Russian assaults, Bakhmut battle, and upcoming Ukraine’s counteroffensive

Russian invading forces continue attacking Bakhmut and Avdiivka in Ukraine’s Donbas area. 

Russian attacks, however, may come to an end soon, as the invaders’ resources are not unlimited, and Ukraine is receiving Western weaponry and preparing a counteroffensive. 

According to Ukrainian General Staff reports, Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and Mariinka are the focus of Russia’s war. Every day, the Ukrainian Armed Forces repel dozens of attacks in Bakhmut, Avdiivka, Mariinka, and Lyman.

Battle for Bakhmut

According to UK intelligence, Russia likely made gains in the city of Bakhmut in Ukraine’s Donbas on April 7, advancing into the city center and controlling the west bank of the Bakhmutka River. However, all advances cost the Russian invaders substantial military personnel losses. 

The frontline city of Bakhmut, with a pre-war population of 70,000, has been the main target of massive Russian attacks since November 2022.

Wagner, a Russian military squad, put a Russian flag on Bakhmut’s town hall. However, this does not indicate the town is under Russian control. In the west, the Ukrainian army still controls and defends around a third of the city.

Protracted fighting over individual city blocks and traffic intersections continues in the Bakhmut city area. Russian advances in the area around Bakhmut and on the route connecting Bakhmut and Sloviansk have paused, at least for the time being.

Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar stated that Ukraine would hold Bakhmut until it is reasonable from a military standpoint to diminish Russian forces.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stated that if required, Ukrainian soldiers would retreat from Bakhmut to avoid encirclement. Still, he has yet to analyze the need for this. During a news conference in Poland on April 5, Zelenskyy stated that Ukrainian troops face a challenging situation in Bakhmut and that Kyiv will make “corresponding decisions” if Russian forces encircle Ukrainian troops.


Avdiivka and Mariinka strongholds

The situation surrounding Avdiivka is currently hot; the town is under Ukrainian army control, but the invading Russian forces launch attacks daily. Avdiivka remains another stronghold in Donbas for the Ukrainian army.

Russian invaders appear to be utilizing forces left over from the failed assaults near Vuhledar to maintain pressure on Avdiivka. Ukraine has well-developed positions west of Avdiivka and can effectively repel Russian attacks.

On April 7, the Ukrainian forces shot down another Russian Su-25 ground attack aircraft near the Donetsk suburb of Mariinka. Ukrainian paratroopers later published a video. Despite Russian attacks, Mariinka is controlled by the Ukrainian army.

Western weapons supplies and military training

Various analysts and media discuss Ukraine’s upcoming counteroffensive. However, Ukraine must still receive all the weapons the Western partners promised.

The Ukrainian military is preparing to start training on M1 Abrams tanks soon, as reported by CNN. Citing a Pentagon spokesman, the publication reports that 31 tanks are planned to be transferred to Ukraine. The official did not provide specific dates for the training but noted that it would happen “relatively soon.”

President Andrzej Duda said that Poland would be transferring four more MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine.

Lieutenant General Serhiy Nayev, commander of the United Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, demonstrated the American AN/TWQ-1 Avenger anti-aircraft missile system with Stinger missiles. The systems have been deployed in the Kyiv region.

The shipment of six Leopard 2 tanks promised by Spain has been delayed, Reuters reported. According to the news agency, the tanks have not been used since the 1990s, so they need maintenance, readiness checks and re-equipment. Therefore, they can be sent to Ukraine only in the second half of April.

Thus, Ukraine needs further time to gather, organize, train, and exercise forces for a counteroffensive. The brigades’ training level for this purpose must be increased for combined arms maneuvers and the best possible use of the weapon systems supplied.

Need for F-16s

Ukraine needs the F-16 fighter jets and more Patriot and SAMP/T air defense systems to properly defend against the Russian aircraft dumping updated high-explosive bombs. The spokesman for the Air Force Command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, Yurii Ihnat, announced, according to Ukrinform.

Mr Ihnat cautions that while Russia depletes its strategic missile stocks, FAB-500 general-purpose bombs are being updated with GPS navigation for precision targeting.

“Our systems… hit at a maximum range of 75 kilometers – these are the S-300 and the Buk – at a range of 40 kilometers. Thus, the adversary, without flying into the air defense zone, at 50 kilometers from the front line or the state boundary, shoots these bombs. They hit the frontline region more and more,” Ihnat said.

Although MiG-29s from Slovakia and Poland can hit distant targets, land-based weapons systems capable of disrupting Russian logistics, command and control, and communications beyond present ranges are desperately needed.

This is a new difficulty, and Ihnat thinks that while additional Patriot or SAMP/T air defense systems in specific locations could assist in handling the new challenge, F-16 fighter jets capable of throwing missiles up to 180 kilometers would be the most effective response.

When could Ukraine’s counterattack start?

A premature counterattack might be risky and harmful for Ukraine, wasting crucial resources. Strategic patience is particularly vital right now. In addition, experts believe that Ukraine has one significant chance for a successful counteroffensive this year, as gathering needed weaponry from partners and training military personnel would require another long period.

That’s why the Ukrainian army needs more time to ensure a high readiness to defeat Russian  invading forces in Donbas.

Meanwhile, it’s a sign that Ukraine’s Western partners should continue to supply rather than sit back and see what happens after the last significant supplies. Ukraine still requires substantially more resources to expand its counteroffensive.

Long-term planning for the manufacturing and delivery of ammunition and weapons systems to Ukraine, as well as training and exercises, is required throughout 2023. A significant amount of artillery ammunition is still required. Ukraine also needs longer-range weapons and ammo for those MLRS systems. 

In the war against Ukraine, Russia has already lost around 177,000 men, 3,633 tanks, 7,016 armored combat vehicles, and 2,722 artillery systems, the General Staff of the Ukrainian army reported.

Moscow troops suffer severe losses in their assaults against Ukrainian defense forces. That’s why invaders’ attacks will end in the coming weeks. And then the Ukrainian counteroffensive will be launched.

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