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Russia could exploit Ukraine’s weapons shortage by launching multiple front-line attacks

Soldiers raise the Russian flag above the Avdiivka coke plant
Soldiers raise the Russian flag above the Avdiivka coke plant

Russia is likely attempting to capitalise on dwindling Western weapons supplies to Ukraine by launching multiple attacks across the front lines, according to a leading think-tank.

Since capturing the Donetsk region city of Avdiivka, Moscow’s forces have stepped up attacks in the western Zaporizhia and the border of Kharkiv and Luhansk, the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

The Kremlin’s troops cemented their control over Avdiivka over the weekend, raising a flag over the industrial town’s hulking, Soviet-era coke and chemical plant complex, which served as the final stronghold for Ukrainian forces before their withdrawal.

Both Ukrainian and Western sources revealed that biting ammunition shortages, mainly artillery shells and air defence systems, had played a major role in the fall of Avdiivka.

“Critical Ukrainian shortages in Western-provided equipment and fears of the complete cessation of US military aid have forced Ukrainian troops to husband material along the entire front, which has likely encouraged Russian forces to exploit the situation and launch limited offensive operations outside of the Avdiivka area,” ISW wrote in its daily battlefield report, published late on Sunday.

Avdiivka coke plant
Russia now has control over Avdiivka, including its coke plant - Libkos/Getty Images Europe

Days after securing the capture of Avdiivka, Russian forces unleashed a massive armed onslaught against Robotyne, a small village in the southern Zaporizhia region, which was the epicentre of Ukraine’s much-vaunted summer counter-offensive last year.

The Ukrainian defence ministry claimed it had destroyed 18 Russian armoured vehicles and three tanks as the Russian military launched attacks on Kyiv-held positions near the settlement.

Battlefield footage shared by Ukrainian sources appeared to show large Russian mechanised assaults being immediately swarmed by first-person view kamikaze drones as they approached Robotyne through open fields.

Other aerial videos appear to show anti-tank guided missiles and DPICM cluster munitions being used to halt the advancing Russians.

It is likely Russian forces are trying to whittle away the small salient established by Ukraine during its counter-offensive towards the Azov Sea last year, which was thwarted by heavy Russian defences.

Ukraine’s general staff said on Monday it had also repelled at least 12 attacks along the Russian axis of advance between Kupiansk and Lyman.

Military chiefs also warned that occupying forces were attempting to push out of Avdiivka towards Ukraine’s fallback positions in the nearby villages of Lastochkyne, and Novobakhmutivka to the west of the fallen city.

But ISW said it was unlikely that Moscow would be able to generate enough momentum to make further, significant gains into the remaining Ukrainian-held area of the Donetsk region.

“Russian forces have not yet demonstrated an ability to secure operationally significant gains or conduct rapid mechanised manoeuvre across large swaths of territory, and the capture of Avdiivka should not be taken as demonstrating this capability,” the think-tank said.