A Ukrainian serviceman stands next to residential buildings heavily damaged by permanent Russian military strikes in the front line town of Avdiivka, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Donetsk region, Ukraine November 8, 2023. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty/Serhii Nuzhnenko via REUTERS
CNN  — 

The eastern Ukrainian town of Avdiivka is increasingly becoming a flashpoint in the conflict, where fighting remains intense even when the front lines have barely moved for months.

Russia appears to have made tactical advances in the outskirts of the embattled town as Ukraine claims it is inflicting heavy losses on assaulting troops.

With the weather getting colder and both sides struggling for a breakthrough, Ukraine’s president also announced he would shore up his country’s defenses.

Here is what you need to know about the past week in Ukraine.

Zelensky bolsters front line defenses

Ukraine is stepping up efforts to bolster defenses and fortifications across the country.

President Volodymyr Zelensky announced a countrywide initiative to strengthening defensive positions on Thursday, outlining the main areas of focus.

The primary effort will be where heavy fighting is taking place on front lines in the Avdiivka-Mariinka direction in eastern Donetsk, and the defensive line near Kupiansk in the north-eastern Kharkiv region.

Defensive fortifications will be bolstered along all of Ukraine’s northern territory which borders Belarus and Russia.

Positions will also be strenegthened in the southern Kherson region where Ukrainian troops are continuing their attempts to widen a bridgehead in the Russian occupied bank of the Dnipro River.

Analysts warn that building up fortifications with active shelling in some areas and harsh winter conditions can pose a challenge.

Zelensky’s announcement comes as the war enters what Ukraine’s top military chief called “positional war”— a maturing phase of the conflict where neither side has the ability to generate force overmatch or significant breakthrough leading to more static and solidified frontlines.

Analysts have pointed to Russian defensive positions which managed to keep Ukraine’s summer counteroffensive from gaining ground as an example of the effectiveness of fortified lines.

As both side dig in, it makes seizing significant territory without huge attrition - where depth of manpower and equipment becomes a determining factor – harder and harder.

‘It gets worse and worse’: The fight for Avdiivka

Russian forces continued their attempts to fully encircle the town of Avdiivka in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region where harsh winter conditions have reportedly complicated maneuvers for both Ukrainian and Russian forces.

Pro-Russian bloggers have reported tactical advances in the industrial zone in the southeast and the rail lines in the northwest of the town throughout the week as the Ukrainian military claimed they are holding defensive positions.

Russia maintains air superiority and has been making use of guided aerial bombs, retrofitted Soviet-era munitions with high explosive loads that are released by Russian warplanes outside the range of air defenses, as high velocity winds and snow limit the use of drones.

A local official said Russia has been focusing on trying to get the high ground in the industrial zone in Avdiivka but has not been successful. Ukraine claims defensive actions in and around the town are inflicting heavy losses on Russian troops and equipment.

Ukrainian police have been helping locals evacuate. Some 1,300 civilians remain in Avdiivka, which has been a front line town since 2014.

An elderly couple who were evacuated from Avdiivka this week recounted the decision to leave. “It gets worse and worse day after day… we get almost no sleep. Shelling and shelling and shelling…We thought we could wait, that things would get better, but we have run out of patience,” she said. “At least now, we can get some sleep.”

Some essential workers are in the city to provide services for the remaining civilians, including two doctors and four nurses, according to the head of local military administration Vitalii Barabash. If needed “most of them have already packed their bags and are ready to leave within an hour.”

Coren pkg Ukraine trench warfare