Russia is stepping up its offensive in Donbas. Perhaps the Ukrainian army will have to withdraw from Bakhmut. Our analysis of the situation at the front on the 351st day of the war — with maps

Oleksiy Yarmolenko
Tetyana Lohvynenko, Yevhen Spirin
Russia is stepping up its offensive in Donbas. Perhaps the Ukrainian army will have to withdraw from Bakhmut. Our analysis of the situation at the front on the 351st day of the war — with maps

Ukrainian soldiers fire artillery at Russian positions near Bakhmut, February 5, 2023.

Getty Images / «Babel'»

The Russian army began to put pressure on Ukrainian positions along the entire front line. The occupiers are trying to advance in the Kharkiv, Luhansk and Donetsk regions. In the Luhansk region, the Russians are gradually pushing back the Ukrainian army, and in Bakhmut in the near future they may cut off all the roads to the city. This will mean that the Ukrainian military will have to leave Bakhmut. On the other hand, in the area of Vuhledar, where the Russians also threw significant forces, the attacks of the occupiers ended unsuccessfully.

The Ukrainian command is preparing for another large-scale Russian offensive. This is what Ukrainian and Western politicians and Western media sources say. They are sure that the Russians will direct most of their efforts to capturing the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. They can also advance in the Zaporizhzhia or Kharkiv regions. As for Kyiv, the authorities assure: the Russians donʼt have a large strike group near the northern borders of Ukraine, so the capital is not in danger yet. The only thing the occupiers can do is to simulate an offensive or sorties in order to distract the Ukrainian forces and prevent them from being transferred to other, hotter spots of the front.

The Russians are already starting a large-scale offensive: they have increased the pressure on the entire front from Kupyansk in the Kharkiv region to Vuhledar in the Donetsk region. So far, they havenʼt achieved success anywhere, but they are trying to advance — to prepare favorable conditions for an offensive or to identify the weakest points in the Ukrainian defense.

Ukraine is preparing not only to repel the Russian offensive, but also to counterattack. The supply of Western armored vehicles will strengthen the potential of the Ukrainian army, which is now actively forming new units. The Ministry of Defense of Ukraine is increasing the pace of mobilization. The Ministry of Internal Affairs decided to immediately form eight new assault brigades based on units of the National Guard, the National Police and the State Border Service. They will consist only of volunteers and military personnel who want to move there from the Ukrainian Armed Forces. These brigades will be involved in the counteroffensive and the liberation of Ukrainian territories. That is why they were called Offensive Guard.

In the Kharkiv region, the front line doesnʼt change: the Russians still control a very small area in the northeast, not far from the Russian-Ukrainian border.

On February 6, information was spread in Russian Telegram channels that the Russians were allegedly trying to advance in the area of Synkivka village. Itʼs located opposite the city of Kupyansk, across the Oskil River. Also, the Russians seem to have taken some positions in the village of Dvorichne on the same bank of the river. The local Ukrainian Telegram channel explains that, in fact, the occupiers entered the "gray" zone, which was not controlled by either side, and occupied the school building in Dvorichne near the railway station — they didʼt seize any new positions.


In the Luhansk region, the Russian army began to press along almost the entire front line. The occupiers are trying to advance in the area of the villages of Novoselivske and Makiivka, but they are making the most of their efforts to push back the Ukrainian military from Kreminna. The Russians have been transferring reserves here for about a month, including paratroopers, and now they have begun to attack.

The Russian army is gradually pushing back the Defense Forces of Ukraine in the area of Dibrova village and to the north and south of it, in the Serebryanske Forestry. The main goal of the Russians is to create conditions for an offensive on the Lyman.

On the southern bank of the Siverskyi Donets River — the administrative border of Luhansk region and Donetsk region — the Russians are intensifying pressure on Bilohorivka, Verkhnyokamyanske and Spirne villages. Russian Telegram channels reported that they had captured Bilohorivka, but later the Ukrainian military denied these claims and published photos from there.

These settlements are important for Ukrainian defense, as they cover the flanks of the military, which hold back the Russians behind Soledar and prevent the invaders from reaching Siversk quickly and simultaneously from several sides.

After the Russians captured Soledar, they began to advance in three directions. The first one is to the north — towards Siversk town. Over the past 10 days, they captured Sacco and Vanzetti village, as well as Mykolaivka, but the occupiers are being held at the border of the villages of Rozdolivka and Fedorivka.

The second direction is to the south, where the Russians are advancing towards Bakhmut. There, the Ukrainian military still holds the villages of Paraskoviyvka and Krasna Gora. Heavy fighting is going on for them: if the Russians capture these villages, they will be able to go to the Slovyansk-Bakhmut road and cut one of the routes that supply the city.

The occupiers also turned their efforts to the western direction: they captured the village of Blahodatne and cut the Siversk—Bakhmut road. From there, they moved to the west, and then turned sharply to the south in the direction of the Sloviansk—Bakhmut highway. If the Russians advance, they will cut the highway and surround the Ukrainian military in Paraskoviivka and Krasna Gora.

The Russians can surround Bakhmut. They are actively advancing in the eastern part of the city. Ukrainian troops will have to retreat beyond the Bakhmutka River and defend themselves in the western part of Bakhmut.

To the east of the city, the Russians approached Ivanivske village. It is located on the highway Kostyantynivka—Bakhmut, which is used to supply the Ukrainian troops in Bakhmut. If the occupiers capture Ivanivske, another road to the city will be under their control. This will mean that only the route Chasiv Yar—Bakhmut will remain for the supply of Ukrainian troops. But it is located a few kilometers north of the Kostyantynivka—Bakhmut road, and the Russians are shelling it with artillery and mortars. If they manage to get close to this road as well, the Ukrainian army will have to withdraw from Bakhmut to avoid encirclement.

In the western suburbs of Donetsk, from Avdiivka to Maryinka, the front line has hardly changed. The Russians made some progress in the area of the Donetsk airport — near the villages of Opytne and Vodyane. In the rest of the directions, their attempts to advance werenʼt successful.

The occupiers threw considerable forces at capturing the city of Vuhledar. The offensive there began on January 24 and is still ongoing. The invaders broke through almost to the outskirts of the city, but since then they couldnʼt go further. They gather strength and resume a massive assault, but suffer heavy losses and retreat. On February 6, they gathered a serious group of dozens of armored vehicles and tanks, but again to no avail. Photos and videos from under Vuhledar show that the occupiers lost at least 15 tanks and combat vehicles.



In the Zaporizhzhia region, the front line remains unchanged. In January, the Russians tried to advance simultaneously in several directions, but without success. They turned back and no longer attack.

On February 7, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu said that in January, the Russians captured the villages of Lobkove and Pidhirne in the Zaporizhzhia region. But the Main Directorate of Intelligence of Ukraine called this a fake. And if Lobkove is really located on the front line, it is not known which Pidhirne Shoigu had in mind. There are no such villages on the front line.

In the Kherson region, the front doesnʼt change — it has stabilized along the Dnipro River. Ukraine and Russia carry out sabotage raids on the other coast and on the islands.



On February 3, the USA announced another package of military aid to Ukraine worth $2.2 billion. It contains support equipment for Patriot air defense systems, artillery shells, armored vehicles, precision munitions, Javelin anti-tank missile systems, and much more. However, the most interesting was the announcement of deliveries of GLSDB long-range bombs, which are capable of flying at a distance of 150 kilometers. This is twice the range of high-precision GMLRS projectiles to HIMARS and M270, which Ukraine currently has.

GLSDB has many advantages: low cost, high accuracy, flight range, small size. But no army in the world has this weapon, it has never been used in war. It is not known when GLSDB will arrive in Ukraine. If these bombs really fly 150 kilometers, then Ukraine will be able to reach any point in the occupied Donbas, as well as in the north of Crimea.

When the West approved the delivery of Leopard 2 and Abrams tanks to Ukraine, there was talk of the old Leopard 1. Germany officially allowed the transfer of 178 such tanks to Ukraine. Other European countries are ready to hand over almost 100 tanks.

Leopard 1 was adopted back in the 1960s, but Ukraine will receive the latest modification of the 1980s. Countries still have to check the technical condition and find out which tanks can still fight and how much serious repairs are needed. The main problem with the Leopard 1 is weak armor. However, it is very maneuverable and has a full-fledged tank gun of 105 or 120 mm caliber. Therefore, the Ukrainian army will most likely use the Leopard 1 not as an armored tank, but as a fire support vehicle.

On January 31, France announced that it would transfer 12 more Caesar self-propelled artillery units to Ukraine. In total, the Ukrainian army will have 30 such self-propelled guns — Ukraine will become the second-largest Caesar operator in the world.

Israel can transfer air defense systems to Ukraine. It can also be Iron Dome. Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu said on February 1 that he is considering such a possibility. Iron Dome helps Israel defend itself against airstrikes, in particular, it can shoot down unguided rockets and artillery shells.

Translated from Ukrainian by Anton Semyzhenko.

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Ukrainian military personnel near their deployment point in Donbas, February 4, 2023.

Getty Images / «Babel'»