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  /  Investing Analysis   /  Russian assault piles pressure on fragile Ukrainian defensive line in the east

Russian assault piles pressure on fragile Ukrainian defensive line in the east

A key Ukrainian defensive line on the eastern front appears to have partially fallen to Russian forces in the past week, according to a British defense intelligence statement and military bloggers quoting sources on the ground.

The United Kingdom’s defense intelligence agency on Saturday released an unusually negative assessment of Kyiv’s fortunes near the city of Avdiivka, which fell to Russian forces in mid-February. The UK statement, which was shared on X, said: “Russian forces have maintained a gradual advance West of Avdiivka. In late March 2024, they almost certainly took control of two villages – Tonenke and Orlivka – and are continuing to contest others in the area.”

The agency added that Russia had significantly more personnel and munitions in the area than Ukraine and was able to replenish their forces by 30,000 troops a month.

While the villages are not in themselves of strategic significance and struggled to hold a few hundred residents before the war, they formed part of the defensive line that Kyiv has fought bitterly to hold after their forced withdrawal from Avdiivka. Their apparent fall in just over a month after a prolonged and brutal Russian assault is indicative not only of Russian momentum, but also the fragility of Ukraine’s defensive lines.

The UK statement marks a particularly dire analysis of Ukraine’s fortunes, at a time when Kyiv’s prospects in the conflict are looking increasingly bleak.

The Ukrainian military is desperate for weapons and money, as some $60 billion worth of military aide has been held up in Washington by isolationist Republicans aligned with former US President and current frontrunner for the GOP nomination Donald Trump.

President Zelensky told the Washington Post on Friday that no US aid “means we will go back, retreat, step by step, in small steps.”

Kyiv’s soldiers on the front lines are in pressing need of ammunition to fend off Russia’s latest salvos. While the European Union has attempted to fill the void created by partisan bickering in Congress, the bloc must overcome its own internal disagreements on military aid to Kyiv.

Ukraine’s General Staff has not directly commented on the British assessment, but their Monday update discussed fighting for the village of Umanske, about 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) to the west into Ukrainian territory from Tonenke.

Ukrainian journalist Yuriy Butusov posted on social media what he said was footage from a battle to the west of Tonenke.

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a US think tank, reported Sunday that Russian forces had conducted a “large-mechanized assault” near Tonenke on Saturday, committing 36 tanks and 12 armoured personnel carriers. The ISW said the Ukrainian forces appeared to have repelled the Russian mechanized assault, an apparent reference to the Umanske attack.

Further indications of Ukraine’s worsening position came when both Ukrainian and Russian bloggers said Russian forces made significant progress towards Chasiv Yar, the main Ukrainian stronghold outside the city of Bakhmut, which Russia captured after a months-long and grueling battle in May last year.

Multiple Ukrainian military bloggers wrote Sunday about the tough fight for Chasiv Yar, with one, named Chameleon, warning the distance “to the enemy positions is about 650 meters (2,000 feet).” The same distance between forces was reported by pro-Russian blogger Operation Z.

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