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Content Assessment: The Rise and Stall of Russia's Avdiivka Offensive (October 9-15, 2023)

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Over the past week, as reported by the Institute for the Study of War, Russia's offensive campaign aimed at encircling the eastern Ukrainian city of Avdiivka appears to be faltering amid tactical problems, heavier than expected losses and stronger than anticipated Ukrainian defenses.

Editor’s Note: Over the past week, as reported by the Institute for the Study of War, Russia’s offensive campaign aimed at encircling the eastern Ukrainian city of Avdiivka appears to be faltering amid tactical problems, heavier than expected losses and stronger than anticipated Ukrainian defenses.

In recent days, the campaign was described as slowing down as Russian President Vladimir Putin and military bloggers sought to manage expectations and acknowledge difficulties around Avdiivka. Earlier in the week, the offensive had already shown signs of decreasing pace. After initial optimism about prospects for rapid advances, the Russian military faced setbacks around Avdiivka, unable to achieve immediate breakthroughs and suffering heavy casualties early in the offensive. Still, the sizable Russian force concentration around Avdiivka could likely sustain operations, albeit at a high cost.

Previously, the offensive had seemingly slowed following claimed advances initially. Russian sources published conflicting reports, and a military blogger noted that Ukrainian minefields were slowing the Russian advance. Geolocated footage indicated some Russian gains south of Avdiivka after Russia launched attacks from multiple directions after artillery preparation. However, Russia failed to encircle the heavily fortified city.

Earlier on, Russia launched localized offensives likely aimed at pinning down Ukrainian forces around Avdiivka. The initial operations sought to fix Ukrainian forces rather than achieve major breakthroughs. The initial Russian assaults followed these localized offensives. Overall, while Russia has adapted tactics on a local level around Avdiivka recently, its offensive campaign has ultimately stalled short of fully encircling the city.

Source Note: One of the most accurate and detailed sources for ongoing updates on the Ukraine crisis is the Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment from the Institute for the Study of War. The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) is a 501(c)(3) organization and produces strictly non-partisan, non-ideological, fact-based research. ISW seeks to promote an informed understanding of war and military affairs through comprehensive, independent, and accessible open-source research and analysis. ISW’s research is made available to the general public, military practitioners, policymakers, and media members. Providing a daily synthesis of key events related to the Russian aggression against Ukraine, ISW updates may benefit investigators and litigators as they follow the business, information technology, and legal trends and trajectories impacted by and stemming from the current Russo-Ukrainian conflict.

 For those seeking to grasp the full scope of this evolving landscape, the complete updates from the Institute for the Study of War serve as an invaluable resource.


Assessments and Maps*

Russo-Ukrainian Conflict Assessments

General Assessment Background Info 

  • ISW systematically publishes Russian campaign assessments, including maps highlighting the assessed control of terrain in Ukraine and main Russian maneuver axes.
  • Maps augment daily synthetic products that cover key events related to the Russian aggression against Ukraine.

The Russian Offensive Campaign Assessments

Overall Summary

Over the past week, the Institute for the Study of War has extensively detailed Russia’s faltering offensive campaign aimed at encircling the eastern Ukrainian city of Avdiivka in Donetsk Oblast. Recent analyses chronicle the progression of this offensive from its launch to its current stalling.

Russian Offensive Campaign Falters Around Avdiivka as Putin Seeks to Manage Expectations (October 15, 2023)

A recent Russian offensive campaign aimed at encircling the eastern city of Avdiivka in Donetsk Oblast is slowing down, according to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW). After initial optimism about prospects for a rapid advance, Russian President Vladimir Putin and pro-Russian military bloggers are now trying to manage expectations and acknowledge difficulties in Avdiivka.

The ISW assesses that intensive Russian artillery and airstrikes around Avdiivka are intended to degrade Ukrainian forces, but a decisive breakthrough or encirclement is unlikely without a major Russian commitment of personnel and equipment. Pro-Russian sources had claimed advances of over 10km early in the offensive but have since admitted a decreased pace of operations. Putin described the Avdiivka operations as an “active defense” rather than “offensive” in an apparent bid to temper expectations.

Russian forces continued offensive operations on October 15 but made no confirmed further gains around Avdiivka. Ukraine’s General Staff reported repelling over 15 Russian assaults near Avdiivka. Russian sources claimed marginal new advances, but visual confirmation is lacking. A prominent military blogger acknowledged that Ukrainian forces still have a presence at the Avdiivka Coke Plant after conflicting Russian claims of control.

The ISW assesses that the slowing pace of Russian operations indicates tactical adjustments after failing to achieve immediate breakthroughs and facing higher-than-expected losses initially. However, the sizable Russian force concentration around Avdiivka of up to 15 motorized rifle regiments likely can sustain offensive operations, albeit at a high cost. Russian forces remain a threat to Ukrainian positions near Avdiivka despite being unlikely to encircle the city in the near term.

Russian Offensive Around Avdiivka Slows Amid Tactical Problems and Heavy Losses (October 14, 2023)

The Russian offensive campaign aimed at encircling the eastern city of Avdiivka in Donetsk Oblast appears to be slowing down, according to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW). After initial optimism about prospects for a rapid advance, the Russian military is facing tactical problems and higher-than-expected losses around Avdiivka.

The ISW assesses that intensive Russian artillery and airstrikes around Avdiivka are intended to degrade Ukrainian forces, but a decisive breakthrough or encirclement is unlikely without a major Russian commitment of personnel and equipment. Pro-Russian sources had claimed advances of over 10km early in the offensive but have since acknowledged a decreased pace of operations and difficulties in the advance.

Russian forces continued offensive operations on October 14 but made no confirmed further gains around Avdiivka. Ukraine’s General Staff reported repelling over 15 Russian assaults near Avdiivka. Russian sources claimed marginal new advances, but visual confirmation is lacking. Both Russian and Ukrainian sources stated fighting has decreased in intensity around some areas southwest of Avdiivka in recent days.

The ISW assesses that the slowing pace indicates Russia faced tactical problems after failing to achieve immediate breakthroughs and suffered heavy losses initially around Avdiivka. However, the sizable Russian force concentration of up to 15 motorized rifle regiments will likely be able to sustain offensive operations, albeit at a high cost. Russian forces remain a threat to Ukrainian positions near Avdiivka despite being unlikely to encircle the city soon.

Russian Offensive Around Avdiivka Reportedly Faces Setbacks (October 13, 2023)

The ongoing Russian offensive campaign aimed at encircling the eastern Ukrainian city of Avdiivka is reportedly facing setbacks, according to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW). After initial claims of advances by pro-Russian sources, the offensive around Avdiivka is seemingly slowing amid Ukrainian defenses.

Geolocated footage indicates Russian forces made some gains south of Avdiivka in recent days. However, Russian sources have published conflicting reports about claims of seizing the Avdiivka Coke Plant. Ukrainian officials stated forces continue repelling attacks around the city. A Russian milblogger noted that Ukrainian minefields are slowing the Russian advance.

The ISW assesses the Russian military is also restricting public discussion of operations around Avdiivka, likely to control narratives amid previous information shocks when offensives initially failed to meet expectations. The Kremlin appears to be framing the Avdiivka operation and other localized offensives as Russia seizing the strategic initiative in Ukraine, despite Ukraine’s ongoing counteroffensive likely continuing into winter.

Russia Launches Major Offensive Around Avdiivka, Ukraine Claims Initial Repulsion (October 12, 2023)

Russia has likely begun a significant offensive operation aimed at encircling the eastern Ukrainian city of Avdiivka in Donetsk Oblast, according to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

The ISW assesses that the scale of simultaneous Russian ground assaults’ use of armored vehicles and aircraft indicates a more considerable effort than originally thought when attacks began on October 10. Russian sources have claimed advances from multiple directions to entrap Ukrainian forces in Avdiivka.

However, Russia has yet to achieve any major breakthroughs as of October 12. Ukraine continues repelling attacks around the city. Geolocated footage shows Russia has only advanced a few kilometers so far and has not immediately threatened Avdiivka with full encirclement.

Defending Ukrainian forces are also inflicting losses, with Russia likely losing a battalion tactical group’s worth of armored vehicles in a few days of fighting. Ukraine has damaged a key bridge near Avdiivka to hinder Russian logistics. The pace of Russia’s advance has seemingly slowed.

Local Russian Advances Around Avdiivka Show Tactical Adaptations (October 11, 2023)

Ongoing localized Russian offensive operations around the eastern Ukrainian city of Avdiivka demonstrate improved tactics, according to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW). However, these adaptations are unlikely to translate into major operational gains.

Geolocated footage confirms Russia launched localized attacks towards Avdiivka after artillery preparation on October 10 and has made some advances southwest and northwest of the city. Pro-Russian sources claim forces are using effective electronic warfare, counterbattery fire, aerial reconnaissance, and communication – tactics Russia previously employed in its successful defense against Ukraine’s counteroffensive in the south over the summer.

Russia has adapted its tactics at a local level around Avdiivka. However, the ISW assesses these improved tactics will not necessarily enable Russian forces to fully encircle or capture Avdiivka itself, which is a heavily fortified Ukrainian stronghold. Russia already controls some key roads near the city as well, so taking Avdiivka is unlikely to open new operational routes.

Russia Launches Localized Offensives Likely to Fix Ukrainian Forces (October 10, 2023)

Russia has begun localized offensive operations around the eastern Ukrainian city of Avdiivka and southwest of Orikhiv in western Zaporizhia Oblast, according to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

The ISW assesses these offensives are intended to pin down and fix Ukrainian forces rather than achieve major breakthroughs. Russia attacked northwest, west, and south of Avdiivka after artillery preparation on October 9. Pro-Russian sources claimed advances southwest of Orikhiv as well.

However, the ISW has not confirmed any of Russia’s claimed gains around Avdiivka so far. Encircling Avdiivka, one of Ukraine’s most fortified areas, would likely take far more forces than Russia has committed to this axis. Meanwhile, Ukraine continues counterattacks around Bakhmut and in western Zaporizhia, making confirmed progress southeast of Vuhledar.

Russian Offensive Campaign Stalls Ahead of 2024 Elections While Ukraine Makes Local Gains (October 9, 2023)

The war in Ukraine is approaching a pivotal moment as the March 2024 Russian presidential elections draw nearer. The Kremlin remains focused on projecting an image of normalcy and widespread public support for Putin despite growing concerns over societal war fatigue. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov stated that regular elections will be held, though Putin will undoubtedly win with unanimous support.

Imprisoned nationalist Igor Girkin reiterated forecasts that the Kremlin will continue its strategic defense, freezing frontlines to avoid agitating the Russian public. Meanwhile, Ukraine continues localized counteroffensives, notably in western Zaporizhzhia. Poor weather has hindered operations for both sides, though Ukraine retains the initiative.

In summary, the Institute for the Study of War’s daily reports over the past week comprehensively cover the trajectory of Russia’s Avdiivka offensive from initial optimism to slowing momentum amid setbacks. While Moscow sought a rapid advance to encircle this eastern city, strong Ukrainian defenses combined with tactical and operational issues have stymied Russian forces for now. However, the threat to Avdiivka persists given the sizable forces Russia has committed to the area.


We do not report in detail on Russian war crimes because those activities are well-covered in Western media and do not directly affect the military operations we are assessing and forecasting. We will continue to evaluate and report on the effects of these criminal activities on the Ukrainian military and population and specifically on combat in Ukrainian urban areas. We utterly condemn these Russian violations of the laws of armed conflict, Geneva Conventions, and humanity even though we do not describe them in these reports.


Detailed Reporting with Maps for October 9 – 15, 2023, from the ISW – Mouseover to Scroll

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment – October 9-15 2023

Review the Detailed Reporting and Maps PDF


See the Institute for the Study of War Interactive Map of the Russian Invasion
Read the latest Ukraine Conflict updates from the Institute for the Study of War 

* Shared with direct express permission from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).


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