The Battle for Chasiv Yar will be 2024’s decisive moment

The side that prevails will fancy its prospects for victory

Shankar Narayan
7 min readApr 15, 2024

There are two simultaneous plots to the battle unfolding in Ukraine. One is waged on the battlefield, and the other is waged inside the heads of the Western leaders, two men in particular. The aura of victory in the former creates a conducive environment for victory in the latter.

But why did the Russians choose Chasiv Yar when there are so many other locations along the 600-mile-long frontline?

Putin would love to march on Kyiv right away, but he is not able to do so because Ukrainian forces are blocking his way. The army of barely trained conscripts is unable to overcome an army suffering from a 5 to 1 artillery disadvantage. The Kremlin does not have enough power to break through at multiple locations on the frontline.

They tried for a bit after capturing Avdiivka.

Ukraine rebuffed their attack on Vuhledar, and the results were the same in Kupiansk. However, they tasted some success in pushing further out of Avdiivka and in the settlements near Chasiv Yar. I expect Russia to prioritize these two locations over the next two months.

If anything, the Russians, who are perennial destabilizers of border regions, place a lot of value on the importance of borders. They understand that during negotiations, if they are not in control of the administrative borders of a region, their claim to the land will always be partial and under the threat of revision. If you do not control a sector during the war, then you cannot guarantee that you will be in a position to negotiate about it post-war.

The Russians aim to reach the administrative borders of Ukraine’s Donetsk Oblast.

Screenshot from Deepstatelive, with my text

Ukraine employs a mobile defense strategy to hold the frontline and halt the advance of the Russian army. However, this does not mean they continuously maneuver tanks and weapons across the entire 600-mile frontline without any connection to other parts of their defensive network.

It is a network.

A network of multiple towns, connected to each other, provides flexibility of movement along the frontline. Ukraine has multiple fortified towns that anchor this defensive network. Take a closer look at the Donetsk administrative map below.

How can one advance into Kramatorsk or Pokrovsk while Ukraine fortifies itself in Bakhmut and Avdiivka?

To advance to the administrative borders of Donetsk Oblast, Russia must evict Ukraine from fortified towns one by one. That is what they did in Bakhmut, and again in Avdiivka. Now, they are attempting to do the same in Chasiv Yar.

Just look at the size of the territory that immediately changed hands after the fall of Avdiivka. It’s akin to dropping a glass of water and watching it spread rapidly until it finds the end of the slope.

Loss of fortified Avdiivka, allowed Russia to eat up nearby settlements. (Deepstatelive)

The Russians did not achieve the same level of success after taking control of Bakhmut last year. Ukraine not only had secondary fallback defensive lines prepared to counter the Russians, but they also had enough weapons on hand to hold them back. The secondary defensive lines in Avdiivka are still holding at a reasonable level; otherwise, by this time, the Russians would have advanced all the way to the end of Donetsk’s borders. However, the defensive position is not as strong as it was after the fall of Bakhmut because Ukraine is still not in a comfortable position with its artillery stockpile.

If Ukraine loses Chasiv Yar before their artillery stockpile gets reloaded, they will have to cede a significant amount of territory around the region. From Russia’s standpoint, they are pressing the Ukrainian forces with two priority areas, Avdiivka and Chasiv Yar, while maintaining offensive pressure on other sectors further to the east and west of the map as well.

Russia’s priority (Deepstatelive)

The Russians are maintaining pressure on the Ukrainian forces in Kupiansk and Robotyne while attempting to break through the defensive lines in Chasiv Yar and Avdiivka

Between Chasiv Yar and Avdiivka, I expect Chasiv Yar to be given more priority than Avdiivka because it allows the Russians a bit more target for their airforce to drop their glide bombs.

In the Avdiivka sector, there are plenty of small settlements, but there is no concentrated pocket for the Russian air force to train its glide bombs.

Russian forces have seeped beyond Avdiivka (Deepstatelive)

In comparison, the Russians have a clearly defined border to focus on in Chasiv Yar.

Chasiv Yar has well defined edges (deespstatelive)

Still, it is not going to be as easy as the target was when they encountered the Ukrainian forces in Avdiivka. When the Russian forces went after Avdiivka, they already had the Ukrainian forces surrounded in three directions. Then they used the air force to drop glide bombs from the air, while ground forces kept attacking from three directions. Despite the bombardment, the town held itself together for nearly four months and fell only when Ukraine’s artillery stockpile fell below critical level.

In Chasiv Yar, the Russians still have plenty of open terrain to traverse before they can surround the town. You can see them attempting to penetrate from the south of Chasiv Yar on the map above.

Ukraine’s artillery stockpile is not as depleted as it was in February this year, and they have open space around Chasiv Yar to effectively repel the Russian advance towards the flanks of the town. So, the odds are slightly stacked against the Russian forces.

Further complicating the Kremlin’s attempt is also the time factor. They do not have a lot of time. The artillery shells sourced by the Czech Republic with assistance from EU nations will arrive in Ukraine soon. I suspect they will be there before the end of next month.

Russia has to capture this town before Ukraine obtains the shells. Their best bet is to press the air force into the pocket with full force and drop glide bombs in a manic fashion. Even then, it may not be enough.

So, the situation is extremely complicated. Neither side will feel fully confident of their chances, but neither side will be willing to let this one go.

The Russians need this win because it will allow them to maintain the aura that they are surging, and they have the ability to win the war. They can then use this case to convince the Biden(U.S.) and Scholz (German) administrations to strike a deal with them. So, they are going to throw everything in their possession to keep this charade going.

For Ukraine, it will be disheartening to pile up more and more defeats. So, they do not want to yield the town. On top of that, it is clear that when you lose a fortified town, you will have to cede a lot of territory in the vicinity. Losing Chasiv Yar will also weaken their control in the Bakhmut sector, as Russia will be able to take the highly critical heights of Klishchiivka.

I slightly favor Ukraine to come out on top of this battle

Ukraine’s biggest weaknesses as of April 15, 2024, are their air defense and artillery shell stockpile. However, both issues, though not fully addressed, are being taken care of. Europe is preparing to send more Patriot air defense systems as well as air defense missiles, while hundreds of thousands of artillery shells will reach Ukraine over the next six weeks.

If Ukraine finds a way to slow down the Russian air force and prevent them from taking control of the sky above Chasiv Yar, I really don’t see Russia getting closer to the town before the artillery shells make their way to the Ukrainian frontline.

That will be the battle within the battle. Russia will try to take control of the sky, while Ukraine trying to stop them.

So, why did I say the battle for Chasiv Yar will be decisive?

Because it will set the course for how the rest of 2024 shapes up.

This is Russian desperation meeting Ukraine at a weak point. Ukraine is still not out of the woods. Their air defense stockpile has taken a huge beating because the United States did not supply anything to help them for the last six months. Russians keep bombarding their energy infrastructure in the heartland, forcing Ukraine to keep the air defense systems deep inside the territory. Ukraine still does not have enough artillery shells to keep the Russians quiet and locked up behind the frontlines.

Putin needs something to pitch the ceasefire to Western leaders. If he does not make them believe that he can win, they are going to keep sending the ammunition and keep helping Ukraine. He is desperate for one last surge before making the case….hey, I am winning and I am asking for peace, but they are the ones who are refusing.

He needs that position to make his propaganda effective. If he cannot achieve that position, he will lose. The next six weeks are his best chance to do that. Every week after this period, he will be on a slippery slope.
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Shankar Narayan

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