Russian troops celebrated conquering a waste heap, and threaten a pocket of Ukrainian troops

  • Russian troops continue their offensive in Avdiivka, in Ukraine's east, and surround some Ukrainian troops on three sides.

  • A video shows a Russian flag near Avdiivka planted in a waste pile, but any small gain comes at a high cost.

  • The renewed offensive in the area has wasted Russian troops, tanks, and armor.

Russia has spent the past few weeks pummeling an area along the eastern front with waves of troops, tanks, and munition, and while it comes at a high cost, geolocated footage shows Russian soldiers are celebrating their gains that could come to surround Ukrainian forces in the area.

On Tuesday, a video shared on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter, showed what appeared to be a Russian-planted flag in a waste yard north of Avdiivka. The video was apparently filmed by a Ukrainian first-person view (FPV) drone, which, in the footage, hit the flag and exploded.


The video suggests Russian forces are making some advances in the area around Avdiivka, an eastern Ukrainian region just northwest of occupied Donetsk that's seen major fighting over the past few weeks as Russia launches a renewed offensive that threatens the tightening pocket of Ukrainian defenders.

Experts at The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) confirmed the advancements on Wednesday in geolocated footage but noted: "Russian forces largely claimed that Russian forces controlled the Avdiivka waste heap, as did a Ukrainian military observer. Ukrainian Avdiivka City Military Administration Head Vitaly Barabash denied claims that Russian forces control the Avdiivka waste heap and stated that the waste heap is a contested 'gray area.'"

The fighting is intense in the area. Ukrainian journalist Yuriy Butusov noted in a Telegram post on Thursday, writing that "the situation north of Avdiivka seriously worsened. Despite heavy losses, the Russian assault units north of Avdiivka advanced along the railway track, occupied an area up to 1 km wide, trying to expand the controlled corridor and create conditions for the concentration of forces and further offensive" in the area, which could include regrouping in a northern Coke plant.

"This is a very serious threat that needs maximum attention," Butusov added, because Russian forces are also attacking south of Avdiivka, effectively moving to surround the area.

A Ukrainian soldier fires a RPG toward Russian positions at a frontline near Avdiivka, in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, Friday, April 28, 2023.
A Ukrainian soldier fires a RPG toward Russian positions at a frontline near Avdiivka, in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, Friday, April 28, 2023.AP Photo/Libkos

From the beginning, Russia's attacks in Avdiivka have come at a heavy cost — its military appears to again be using "human wave tactics," which involves sending masses of poorly trained and ill-equipped soldiers straight in frontal attacks. They previously employed this gruesome strategy, which a White House official recently said showed Russia has "no regard for the lives of its own soldiers, willingly sacrificing them in pursuit of Putin's goals," last winter.

But along with high casualties, Russia is also losing other assets in the area. Last week, ISW think tank confirmed Russia lost dozens of tanks and armored vehicles in the initial assault around Avdiivka. Combat footage shared by Ukraine's military on Friday shows what it says is the destruction of Russian tanks and armor in the area. Ukraine's Special Operations Forces (SSO) said it used a combination of FPV drones, US-provided Javelin anti-tank guided missiles, and mortars to wreck the tanks along with four armored personnel carriers, two tanks, and troops.

But Russia appears to be absorbing these loses. If that continues, it is possible they could threaten to cut off the Ukrainian defenders much as they did in the battle for Bakhmut earlier this year. After their first wave of attacks earlier this month, "Russian forces then regrouped and conducted a second wave of attacks around Avdiivka on October 20th," George Barros, the geospatial-intelligence team lead and a Russia analyst at ISW, said in a video posted Wednesday. "This suggests that the Russian forces either believe that they can earnestly take Avdiivka or that Russia's command continues prioritizing attacks on this particular axis despite previous lack of success and losses."

Part of Russia's push in the area may be because it's decided that Avdiivka is essential to conquer, especially as Moscow has few battlefield victories this year beyond Bakhmut, which only came after fierce fighting and the effective destruction of the city.

"The Russian command will want to show success here at any cost" because of the high losses and investment in resources and military power in the area, Butusov wrote, urging Ukraine to direct full attention there.

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