the past week. Attacks by larger or smaller infantry units are increasingly taking place.
As in the case of the mentioned penal units, they usually lead to relatively high losses, but gradually they succeed in occupying new terrain. The advantage for the attacking party is the relatively bad weather in recent days, which limits the possibilities of Ukrainian aerial (i.e. drone) reconnaissance. Ukraine’s defenses are largely based on drones detecting approaching forces and artillery stopping them completely or significantly disrupting them before they come within range of the defenders’ positions.
The fights are similar to the Battle of Bachmut in many ways, especially the early stages. Russian losses at the moment significantly exceed Ukrainian losses. In the case of technology, on this section they probably move even above the 5:1 ratio. Nevertheless, the Russian command still has no problem deploying additional units to the area. The goal is apparently political: to occupy the remaining part of the administrative Donetsk region, which Russia claims.
At the same time, even if the Russian attack is associated with large losses, unacceptable for many other armies, in some respects the Avdijivka attack shows improved features, some analysts point out. The Russian command, for example, at least tried to coordinate the action of several large divisions not only among themselves, but also with the air force and artillery.
Apparently, the plan was not executed correctly or was seriously disrupted by the Ukrainians, so the intention to quickly break through the Ukrainian defenses at the beginning of the Avdijivka operation did not work. However, this does not mean that he had no hope of success.
The fighting at Avdijivka has recently been overshadowed by Ukrainian offensive actions on the southern front. Ukrainian troops are still trying to expand the attack corridor near Robotyne. In the chosen direction of attack south of Orichivu, they are therefore not attacking further into the depth of the Russian defense, but on the wings of their advance in order to widen and secure the corridor. However, there were no big changes here either. And the intensity of the fighting is lower than in the past.
According to some information from the front (see e.g. the Economist, but also the contributions of Ukrainian bloggers and commentators), among other factors such as bad weather, the increased activity of Russian kamikaze drones controlled from a first-person perspective, so-called FPV drones, plays a role.
Both sides have been deploying them in increasing numbers in recent months. The invading forces were able to significantly reduce the large lead of the Ukrainian units in this regard, and in some sections of the front they may have completely wiped it out.
Machines are a constant danger to both equipment and infantry at the front. Russian forces on the southern front are said to be under orders not to approach the front line with tanks within 10 kilometers under normal circumstances. The Russians should also no longer rely on volunteer activities and fundraisers (as they still largely do on the Ukrainian side).
However, the Russian military has tried to change the situation in recent months and launched a centrally controlled effort to start the production and distribution of these FPV drones. According to some Ukrainian soldiers, the results are already visible on the front.
Yuriy Fedorenko, the commander of the 92nd Brigade’s attack drone company, told Ukrainian media that one team of military drone operators can deploy up to 50 of these assets per day. While the Ukrainians usually deploy drones only when they have confirmation of the presence of a target, the Russians (at least in some sections) are said to be launching FPV drones one after the other. So they fly over the battlefield constantly; until it hits a suitable target, and then immediately the invasion units launch another one.
On the front in the Kherson region, Ukrainian troops continued to expand their bridgehead on the left (i.e. occupied) bank of the Dnieper. Despite our patently false claim in the last installment about the withdrawal of Ukrainian forces from most of these positions, fighting continues in this area.
The Ukrainian forces on the other bank of the Dnieper are still made up of light infantry without the support of combat equipment, but the Russian forces are apparently still unable to dislodge them from the bank either way. Ukrainian troops are apparently not very numerous and are very scattered. So they do not have the strength to completely secure the bridgehead on the other bank, but at the same time they do not represent a good target for Russian artillery or air force. Attempts at Russian counterattacks, on the other hand, provide a grateful target for Ukrainian drones or artillery located on the other side of the river.
The Russian command in this area has reportedly reached for the replacement of the commander-in-chief. It is therefore possible that even the highest levels of the Russian army are dissatisfied with the current state of the situation, when Russian troops cannot deal with an apparently comparatively small number of opponents. There are probably only hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers on the southern bank.
At sea and in the air
The Russian missile force was unusually active, at least in terms of striking the Ukrainian rear.
For example, in the seven days from October 21 to 27, according to Ukrainian data, the Russians launched only two cruise missiles and 40 Shahid drones. The average number of intercepted drones by the Ukrainian defense fell below 10 per day, i.e. to the values of June this year.
Unfortunately, it cannot be assumed that this low number of attacks is a reflection of the state of Russian stocks and production. Russia can probably produce tens, perhaps even a hundred missiles per month, according to available estimates (which, of course, can be wrong). The Shahid drones should be available in the order of hundreds per month.
It can therefore be assumed that the Kremlin is saving these weapons. In this context, Russia is widely expected to resume attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure as it did last year as temperatures drop. Ukraine’s defenses are stronger than a year ago, but the extent to which they can protect the country from attack will depend on the strength of Russian strikes.
However, from the Ukrainian point of view, the struggle for the Black Sea has been going on recently. In it, Kyiv’s goal is primarily to enable the export of grain to the world market. In this regard, the Ukrainian “humanitarian corridor” seems to be working quite well so far.
The Russian Black Sea Fleet does not seem capable of securing a blockade of Ukrainian ports. On the other hand, Moscow undoubtedly has certain possibilities to at least complicate the situation. This became evident last week when traffic in the corridor was halted, allegedly due to the threat of Russian aircraft mining the shipping lanes. Even so, traffic in the corridor is slowly gaining momentum.