Russia adds major troop boost as observers deny movement on Ukraine fronts

Key Points:
  • Russian President, Vladimir Putin plans to increase the number of troops in Ukraine by fifteen percent.
  • Improving weather conditions have enabled Russian forces to intensify their assault.
  • Ukrainian troop are continuing to fend of Russia troops.
Russia said on 1 December its troops were advancing in every section of the Ukrainian front, despite observers seeing little movement.
The front lines have barely shifted in 2023 but fighting has remained intense.
The latest major flashpoint is the nearly encircled industrial town of Avdiivka, where Ukraine said it was fending off assaults.
“Our servicemen are acting competently and decisively, occupying a more favourable position and expanding their zones of control in all directions,” Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.
In a briefing with Russia’s top military brass, Shoigu said his men were “effectively and firmly inflicting fire damage on the Ukrainian armed forces, significantly reducing their combat capabilities”.

His ministry announced on Wednesday it had taken control of Khromove, a small village on the outskirts of Bakhmut in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region, but other territorial gains have proved elusive.

Russian Defence Sergei Shoigu stated on Friday that the Russian army were “effectively and firmly inflicting fire damage on the Ukrainian armed forces, significantly reducing their combat capabilities”. Source: AAP, SIPA USA / TASS

Despite Moscow’s insistence its forces were making headway, President Vladimir Putin issued a decree Friday that would boost troop numbers 15 per cent.

“The increase in the full-time strength of the army is due to growing threats to our country linked with the special military operation and the continuing expansion of NATO,” the army said, adding that some 170,000 soldiers would join the force as a response to the “aggressive activity of the NATO bloc”.

Russia intensifying forces

In recent days, improving weather conditions – following powerful storms across southern Ukraine and Russia earlier this week – have enabled Russia’s forces to intensify their assaults and use drones again, Ukrainian officials said.
Moscow has been attacking the war-battered town of Avdiivka in a bid to encircle and capture the industrial hub.

Analysts suggest they have made incremental gains – though at an enormous human cost – while Ukraine said its troops were continuing to fend off Russian attacks.

Ukraine says it’s ‘holding the line’

“Our defenders are steadfast holding the line in the Avdiivka sector,” Ukrainian army commander Oleksandr Tarnavskyi said in his daily update.

The city – which was once home to around 30,000 people – has been on the front line since 2014 and is part of the Donetsk region, which the Kremlin has claimed to have annexed along with three other regions.

A bombed out building in the city of In Avdiivka in the Donetsk region of Ukraine

Avdiika, in the Donetsk region of Ukraine was once home to 30,000 people and is an industrial hub and has been at the centre of the conflict since 2014. According to Ukraine’s national police, approximately 1,400 people remain in the city. Source: Getty / Libkos/Getty Images

It briefly fell to Russian-backed separatists in 2014, and Ukraine has spent the last nine years building defences and trenches to protect the city.

Tarnavskyi said Ukraine’s own offensive “in the Melitopol sector” in the south was continuing.
Ukraine has struggled to claw back territory from Russia this year, despite launching a counter-offensive in June after stocking up on Western weapons. Last month Kyiv said it had pushed Russian forces back a few kilometres from the banks of Dnipro river, which if confirmed would be its first meaningful advance in more than 12 months.
Ahead of expectations for another tough winter, Ukraine is trying to stave off talk of fatigue among its Western partners, fearing that aid may dry up in the case of a prolonged stalemate.

Last year Russian strikes on Ukrainian energy infrastructure left millions in the cold and dark for extended periods.

Drone attacks on the rise

Kyiv has since bolstered its air defence systems but has conceded that it needs more weapons to protect vulnerable regions, particularly those closer to the front lines.
Russian forces launched more than two dozen Iranian-designed attack drones and two missiles on the south and east of the country overnight, Ukraine said.
The air force said on Friday it downed 18 of the drones and one missile over southern regions.

Meanwhile, Russia’s defence ministry said it had destroyed a Ukrainian naval drone off the western coast of Crimea, which Moscow annexed in 2014.

Railway lines disrupted

Ukraine also said on Friday it had orchestrated attacks on a Russian railway line in Siberia, thousands of kilometres from the front line, in the latest reported sabotage incident inside Russian territory.
“The Russians have fallen into the SBU’s trap twice — another fuel train has exploded on the Baikal-Amur railway,” a source in Ukrainian law enforcement agencies told AFP, referring to the SBU security services.
There was no immediate public response from the Russian side, but Moscow confirmed that earlier this week a train crew had spotted smoke in a fuel tank and called firefighters to the scene.
AFP was unable to verify claims made by either side.
Separately on Friday, Russia’s FSB security service said it had arrested a dual Russian-Italian national for carrying out sabotage attacks under the orders of Ukrainian military intelligence.

Investigators accuse him of launching a drone attack against a military airfield in the Ryazan region in July and derailing a freight train using an explosive device last month.

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