Russian forces continue to attack Avdiivka in Donetsk Oblast but are trying to bypass the city, Oleksandr Tarnavskyi, head of the Tavria group of Ukraine's military fighting on the southeastern front lines, said in an interview with BBC Ukraine published on Dec. 27.
Russia intensified its attacks against Avdiivka in early October, reportedly suffering heavy losses in an attempt to encircle the front-line town just kilometers from the occupied city of Donetsk.
Ukrainian forces have continued to defend the now-destroyed town and largely prevented Russia from securing significant gains.
Avdiivka remains a primary direction of Russian attacks in the area, Tarnavskyi said, but Russian forces likely want to avoid actually entering the city and engaging in the type of brutal street combat that was seen in the battle for Bakhmut.
Russian forces eventually captured the city of Bakhmut in Donetsk Oblast after months of grueling urban combat in May 2023, suffering tens of thousands of casualties in the process. Fighting around Bakhmut has nonetheless continued.
Oleksandr Shtupun, the spokesman for the Tavria group of forces, said on Dec. 20 that Russian forces had advanced between 1.5 and 2 kilometers since the beginning of their renewed push against Avdiivka and lost as many as 20,000 killed and wounded.
Tarnavskyi added that his forces operating in the southeast sector of the country continue to take offensive actions and refuted the notion that Ukrainian actions have switched to a primarily defensive nature.
Russian state-owned media RIA Novosti reported on Dec. 25 that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu had declared the complete capture of Marinka, another suburb of Donetsk located around 30 kilometers southwest of Avdiivka.
Shtupun denied Shoigu's claim, saying that Marinka had been completely destroyed, but fighting to control the area continued. Ukraine’s Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi said on Dec. 26 that Ukrainian troops remained in Marinka’s northern part.
Tarnavskyi predicted that 2024 may be an even more difficult year for Ukraine than 2023 and said there is a current lack of resources, both human and technical.
Soldiers should be rotated out, he said, adding that the army needs more men and equipment.
"We must end hostilities and liberate our territories. And the closer we get to accomplishing this task, the main goal of reaching our borders, it will be even more difficult. The enemy knows about this and will do everything to prevent us from accomplishing this task."