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ISW analyses Russian tactical manoeuvre via Avdiivka

Friday, 16 February 2024, 05:58
ISW analyses Russian tactical manoeuvre via Avdiivka
Avdiivka last year, Photo: Kostiantyn and Vladyslava Liberovs (@libkos)

Experts from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) have analysed the actions of Russian invaders conducting a tactical manoeuvre through Avdiivka, highlighting their inability to carry out a successful operational encirclement or siege.

Source: Institute for the Study of War (ISW)

Details: Experts note that Russian forces are conducting a tactical manoeuvre via Avdiivka, which could create conditions that would compel the Ukrainian Defence Forces to abandon their positions in the town. 


Ukrainian troops have not fully withdrawn from the area and are continuing to impede Russian forces from achieving more significant advances than the current gradual progress of the Russians. 

The report mentions that geolocation footage released on 15 February indicates that Russian forces have recently advanced to the southern edges of the Avdiivka Coke and Chemical Plant in the northwestern part of Avdiivka.

Additionally, other geolocation footage indicates that Russian forces have captured a fortified Ukrainian position south of Avdiivka, a location that has been a longstanding Russian subtactical goal. Russian military bloggers claimed that Russian forces had effectively surrounded positions south of Avdiivka adjacent to it. 


Recent geolocation data suggests that Russian forces have closed off the last road in Avdiivka connecting the city’s southern and northern parts. However, Ukrainian military spokesperson Dmytro Lykhovii stated that the Ukrainians are currently using secondary ground communication lines prepared in advance to supply their forces in the southern and eastern parts of Avdiivka.

Russian bloggers claim that the Russians have made further advances to the west of Avdiivka, attempting to cut off the dirt roads used by Ukrainian forces to supply positions in Avdiivka from Lastochkyne and Pivnichne (both to the west of Avdiivka). However, ISW has not yet seen any confirmation of this movement by Russian forces. 

Lykhovii acknowledged that Ukrainian forces were withdrawing from some positions around Avdiivka but stated that Ukrainian forces were continuing to reclaim certain positions from the Russians. 

The analysts assess that the Russian offensive operation to capture Avdiivka highlights the inability of the Russian military to conduct a successful operational encirclement or siege in Ukraine.

Russian forces initially attempted to swiftly encircle Ukrainian forces in Avdiivka at the beginning of a local offensive operation in October 2023. However, they gradually shifted to conducting combat actions through the populated area with a tactical manoeuvre after failing to execute the rapid manoeuvre required for encirclement. 

The review explains that an operational encirclement is a manoeuvre in which attacking forces surround and then destroy a group of enemy forces. 

During an operational envelopment manoeuvre, attacking forces try to bypass the main defensive structures of the enemy to capture objects behind these defensive structures. This allows attacking forces to eliminate defenders in their current positions.

Russian forces failed to achieve either encirclement or envelopment in Avdiivka, and specifically have faced repeated failures in conducting operations to encircle or envelop Ukrainian forces throughout the entire full-scale invasion of Ukraine. 

ISW experts note that Russian forces executed a tactical manoeuvre in Avdiivka, similar to the capture of Bakhmut in the spring of 2023. In this manoeuvre, they attempted to bypass the main Ukrainian defensive positions to gain tactical advantages but did not seek more extensive destruction of the Ukrainian force grouping. 

The overview also adds that Russian forces have expended a significant amount of manpower and equipment in capturing Avdiivka, and it is likely that they will need an extended period of consolidation, recovery and rest before attempting further coordinated offensive actions in this area.

To quote the ISW’s Key Takeaways on 15 February:

  • Russian forces are conducting a tactical turning movement through Avdiika 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.
  • The potential Russian capture of Avdiivka would not be operationally significant and would likely only offer the Kremlin immediate informational and political victories.
  • The Russian command reportedly reorganised the command structures of the Russian grouping of forces in southern Ukraine.
  • Russian forces conducted a relatively larger series of missile strikes against Ukraine on the night of 14 to 15 February.
  • Ukrainian security forces reportedly conducted a successful drone strike against an oil depot in Kursk Oblast.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to elaborate on an amorphous ideology for Russia to support geopolitical confrontation with the West by attempting to portray Russia as the leader of an international anti-Nazi movement.
  • Putin intentionally misrepresented a statement from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in an attempt to promote pseudo-history aimed at denying Ukrainian statehood.
  • Russian sources claimed that the Russian military officially removed Russian Black Sea Fleet (BSF) Commander Admiral Viktor Sokolov and replaced him with the BSF’s Chief of Staff Vice Admiral Sergei Pinchuk.
  • NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced that NATO and Ukraine will create a joint analysis, training, and education centre in Poland following the meetings of NATO Defence Ministers in Brussels on 15 February.
  • Russian forces recently made confirmed advances near Kupiansk, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the Uralvagonzavod plant in Sverdlovsk Oblast, one of Russia’s largest tank producers, on February 15 to promote Russian efforts to expand Russia’s defence industrial base (DIB).
  • Head of Ukraine’s nuclear operating enterprise Energoatom Petro Kotin stated that the situation at the occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) is becoming more dangerous due to Russian activity near and at the plant.

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