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War in Ukraine: where is the Russian army advancing along the front line?

The Russian army is advancing “in all directions” in Ukraine, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu assured at the end of last week.

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War in Ukraine: where is the Russian army advancing along the front line?

The Russian army is advancing “in all directions” in Ukraine, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu assured at the end of last week. Along the front of more than 1000 kilometers, the fighting crystallized particularly in the East, with increased pressure in Bakmout, Marinka and especially Avdiivka. For its part, Ukraine maintains a bridgehead on the Dnieper, at Krynky, north of Kherson.

All against a backdrop of concerns from kyiv's Western allies, who are debating munitions and financial aid granted to Ukraine, whose counter-offensive is a failure. “Wars develop in phases […] We must support Ukraine in good times and bad,” declared NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg on December 2. “We must also prepare for bad news,” he added without further details.

“The Ukrainian army will have to give in in certain places and prepare lines of withdrawal in depth to prepare for the future,” analyzes General (2S) Olivier Kempf, associate researcher at the Foundation for Strategic Research, who describes it as “definitive failure” of kyiv’s counter-offensive. However, this does not mean that the Russians are going to make a big breakthrough.”

Russian forces continue their operations towards Avdiivka, a small working town located near Donetsk, and claim to conquer parts of this territory to encircle it. “Taking Avdiivka is the primary objective of the Russian army. Winning this city, which has been an advanced Ukrainian position since 2014, will then allow it to secure Donetsk,” analyzes Olivier Kempf. This commune in Donbass briefly fell into the hands of pro-Russian separatists in July 2014, before returning to Ukrainian control. Since then, it has marked the front line in this area which was already bombarded, from both sides, before the Russian offensive in Ukraine in February 2022.

Geotagged images released on December 4 show that Russian forces advanced in some areas directly north of the Ukrainian-fortified town toward the village of Stepove, where recent images concurrently showed Ukrainian counterattacks. Likewise, Russia is pushing south of the city, towards the town of Sjeverne, but the front line between the two belligerents is blurred. One thing is certain according to the various maps which geolocate the images of the conflict, the Russians have advanced very slightly in a few weeks.

The Ukrainian General Staff, meanwhile, reported unsuccessful Russian offensive operations in various localities in the east and in Avdiivka and claimed that its forces had repelled Russian attacks on the outskirts of the locality.

At the same time, Russia continues its assaults around Bakhmout - a town conquered last May - and is said to have advanced on the northwest flank. Russian bloggers claimed that Russian forces continued to attack west of Khromove (in the northwest). For its part, the Ukrainian General Staff reported the failures of Russian attacks near Bohdanivka, Ivanivske, Klishchiivka and Andriivka. The Ukrainian General Staff also claimed that Ukrainian forces were continuing their attacks on the southern flank of Bakhmut.

“The Russian army is eating up ground everywhere and is applying a strategy of attrition with local successes that are still minimal,” continues Olivier Kempf. As its forces are spread across the entire front, this prevents Ukraine from concentrating its defense on any particular point. The Ukrainians must defend across the entire area, especially since the Ukrainians have an ammunition deficit.”

In recent weeks, Russian forces have advanced through the ruins of Marinka in the Donetsk region, south of Avdiivka, according to Kyiv Post. Moscow would control the majority of built territory, according to the British Ministry of Defense. However, Ukrainian forces still control pockets of territory on the western edge of the city. Like Avdiivka, it was one of the most fortified points of the Ukrainian system since 2015. The Russians had been trying unsuccessfully to seize the city for more than a year.

Some of the fighting is also concentrated along a dividing line between Kreminna, in the Luhansk oblast, and Koupiansk, in the Kharkiv oblast. But “no confirmed gains” have been made, reports the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) in a bulletin published this Monday, December 4. While some Russian sources have claimed that Vladimir Putin's army had advanced near Synkivka, near Kupiansk, and now controlled about half of the territory, the ISW is unable to confirm this. The Ukrainian general staff assures for its part that Russia attacked “unsuccessfully” localities near Kupiansk and Kreminna.

For its part, the Russian general staff assures that Ukraine is carrying out operations along this same line, without claimed or confirmed advances. The Russian Defense Ministry similarly claimed that kyiv unsuccessfully attacked near Synkivka in the direction of Kupiansk.

For their part, Ukrainian forces continue their ground operations on the east bank of the Dnieper in Kherson Oblast and have established a confirmed position on the island of Bilohrudnyi, southwest of the city of Kherson. Geotagged images in early December show Ukrainian forces engaging Russian forces at Bilohrudove, southwest of Kherson, indicating that Russian forces likely control most of Bilodrudnyi island and that Ukrainian forces have recently established positions at proximity, explains the ISW.

Russian sources say on Telegram that Ukrainian forces had temporarily advanced south of Krynky, 30 km northeast of the city of Kherson, but that Russian artillery fire had forced them to withdraw. Other military bloggers have claimed that fighting continues near Krynky but that neither Ukrainian nor Russian forces have made recent progress.

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