Russian Forces Press On With Attacks in Southern Ukraine

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Russian forces in recent days have launched multiple attacks around the southern Ukrainian village of Robotyne, military officials and experts said, targeting land hard-won by Ukraine in a rare success of its counteroffensive last summer.

The Ukrainian Army said it had repelled four consecutive days of assaults from Saturday to Tuesday involving armored vehicles and large numbers of troops that had massed in the area.

Open-source maps of the battlefield compiled by independent groups analyzing combat footage suggest that Russia has made marginal gains to the west and south of Robotyne. The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based research group, said on Monday that Russian forces had advanced to the western outskirts of the village.

“Pay attention to the village of Robotyne,” Dmytro Lykhovii, a spokesman for Ukrainian forces fighting in the area, said on national television last week. “It seems that the Russians have set a goal of achieving some success there” and planned to try to seize the village, he said.

The weekend assaults around Robotyne came as Russian forces took the frontline city of Avdiivka, about 100 miles to the east, and attacked Ukrainian positions on the east bank of the Dnipro River, more than 130 miles to the west. Military analysts say these near-simultaneous assaults are designed to apply pressure across the front line in order to reduce Kyiv’s ability to withdraw and replenish exhausted troops and to force it to burn through its already scarce stocks of ammunition.

“They are trying in different places, testing the Ukrainian defenses,” said Pasi Paroinen, from the Black Bird Group, which analyzes satellite imagery and social media content from the battlefield. “They are probing and seeking weaknesses.”

Serhii Kuzan, chairman of the Ukrainian Security and Cooperation Center, a nongovernmental research group, said Moscow would try to build on its success on the eastern front in the coming weeks and “cut off Robotyne at any costs.” He and other analysts said that Moscow had tens of thousands of troops around Robotyne, and he predicted that attacks would intensify.

Russia’s gains around Robotyne, a village of just a few hundreds inhabitants before the war, have been limited so far. The village fell under Russian occupation shortly after Moscow invaded Ukraine in February 2022. It was retaken by Ukrainian forces in August, after weeks of combat that underlined the immense challenges Kyiv faces in punching through dense Russian defenses erected in the area.

Today, Robotyne sits in a bulge carved into Russian-held territory, surrounded to the west, south and east by Moscow’s troops. In recent weeks, Russian forces have been attacking the flanks of this pocket and gradually recaptured small stretches of land, using what the Ukrainian military has described as small assault groups backed by armored vehicles.

“The situation is dynamic there, the enemy is inflicting heavy fire,” Mr. Lykhovii said on Monday.

Geolocated footage of the battlefield showed Russian attack drones hitting Ukrainian-held trenches just a few hundred yards south of Robotyne. Rybar, a prominent Russian military blogger, said that Russian troops had gained a foothold on the southern outskirts of Robotyne and that fighting was now taking place in the village, which was largely reduced to rubble during the fighting last summer. His claim could not be independently confirmed.

Mr. Paroinen, from the Black Bird Group, said Russia had retaken some fortifications lost in the summer counteroffensive. He added that Robotyne is not easy for Ukrainian soldiers to defend because Russian troops control the high ground around the area.

“In general, that’s a big problem for the Ukrainians there,” he said, adding that Russia had positioned three divisions around Robotyne, between 30,000 and 40,000 soldiers, including some elite paratrooper units.

Mr. Kuzan, from the Ukrainian Security and Cooperation Center, said he expected that some of the troops involved in the capture of Avdiivka would now be “redeployed to other parts of the front line in the coming days,” possibly around Robotyne to help with the offensive push there.

Ukraine’s military said on Monday that its troops had taken up new defensive positions outside of Avdiivka, in an attempt to stop further Russian advances.

Mr. Kuzan and other military analysts said that delayed Western military assistance had weakened Ukraine’s ability to sustain Russia’s assaults all along the front line. “The Russians have realized that we are really ‘starved of shells,’ meaning that we cannot respond to every one of their attacks,” Mr. Kuzan said. “They will continue to put pressure on Robotyne.”

President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine acknowledged in his nightly address on Monday that “the situation is extremely difficult in several parts of the front line, where Russian troops have amassed maximum reserves.”

Russia, he added, is “taking advantage of the delays in aid to Ukraine.”

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