Ukrainian servicemen of the Donbas battalion take part in military training amid the russian invasion close to the frontline in Donetsk, Ukraine, 15 October 2023. EFE/EPA/YAKIV LIASHENKO

Russian battle for Avdiivka threatens to become another “meat grinder”

Kyiv/Moscow, Oct 22 (EFE).- The Russian offensive to take the eastern city of Avdiivka threatens to become another “meat grinder” like the famous World War II battle of Rzhev, in which hundreds of thousands died but neither side achieved its operational objectives.

“What’s happening around Avdiivka can be compared to a series of events that took place on the Eastern Front during World War II, or let’s say such a well-known event as the Battle of Rzhev,” military historian Vasyl Pavlov told the Ukrainian TV channel Espresso.

He noted that for nearly 14 months in 1942 and 1943, Soviet troops attacked a “small area” in waves, suffering huge losses, in what became known as the “Rzhev Meat Grinder” to prevent Nazi Germany from advancing on Moscow, which was located some 230 kilometers to the east.

“We can see the same thing now near Avdiivka: waves of destroyed infantry and equipment, and this is very reminiscent of the events of World War II,” he claimed.

A damaged mural in Avdiivka settlement near a frontline in Donetsk region during the summer time before the recent Russian offensive against the city, Ukraine, 28 August 2023. EFE/EPA/ALEX BABENKO

Significant Russian losses, according to the West

Mikhail Podolyak, an adviser to the Ukrainian presidential administration, told the Dozhd TV channel that Russia had lost between 5,000 and 6,000 troops in just over a week of offensive in Avdiivka.

The recent Russian attacks on Avdiivka “have contributed to a 90% increase in Russian casualties recorded by the Ukrainian MoD (Ministry of Defense),” British military intelligence said Sunday in an update posted on social media.

According to the report, Russia has suffered between 150,000 and 190,000 permanent casualties among fallen and wounded soldiers since the start of the war in February 2022. This does not include the Wagner group or its prisoner battalions.

Avdiivka, a second Bakhmut

Analysts also compare the battle of Avdiivka to the 10-month battle for the town of Bakhmut, some 70 kilometers to the north and another focal point on the front.

At least 20,000 mercenaries died in Bakhmut, not counting regular soldiers, the late head of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, admitted at the time.

Avdiivka has become a new symbol of Ukrainian resistance in the ongoing Russian war in Ukraine, although it had been so since 2014, when Kyiv troops regained control of the city after briefly losing it to pro-Russian separatists.

Russian forces have shelled Avdiivka since the invasion began, but on Oct. 10 they launched an offensive involving several brigades, armored vehicles and tanks.

Soon there were reports of scores of tanks being destroyed, which some military observers compared to the failed Russian offensive last January-February in Vuhledar, where Russia lost dozens of combat vehicles.

After regrouping, Russia launched a renewed offensive on Oct. 20, but the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) noted in its daily analysis of the war on Oct. 21 that “Ukrainian forces have likely repelled another intensified Russian offensive effort towards Avdiivka in the past several days and inflicted further heavy personnel and equipment losses on Russian troops in the area.”

Russian forces lost 50 tanks, 100 armored vehicles and 900 soldiers in the Oct. 19 attacks, and 620 soldiers and 34 units of military equipment on Oct. 18i, according to Ukraine.

“Due to heavy losses, Russia is sending new soldiers directly from its territory,” said Oleksandr Shtupun, spokesman for the Tavria strategic operations group, which is responsible for the southeastern part of the front.

Russia is also resorting to the tactic of digging tunnels to approach Ukrainian positions, the spokesman said.

Military doctors treat injured men at a stabilization point near the frontline in Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, 16 October 2023. EFE/EPA/YAKIV LIASHENKO

Russia advances slightly

Despite all Ukrainian resistance, geolocated imagery released on Oct. 21 confirms, according to ISW, that Russian forces have made marginal advances northwest of Avdiivka, in the area of the city’s rubble dump, where some 1,600 people now live, down from 32,000 before the war.

Andrii Yusov, a representative of the Ukrainian Military Intelligence (GUR), noted on Sunday that the defense of the city was important to prevent Russian troops from advancing westward toward the administrative border of the Donetsk region.

He also stressed that a retreat from the city, north of the regional capital of Donetsk, which has been controlled by Russia since 2014, should be avoided, as regaining lost positions after the fact is always more costly.

“The price of an offensive is always higher if we compare it with defense,” he stressed on the Espresso TV channel. EFE

mos-int /ics