On September 17, it became known that the previously unknown village of Klishchiyivka, which had been under pressure from Ukrainian forces for several months, was liberated. The flag of Ukraine was raised in Klishchiyivka thanks to the efforts of the 5th Separate Assault Brigade, the 80th and 95th Separate Air Assault Brigades of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and the Joint Assault Brigade "Rage" of the National Police.
Two days earlier, on September 15, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine confirmed the liberation of Andriivka, a neighboring village with a few dozen elderly people living there before the war. The occupiers were pushed out from there, in particular by the forces of the 3rd Separate Assault Brigade.
However, fierce fighting continues, and the occupiers are trying to regain lost ground.
"After the loss of Andriivka and Klishchiyivka, the enemy has been conducting numerous counterattacks from different directions, unsuccessfully trying to regain the lost positions. After all, these small settlements were important elements of the enemy's defense line that stretched from Bakhmut to Horlivka," said Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi, Commander of the Ukraine's Ground Forces.
However, the Ukrainian Armed Forces managed to break through this defensive line. As a result, the commander emphasized, some of the best-trained and best-performing enemy units - the 72nd separate motorized rifle brigade, 31st and 83rd separate air assault brigades - were defeated and completely lost their combat capability.
But what does the liberation of Klishchiyivka and Andriivka mean for us strategically, what important conclusions can we draw?
Of all the directions, Donetsk is currently considered the most difficult. Today, the aggressor has concentrated 52,000 personnel, almost 300 tanks, more than 1,000 armored vehicles, 150 artillery systems and more than 120 MLRS around the city of Bakhmut alone. In addition, the enemy has built several defense lines, erected fortifications, etc.
"This is a very difficult section of the frontline - more difficult than the left bank of the Kherson region, northern Luhansk and western Zaporizhzhia regions. In the latter, the Ukrainian Armed Forces needed several weeks to break through the first line of enemy defense north of Tokmak. "At the same time, it took not just weeks but months to liberate the southwestern sector from Bakhmut," commented Oleksandr Kovalenko, a military observer at the Information Resistance group. - "It was a heavily fortified sector of the Russian occupation forces, where the main support line was Kurdyumivka-Andriivka-Klishchiyivka. The last two settlements have already been liberated, and Kurdyumivka is on the way. I am sure that very soon we will hear about the liberation of this village as well [Kurdyumivka, Andriivka and Klishchiyivka are considered key to the encirclement of Bakhmut.] What is extremely important to emphasize is that despite all the complexity, despite the fact that it contradicts any military logic [usually the advancing party suffers more losses], Russian losses exceed ours several times. That is, we are once again destroying stereotypes."
The area south of Bakhmut is divided into two sectors: southwestern and southeastern. They are separated by the 0513 road, a logistics artery from Bakhmut to the temporarily occupied Horlivka.
"Today we can already say that the Ukrainian Armed Forces have realized a breakthrough in the southwestern sector, pushing the Russians further - beyond the railroad. And from the railroad to the highway 0513, the enemy has no serious strongholds to gain a foothold. In addition, this is a lowland, and all the dominant heights [in the area of Klishchiyivka and Andriivka] are now under our control. Accordingly, the Ukrainian army will be able to observe the enemy's actions and plan its further actions," the military expert emphasizes.
According to him, the occupiers are currently unable to resist the Ukrainian forces advancing at this location.
"The enemy will be forced to gradually retreat to the 0513 route and take up defense there. This is a new enemy stronghold line Mykolaivka Druha-Odradivka-Opytne," Mr. Kovalenko modeled. - "Soon we will see the Ukrainian Armed Forces advance along the left flank of the railroad towards the T0513 road. With the prospect of cutting this highway."
And this will allow us to talk about the real prospect of covering Bakhmut from the south.
"After reaching the Mykolayivka Druha-Odradivka-Opytne line, our goal is Zaitseve, a village in the Svitlodarsk urban community of Bakhmut district. It will be the next difficult section. Of course, it is difficult to predict how quickly the Ukrainian Armed Forces will be able to advance here, the analyst says. - The Russian army will try to respond to the Ukrainian army's attempts to advance. Their main goal now is not to stop our troops, but to slow them down before the onset of bad weather. However, it is unlikely that the occupiers will be able to counteract anything. Most likely, they will suffer heavy losses and retreat."
However, there is a key factor: if the Ukrainian Armed Forces liberate Zaitseve, the occupiers will have their logistics in the southern sector disrupted.
"And then we can say that Bakhmut is covered from the south. And this will allow us not only to increase our fire control and logistics capabilities to the east of Bakhmut, but also to influence the M-03 highway, which stretches southeast of Bakhmut [by the way, the M-03 also includes the routes from Soledar and Pokrovske.] A complex operation is taking place before our eyes," says Oleksandr Kovalenko. He also emphasized that frontal assaults on Bakhmut are not included in the plans of the General Staff. It is more important not so much to take Bakhmut physically through urban battles, but to take it into an operational encirclement."
Military expert Dmytro Snegiryov also emphasizes the strategic importance of liberating Andriivka and Klishchiyivka: "Control of these villages, in particular Klishchiyivka, makes it possible to develop the tactical success of the Ukrainian Armed Forces on the flanks of Andriyivka-Kurdyumivka-Ozaryanivka with access to Horlivka. This creates a threat of actual encirclement of Russian groups concentrated in Bakhmut. The occupiers' logistics are controlled through Klishchiyivka and Andriivka. This significantly worsens the issue of technical support of the enemy in Bakhmut."
That is why, he emphasizes, there were such fierce battles for Klishchiyivka and Andriivka.
"This is a serious strategic success that allows the Ukrainian Armed Forces to hang over the flanks of the enemy's Donetsk group. Currently, up to 50,000 occupants' personnel are deployed in the Bakhmut sector. The most combat-ready units of the Russian Armed Forces are being redeployed to Klishchiyivka and Andriivka. This indicates the insufficient amount of the occupiers' reserve and that they attach not only military but also political importance to this direction," added Mr. Snegiryov.
This is a military observer Denys Popovych: "If you look at the map, you will see that the road to the occupied Horlivka runs from Bakhmut, in the area of Andriivka, Kurdyumivka, Klishchiyivka. This is a fairly large highway that can be used to deliver ammunition, equipment and shells from Horlivka to Bakhmut."
Speaking about the importance of de-occupation of Andriivka and nearby settlements, he noted that tactical advances of the Ukrainian Armed Forces will lead to the liberation of Bakhmut.
"And this will help to further return Horlivka, which has been occupied by Russians since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Donbas in 2014, under Ukraine's control," added Mr. Popovych.
Meanwhile, Israeli military observer David Sharp rightly says that the very fact that the battles for Klishchiyivka and Andriivka lasted so long, and that the battle for Kurdyumivka is still ongoing, shows that we should not expect a cakewalk.
"In any offensive, consistency is very important, and we see this consistency here. Kurdyumivka will be the next point, where there are also serious heights that are important for controlling the roads. This is a point that will be fiercely fought for, and I suspect it is a priority for the Ukrainian command in the area," emphasized Mr. Sharp.
Another important point on the map is the village of Berkhivka, located north of Bakhmut, which is currently under heavy fighting.
Our progress in Berkhivka is not easy. However, in the long run, the liberation of this village will allow us to cut the M-03 highway. Together with the already liberated Andriivka, Klishchiyivka and (we expect good news) Kurdyumivka, the Ukrainian Armed Forces' taking control of Berkhivka will mean that the occupiers will be able to squeeze Bakhmut from the north and south in a vice grip. And in fact, they will have no choice but to surrender (read: make another "gesture of goodwill"). Otherwise, they will simply be destroyed.
"If the group is destroyed, or even better, if several thousand Russians surrender, this could be the third major Ukrainian victory in the offensive during the Great War. After all, we have Kharkiv, Kherson and, God willing, Bakhmut," summarized military expert Petro Chernyk.
Myroslav Liskovych. Kyiv