Can Ukraine Hold Avdiivka a little longer?

Probably not

Shankar Narayan
4 min readFeb 16, 2024
How much are they willing to pay and for what?

The internet is divided. The Ukrainian military blogging community is also split. Some believe that Ukraine has initiated a withdrawal of its troops from Avdiivka. Others speculate that they are vacating specific pockets of the city to relocate to better-defended areas. There are also those who think that Ukraine is withdrawing entirely from Avdiivka.

Anything is possible because Ukraine’s actions will depend on how the enemy responds. However, Ukraine has taken a few steps to retain the option to remain in Avdiivka for a little while longer.

“The situation in the embattled front-line city of Avdiivka in Donetsk Oblast is ‘difficult but controlled,’ stated Oleksandr Tarnavskyi, commander of Ukraine’s Tavria forces engaged in the southeast.

Tarnavskyi emphasized, ‘Fierce fighting is underway within the city. Our troops are utilizing all available forces and resources to deter the enemy.’ It’s evident that there is a rotation of troops in Avdiivka. Ukraine’s Third Assault Brigade confirmed on Feb. 15 that they are being redeployed to Avdiivka.”

“Troop management is stable and effective, Tarnavskyi said. He also said that additional resources, including ammunition, had been allocated to units in the region. “New positions have been prepared and powerful fortifications continue to be prepared for all possible scenarios,” he said.

Earlier reports suggested that Ukraine was sending one of its largest and best-equipped brigades, the Third Assault Brigade, to reinforce troops exhausted by months of intense fighting as Russia comes closer to surrounding Avdiivka.

Ukraine is withdrawing the 110th Separate Mechanized Brigade, which had been stationed in Avdiivka for an extended period, while deploying the Third Assault Brigade into the town. Initiating an offensive to safeguard the withdrawal is a prudent strategy as it is likely to minimize casualties and save lives.

However, there is no certainty regarding Ukraine’s actions in Avdiivka. Ultimately, it will be the commanders’ decision. I earnestly hope that they are opting for a gradual withdrawal rather than launching a full-scale assault on the Russian positions.

You can see the direction of the Russian advance in the town and observe the locations of Ukrainian troops in the image below.

By the time you are reading this article, I anticipate that the area I have circled in blue will have been relinquished by Ukrainian forces.

With American aid likely to remain in limbo until the end of the month, Ukraine must address the Avdiivka situation with the resources currently at its disposal. There won’t be any emergency ammo airlifts to aid in saving the city. Ukraine’s current arsenal, including artillery and ammunition, pales in comparison to the Russian army’s. They face relentless bombardment, enduring over 50 glide bombs daily. Pushing back under these circumstances is not advisable.

What they can do is mount a fighting retreat and keep the Russian army pinned down in the sector. They must not allow the Russian army to take an operational pause. Let them advance, but make them fight for every inch gained.

This strategy would enable Ukrainian troops to constrain the Russian troop capacity in the sector, preventing their relocation to other areas. It’s important to note that Avdiivka is not a strategically significant town; rather, towns like Vuhledar and Kupiansk hold greater strategic importance.

If Ukraine orders an immediate withdrawal from Avdiivka, Russia will likely take a brief pause before redirecting its troops to target the next location for a breakthrough. This would initiate a repetitive cycle. The time Ukraine has to keep the Russian forces in Avdiivka will be exceedingly valuable. They must utilize this time to bolster their defensive fortifications in key locations crucial for maintaining their hold. These three locations will be at the top of my list.

  1. Kupiansk
  2. Vuhledar
  3. Klischivka

The manner in which Russia has advanced into Avdiivka presents a silver lining for Ukraine.

According to the ISW, Russia lacks the capability to execute rapid maneuver warfare. They would need to attain this ability in order to recapture significant amounts of territory.

The ISW:

  • Russian forces are conducting a tactical turning movement through Avdiivka likely to create conditions that would force Ukrainian troops to withdraw from their positions in the settlement.
  • Ukrainian forces have yet to fully withdraw from the settlement and continue to prevent Russian forces from making gains that are more significant than the current incremental Russian advances.
  • The Russian offensive effort to capture Avdiivka underscores the Russian military’s inability to conduct a successful operational envelopment or encirclement in Ukraine.
  • Russian forces initially attempted to operationally encircle Ukrainian forces in Avdiivka at the start of the localized offensive effort in October 2023, but gradually shifted towards fighting through the settlement in a turning movement after failing to conduct the rapid maneuver required for envelopment or encirclement.

The manner in which they are advancing into Avdiivka indicates that Russia is incapable of mounting a rapid advance against this severely depleted Ukrainian force. Unless they can swiftly move their troops and breach the Ukrainian defensive lines, they will be limited to making incremental advances, which will invariably result in costly engagements.

You pay a hefty price for minimal gains in territory. If Ukraine’s resource constraints are addressed, Russia’s ability to advance will be severely hindered. This pattern has persisted for over two years. Bakhmut stood as the sole victory for the Russians in 2023, and this year, it will be Marinka and Avdiivka.



Shankar Narayan

He didn't care what he had or what he had left, he cared only about what he must do.