Frontline fractures. Ukraine’s use of drones to compensate for critical ammo shortage isn’t enough to stop Russia’s creeping advance

Posted: Tue, 16 Apr 2024 10:56:03 UTC+3

Like our earlier reports on the combat situation in Ukraine, this article takes stock of the recent developments on the battlefield based on open-source information. Meduza has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine from the very start, and our detailed military analyses are part of our commitment to objective reporting on a war we firmly oppose.

Our map is based exclusively on open-source photos and videos, most of them posted by eyewitnesses on social media. We collect available evidence and determine its geolocation markers, adding only the photos and videos that clear this process. Meduza doesn’t try to track the conflict in real time; the data reflected on the map are typically at least 48 hours old.

Key updates as of April 13, 2024

Ukraine’s forces have been unable to stop Russian troops from advancing, though they’ve still managed to inflict significant losses on them. But Ukraine’s artillery ammunition shortage continues to worsen. Russia is currently firing five times as much ammunition as Ukraine, and, according to U.S. military officials, that ratio may soon reach 10 to one. Ukraine is partially compensating for this shortage by using kamikaze drones, which it has in abundance, for defense, but drones aren’t enough to completely stop Russia from advancing. Not only is the Russian army pressing on with major offensives near Avdiivka and Bakhmut — it’s also achieving local successes in areas where the front line had previously been stable for over a year.

The Avdiivka front

  • In late March, a gap emerged in Ukraine’s defensive line to the southwest of Avdiivka, and Russian forces exploited it. The advance of Russian armored columns from the direction of the village of Tonenke came at the expense of significant losses (dozens of vehicles were destroyed), but the operation was successful: Russian forces reached the village of Umanske, then captured the fortified village of Pervomaiske, where both sides had been locked in a protracted struggle since late 2022.
  • After this, Russia’s troops advanced to Netailove, which posed a threat to rear areas where the Ukrainian army has supply bases: Horlivka and Selydove.
  • Ukraine’s command redeployed reserves to the area around Netailove. These forces came from two brigades: the 25th Airborne Brigade, which had previously been stationed on the border between the Luhansk and Kharkiv regions, and the 71st Jaeger Brigade, which had been holding the defense to the north of Avdiivka.
  • At the same time, Russia’s capture of Pervomaiske opened up the possibility that it will be able to advance further south to the town of Krasnohorivka. Right now, Russian troops are attacking Krasnohorivka from the direction of Marinka in the south, which they captured in January, and have already entered the residential part of the city.
  • Meanwhile, the fall of Krasnohorivka would pose the threat of Russia advancing towards Kurakhove, one of the Ukrainian army’s most important logistics hubs. It’s from there that Ukraine’s units in Vuhledar, among other places, are supplied.
  • But Russia’s offensive operations from Avdiivka weren’t limited to the southwest: it also attacked northward, reaching the outskirts of the village of Novokalynove. Additionally, Russian troops advanced to the north of Berdychiv and to Semenivka. If Ukraine is unable to contain this offensive, Russia may be able to to break through toward the city of Kostyantynivka, which Russia is simultaneously targeting with another major offensive from the direction of Bakhmut.

Bakhmut and Chasiv Yar

  • A week ago, Russian troops broke through from the direction of Bakhmut to the outskirts of the neighboring city of Chasiv Yar. The city, located on high hills and separated from Bakhmut by the Siverskyi Donets–Donbas canal, acts as a natural fortress.
  • Russian troops have so far been unable to enter the city itself, but they have advanced on the flanks, approaching the villages of Ivanivkse to the southeast and Bohdanivka to the northeast of Chasiv Yar. Most of these villages, where heavy fighting has been ongoing for months, are now controlled by the Russian army. Russia’s offensive on Chasiv Yar is expected to continue from three directions.

On other fronts:

  • Russian troops continue to target Ukraine’s positions at the top of the chalk quarry in Bilohorivka, near the city of Lysychansk. Fighting for control of the village and quarry has been ongoing for a year and a half, and only now have the Russian Armed Forces started making headway in the battle for the main fortified positions in this area.
  • The Russian army managed to capture a major Ukrainian stronghold near Verkhniokamianske, which is also in the direction of Lysychansk. The front line there has remained unchanged since late 2022.
  • As mentioned above, Russian forces are storming the eastern and southern outskirts of Krasnohorivka in the direction of Marinka. Without capturing this fortified city, it will be impossible for them to advance further westward to Kurakhove.
  • Russia’s advance on the village of Novomykhailivka in the direction of Vuhledar is ongoing. Russian forces have taken control of the entire village center and are outflanking Ukrainian defenses from the south and north simultaneously.
  • Russian forces attacked the village of Urozhaine to the south of Velyka Novosilka, which was liberated by the Ukrainian military during its 2023 summer offensive. Fighting continues on the village’s southern outskirts.
  • Russia has resumed attacks near Robotyne in the direction of Orikhiv (which was also liberated in the summer of 2023). According to video footage posted online, Russian troops have reached the center of the village.

All of these localized Russian successes may be evidence of a deep crisis facing the Ukrainian Armed Forces. American officials are now warning of the risk of Ukraine’s entire defense collapsing.

This is the scenario that Western experts have predicted would unfold if the U.S. did not resume supplies of ammunition and weapons to Ukraine. In January, Mark Cancian, a military analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), said that if the U.S. continued sending a reduced amount of military supplies, Ukraine would become unable to conduct counteroffensives by spring and would have difficulty even holding back Russian attacks by early summer.

Read our previous update

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