December 8, 2023

Newly published satellite images have detailed the serious Russian military losses around the Ukrainian fortress city of Avdiivka, where Moscow’s troops are on the attack and seeking to encircle the strategic settlement in eastern Ukraine.

Images published by Maxar Technologies and Planet Lab showed the aftermath of the Russian assault around Avdiivka, which is continuing despite initial high losses among the attacking units. Kyiv said on Sunday that Russia has lost more than 6,000 soldiers in a week of combat around the city, as well as more than 400 armored vehicles and tanks.

Newsweek is unable to independently verify the figures and has contacted the Russian Defense Ministry to request comment.

Frontelligence Insight, a prominent Ukraine-aligned open-source intelligence outlet, said the satellite imagery showed more than 109 destroyed Russian vehicles between October 10 and 20, “indicating that within the span of a week and a half, Russia suffered the loss of approximately a brigade-sized force.” The real count, the outlet added, is likely “substantially higher.”

View of fortified city of Avdiivka Ukraine
A view of the Avdiivka Coke and Chemical Plant in Avdiivka on October 18, 2023. The fortified city is the focus of a new major Russian offensive in eastern Ukraine.
STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images

Frontelligence Insight reported that the “overwhelming majority of losses” were armored fighting vehicles, main battle tanks, and transport vehicles of various types.

“Despite reports indicating that Russia used old and outdated equipment during the assaults, our team has identified a significant presence of modern and modernized vehicles and equipment being deployed in these assaults,” the outlet said.

The scale of the losses, Frontelligence Insight added, has now surpassed Russia’s offensive failures during the battle of the Siverskyi Donets in May 2022, and around Vuhledar between November 2022 and April 2023.

The Frontelligence Insight report said that the Avdiivka operation is of high priority for the Russian military command. “Our team concluded that the enemy had been planning this operation for a significant duration, making it an unlikely sporadic decision,” it added.

“The observed patterns strongly indicate that the Russians allocated substantial time and resources to execute this operation, implying their anticipation of very high losses in pursuit of their objectives.”

Despite the evidence of serious Russian casualties, Moscow’s offensive in the area is continuing. The Institute for the Study of War’s Monday-evening update noted that “Russian forces conducted offensive operations near Avdiivka and made confirmed advances northeast of Avdiivka.”

The ISW has described the Avdiivka push as a “fixing operation” intended to draw Ukrainian resources away from other areas of the front. The independent U.S.-based think tank added that the current Russian forces in the area appear unlikely to be able to encircle and take the heavily fortified city.

A Sunday update from the British Defense Ministry on X, formerly Twitter, noted that the Russian assault on Avdiivka has “contributed to a 90 percent increase in Russian casualties” as recorded by the Ukrainian Defense Ministry.

Despite Russia’s substantial losses, “the situation remains far from stable or victorious,” Frontelligence Insight said.

“Russian forces persist in their extensive use of guided air-dropped bombs and artillery strikes, supported by the deployment of LMUR (Light Multipurpose Guided Rocket) launched from helicopters such as the Ka-52 and Mi-28.

“Several indicators suggest that Russians are actively working to adapt their tactics to maintain the operation. This is further confirmed by the deployment of additional resources from other parts of the frontline,” Frontelligence Insight added.