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Tanks but no tanks Russia makes breakthroughs along the front line in Ukraine, but its equipment losses could be a point of vulnerability 

Source: Meduza

Like our earlier reports on the combat situation in Ukraine, this article takes stock of the recent developments on the battlefield based on open-source information. Meduza has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine from the very start, and our detailed military analyses are part of our commitment to objective reporting on a war we firmly oppose.

Our map is based exclusively on open-source photos and videos, most of them posted by eyewitnesses on social media. We collect available evidence and determine its geolocation markers, adding only the photos and videos that clear this process. Meduza doesn’t try to track the conflict in real time; the data reflected on the map are typically at least 48 hours old.

Key updates as of April 7, 2024

The Russian army has made several breakthroughs along the front line in Ukraine over the past week, advancing more than a kilometer in some directions. But these can only be considered breakthroughs in the context of this particular war, where advances usually only cover hundreds (if not tens) of meters. These assaults have worsened the Ukrainian army’s tactical position significantly, but haven’t led to immediate operational gains for Russia’s forces. At the same time, each advance costs Russian troops large amounts of equipment, which isn’t so easily replaced. 

The Avdiivka front 

After Russian troops captured Avdiivka in February, part of these forces pushed towards villages west of the city, in the Durna river valley, advancing tens of meters per day — at best. The remainder were apparently withdrawn from the battlefield to rest. Now, these troops have returned to the front with the aim of striking deep inside Ukraine’s lines of defense. 

  • On the southern flank of the front, between the Russian-occupied villages of Tonen’ke and Pervomaiske, a gap several kilometers wide has opened in Ukraine’s defense, with an obviously insufficient number of troops covering the territory. Since the Durna bends westward here, there is no water barrier either, giving Russian troops the opportunity to advance along the riverbank. 
  • Russia sent at least two battalions from its 90th Tank Division’s 6th Tank Regiment into this gap. (These battalions took part in the assault on Avdiivka in the fall but then briefly “disappeared” from the front.)
  • To the north, the regiment’s armored columns managed to advance three kilometers (1.86 miles) towards the village of Umanske. However, video footage appears to show that the attacking forces lost up to 20 pieces of equipment, including more than 10 tanks. Under pressure, Ukraine’s troops were forced to pull back to Umanske itself, losing several pieces of equipment themselves. By April 5, the Russian advance had halted on Umanske’s eastern outskirts. 
  • To the south, another armored column failed to breach the forest belts near the northern outskirts of Russian-occupied Pervomaiske and suffered heavy equipment losses in the process. However, simultaneous Russian assaults coming from Pervomaiske and Tonen’ke could force the Ukrainian army to retreat to the next water barrier — the Vovcha River and its Karlivske reservoir.  
  • At the same time, video footage appears to show that Russian troops — having likely received reinforcements — crossed the Durna to the north, near the villages of Berdychi and Semenivka. By April 5, they had entered the center of Semenivka. This could force Ukrainian troops to begin a retreat toward the Vovcha here, as well. This battle also resulted in Russian forces losing equipment to drone strikes, artillery, and anti-tank mines. 

In photos: The final days of the battle for Avdiivka


In photos: The final days of the battle for Avdiivka

  • Though it may be successful, whether Russia’s assault in the direction of the Vovcha River is worth such heavy equipment losses remains unclear. It’s unlikely that the Russian army will be able to push west beyond the river right away: the Ukrainian army’s fortified, elevated position in the village of Ocheretyne in the north and the Ukrainian defense on the banks of the Karlivske reservoir in the south will pose problems on the flanks. The Russian command has acted cautiously in this regard (except for during the initial period of the war), securing the flanks before trying to advance deep into Ukraine’s defenses. 

Bakhmut and Chasiv Yar

  • After lengthy preparations, including several weeks of airstrikes on Chasiv Yar, Russian troops gained a foothold on the eastern edge of this satellite town of Bakhmut. Armored columns mounted the assault, traversing minefields under fire and drone strikes from the Ukrainian armed forces. However, the Russian army only managed to reach the Kanal microdistrict, a neighborhood on the eastern bank of the Siverskyi Donets–Donbas Canal. Video footage appears to show that Russia lost several units of equipment here, as well (19 pieces, according to the Ukrainian army, but there isn’t video confirmation).
  • At the same time, Russian forces attacked villages on the flanks of this breach. Namely, Bohdanivka, most of which is still under Ukrainian control, and Ivanivs’ke, which Russian troops partially occupied several weeks ago (video footage refutes the Russian Defense Ministry’s claims about taking complete control of the latter).
  • It would be extremely difficult for Russian troops to take Chasiv Yar “head-on,” given the town’s hilltop location and the canal separating it from the front line. Russian troops would probably have to carry out many more attacks before they could actually engage in a battle for this crucial position. And if they use the same tactics, then they’ll suffer many more losses. 


  • The Russian army has already spent nearly two years trying to capture the Ukrainian army’s fortified positions around the small mining town of Vuhledar. All attempts to capture the town via the shortest route — an assault from the south — have failed (and led to major equipment and personnel losses). In recent months, however, the Russian command has been trying a different route, attempting to seize the fortified village of Novomykhaylivka to pave the way for cutting off Vuhledar with a strike from the east. 
  • Over the past week, the Russian army has managed to storm Novomykhaylivka from the north and south and partially occupied its center. As usual, the Ukrainian army has published videos of these attacks, which show several destroyed Russian tanks and armored vehicles. The battles near Novomykhaylivka have already damaged or destroyed dozens of pieces of Russian equipment. 
  • That said, seizing Novomykhyalivka won’t lead to the immediate fall of Vuhledar. The Russian army would have to organize another series of major attacks before the town’s Ukrainian defenders would be in a truly threatened position. 

On other fronts

The Russian army is continuing localized attacks in many other areas, losing even more equipment for the sake of minor gains:

  • In the Zaporizhzhia region, Russian forces have been bogged down in battles between the villages of Robotyne and Verbove. After suffering huge losses in February and March, Russian forces have made less intense use of equipment in frontline attacks in recent weeks. 
  • North of Bakhmut, Russian troops made another attempt at a direct push towards the town of Siversk and managed to move about a kilometer in the direction of the village of Vyimka. At the same time, Russian forces are still trying to take the village of Bilohorivka near Lysychansk, the battle for which has been ongoing for six months already. The Ukrainian army’s positions at the top of the Bilohorivka chalk quarry remain impregnable and every Russian attack results in more equipment losses. 
  • Meanwhile, Russia’s 25th Combined Arms Army (newly created in 2023) is advancing on Terny. Its units managed to reach the village’s outskirts following a series of attacks. But in recent weeks the armored columns’ advances have been overwhelmed on the approaches to the front: Ukrainian forces not only mined the approaches but are also striking advancing vehicles with drones and artillery. 
The red dots show recent events, and the gray dots show earlier events. Black indicates the approximate contact line as of the last update; the red and blue areas mark places occupied (since early September) by Russian and Ukrainian forces. Clicking on them will provide additional information. Air strikes are marked with a special icon, ground operations with dots. Click on the point on the map to pull up source links.

What is the Russian army gaining from these attacks?

The Russian army’s attacks on various fronts aren’t going to achieve breakthroughs of operational significance. For each of Russia’s successes, the Ukrainian army manages to build another line of defense in the immediate rear, forcing Russian soldiers to prepare for another costly assault. So how are these battles beneficial to the Russian army in a war of attrition? 

  • The ratio of manpower losses in these battles is unknown. Russia is clearly taking heavy casualties, but Ukrainian infantry occupying forward positions and those located in the rear are also suffering under aviation and artillery attacks. 
  • That said, the Russian army’s equipment losses appear to be excessive compared to its gains. If the Russian command expects to deplete the Ukrainian army through a series of localized battles, then it risks depleting its own troops more quickly. Only breakthroughs that lead to the encirclement of large Ukrainian units could radically change the casualty ratio in Russia’s favor. 

Equipment (including tanks) is the Russian army’s pinch point. While some damaged vehicles can be evacuated for repairs, others are destroyed irrevocably. And Russia is mainly covering these losses not by producing new modern equipment but by restoring old vehicles that have been gathering dust in storage since Soviet times. These equipment reserves are big, but they aren’t infinite.


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