Russia’s Advance Around Avdiivka Loses Momentum After Quick Gains

When the eastern city of Avdiivka, a Ukrainian stronghold, fell to Russian forces three weeks ago, Kyiv and its allies feared that Moscow’s troops could build on their momentum and quickly press ahead toward strategic military hubs and population centers.

But after making rapid gains in the subsequent days, Russian assaults have stalled around three contested nearby villages. Military experts cite several factors, including terrain that does not favor offensive operations, Russian troops exhausted by months of fighting and a Ukrainian army that has committed significant forces to defending the area.

Russia seems to be maintaining its initiative on the battlefield, and military analysts say its forces could still break through Ukrainian lines in the near future, especially since Kyiv’s defensive efforts are increasingly curtailed by the absence of further American military aid.

Yet for now, they say the fighting appears to have reverted to the kind of inconclusive back-and-forth battles that have characterized much of the war’s front line combat this past year.

“The capture of Avdiivka has not led to the collapse of Ukrainian lines, the possibility for the Russians to move onto open ground or even to make major gains,” said Thibault Fouillet, the deputy director of the Institute for Strategic and Defense Studies, a French research center. “There’s no decisive action or breakthrough.”

It’s a contrast to the situation that emerged from the fall of Avdiivka in mid-February. At that time, as Ukraine’s forces retreated, Russia advanced rapidly, aided in part by the absence of strong Ukrainian defensive positions. Russian troops captured three settlements and took control of nine square miles of land, according to open-source maps of the battlefield.

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