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Russia Begins New Advances as Ukrainian Counteroffensive Fades

Leo Timm
Leo Timm covers China-related news, culture, and history. Follow him on Twitter at @kunlunpeaks
Published: October 18, 2023
Russian tanks advance near Avdiivka, a strongly fortified city held by Ukraine north of the industrial metropolis of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine's Donbass region. (Image: Screenshot via social media)

The Russian military appears to be going on the attack following months of defending their territorial gains in Ukraine from the latter’s counteroffensive, which began this summer.

Ukrainian troops, equipped and trained by the U.S. and NATO allies, focused on the southern frontline in the Zaporizhzhia direction, as well as around Bakhmut, the city that fell to Russian regular troops and the Wagner mercenary outfit this spring.

However, the Ukrainian counteroffensive saw minimal gains: they managed to breach only the first of three Russian fortification lines in Zaporizhzhia, and have thus far been unable to take Klishchiivka, the town on a height overlooking Bakhmut that is essential for the Russians’ continued control of the destroyed city.

At the time of reporting, the Ukrainians have not made new major gains or attempted large assaults in many days, while the Russian forces have mounted what seem to be limited offensives aimed at resecuring their current territory in Ukraine and working towards a better footing from which to pursue further military objectives.

A Ukrainian army Leopard 2A4 tank of German manufacture knocked out in the fields near Robotyne, in the southern Ukrainian region of Zaporizhzhia. (Image: Screenshot via social media)

Russia invaded Ukraine in early 2022 following years of border conflicts that began in 2014, including the annexation of the Crimean peninsula by Moscow and uprising by pro-Russian insurgents in the eastern Donbass region, which was heavily backed by the Kremlin.

In Zaporizhzhia, the Russians are rolling back Ukrainian gains around the town of Robotyne, which formed part of the first defensive line.

Around the industrial metropolis of Donetsk, Russian troops have also focused on advancing on the town of Novomykhailivka to the southwest and encircling the heavily fortified Ukrainian city of Avdiivka, which lies north of Donetsk.

Footage taken via a Russian telescopic sight shows the towers of the coke plant in the north of Avdiivka. (Image: Screenshot via social media)

Territorial changes in the Russo-Ukrainian war have been relatively slow since last year, when the last major shakeup was the Russian retreat from the city of Kherson over the Dnieper River. The fall of Bakhmut in May came only after almost a year-long battle and the Ukrainians continue to hold some western outskirts of the city.

Near Novomykhailivka, the town of Marinka has been almost completely occupied by the Russians following a similarly grueling process.

According to Europe-based military YouTuber Weeb Union (WU), who analyzes open source information and follows the situation in Ukraine on an almost daily basis, the latest Russian actions seem aimed at forming lines of towns and villages interlinked by major roads. This would help the occupying forces defend the Kremlin’s gains and free up large formations of Russian troops for future operations elsewhere.

The mid-October 2023 situation on the frontlines around Donetsk, an industrial metropolis in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region. (Image: Screenshot/Weeb Union/YouTube)

“In the Donetsk area, we see here that the cities of Avdiivka, Krasnohorivka, Marinka, Novomykhailivka, and Vulhedar are all ones that are heavily fortified by the frontline.” If the Russians were to capture these towns, they would have “a complete wall west of Donetsk,” WU noted in an Oct. 15 video.

Of note was that according to WU, there had been no Ukrainian artillery strikes on Donetsk reported in a 24-hour period, something he attributed to the recent Russian push.

Along the northeastern front, the Russians have also been pushing in the directions of Lyman and Kupyansk.

Recent reports have revealed that the U.S. secretly supplied Ukraine with the powerful Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS), an advanced rocket artillery unit that can hit targets over 100 miles away with great precision. In exchange, Ukraine has pledged not to use the missiles to attack Russian territory, per the reports.

The Ukrainian military has already used the ATACMS to attack Russian airbases in occupied territory, according to Kiev.

A still from footage of an ATACMS missile being fired as part of drills by the U.S. forces in South Korea. (Image: Screenshot/Reuters)