Maps of the war in Ukraine show ground won and lost as Russia regains its initiative

Russian forces have gained momentum along parts of the front in Ukraine, according to some assessments, with maps showing the latest developments in the war.

Kremlin-backed military bloggers wrote on Friday that Russian forces had advanced along the Kubyansk-Svatov-Kremina line northeast of Kubyansk, although the Institute for the Study of War said it could not confirm those claims.

In the Donetsk region, geolocated footage confirmed the gains made by Russian forces northeast of Bakhmut, following the recent advance southwest of the city where fierce battles have taken place for months.

Meanwhile, the Institute for the Study of War noted how on Thursday and Friday Russian forces made marginal advances southeast and northwest of Avdiivka, the Donetsk town they launched an attack on in October, which suffered heavy casualties. The latest maps from the Institute for the Study of War show Russian advances in recent days around Vodyin to the west of Avdiivka and to the north and southwest of Bakhmut.

A Ukrainian tank fires during a military exercise not far from the front line in the direction of Bakhmut, in the Donetsk region, on December 15, 2023. Russian forces have reportedly made progress along the front as of December 18, 2023 according to military bloggers.
Anatoly Stepanov/Getty Images

ISW said on Friday that there were no confirmed territorial gains by either side on the east (left) bank of Kherson Oblast, the western Zaporizhzhia region and the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border region.

This comes as political analyst Nico Lange, the former chief of staff of the German Defense Minister, wrote on X (formerly Twitter) that in addition to their attacks towards Avdiivka, Russian forces are making “several smaller advance attempts.”

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This means that Russian forces are “regaining the initiative on the front in the northeast and east,” although “the territorial gains achieved so far remain small.”

Lange said that Russia is intensifying the bombing of cities near the front “to terrorize the civilian population” and that Ukrainian forces have entered “defense mode” with the aim of delaying the battles rather than maintaining their positions.

Amid Russia's growing territorial gains, there are also “very significant losses on the Russian side,” Lange added.

Meanwhile, Deputy Head of the Main Ukrainian Military Intelligence Directorate, Major General Vadim Skibitsky, said on Thursday that Russia is stepping up efforts to compensate for heavy losses in Ukraine to continue its offensive operations, recruiting up to 1,200 soldiers per day.

Ukrainian officials previously reported that during the summer and spring of this year, Russia was recruiting approximately 20,000 individuals per month through monthly cryptocurrency mobilization efforts. Skibitsky's figure indicates that Russia is currently generating up to 37,200 new personnel per month, which is closer to Moscow's estimate of 40,000.

ISW said that Skibitsky's statement indicates that Moscow is trying to maintain the pace of its offensive operations, but at the same time it cannot form large reserve forces while maintaining or increasing the pace of operations of Russian forces in Ukraine.

Newsweek The Russian Ministry of Defense has been contacted for comment via email.

Institute for the study of war maps
This map from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) shows control of the terrain around Donetsk as of December 22, 2023.
Institute for the study of war
Institute for the study of war maps
The latest map from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) dated December 22, 2023 shows the state of play around Donetsk.
Institute for the study of war