Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, August 30
Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, August 30
Kateryna Stepanenko, Karolina Hird, George Barros, Grace Mappes, and Frederick W. Kagan
August 30, 10:30 pm ET
Click here to see ISW's interactive map of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This map is updated daily alongside the static maps present in this report.
Ukrainian forces began striking Russian pontoon ferries across the Dnipro River on August 29, which is consistent with the start of the Ukrainian counteroffensive. The effects of destroying ferries will likely be more ephemeral than those of putting bridges out of commission, so attacking them makes sense in conjunction with active ground operations. Ukrainian military officials confirmed that Ukrainian forces destroyed a Russian pontoon-ferry crossing in Lvove, approximately 16km west of Nova Kakhovka on the right bank of the Dnipro River on August 29. Ukrainian and Russian sources have also reported that Ukrainian forces struck a pontoon crossing constructed out of barges near the Antonivsky Road Bridge.
Ukrainian forces have long undertaken efforts to destroy Russian ground lines of communication (GLOCs) prior to the announcement of the counteroffensive operation, which likely indicates that Ukrainian forces are committed to a long-term effort - composed of both strikes and ground assaults. Ukrainian strikes on Russian GLOCs disrupt the Russians’ ability to supply and reinforce their positions with manpower and equipment, which will assist Ukrainian ground counteroffensives. Satellite imagery shows that Russian forces are continuing to use ferries to transfer a limited amount of military equipment daily via the Dnipro River.
The Ukrainian counteroffensive is thus a cohesive process that will require some time to correctly execute. The Kremlin will likely exploit the lack of immediate victory over Kherson City or Ukrainian operational silence on the progress of the Ukrainian counteroffensive to misrepresent Ukrainian efforts as failing and to undermine public confidence in its prospects.
Russian forces are continuing to react and adjust their positions throughout southern Ukraine, likely both as a response to the ongoing Ukrainian counteroffensive and in preparation for broader Ukrainian counter-offensives further east. Russian forces are continuing to transfer large convoys of military equipment from Crimea and Melitopol. Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov also noted that Russian forces have opened up around five military bases and barracks in Melitopol and will likely continue to prepare defenses around Melitopol given its strategically vital GLOCs between Rostov Oblast and southern Ukraine. The Ukrainian Southern Operational Command reported that Russian forces in Kherson Oblast are attempting to conduct rotations of troops, likely in an effort to reinforce some vulnerable positions.
The Ukrainian counteroffensive is likely driving Russian redeployment and reprioritization throughout the theater. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces are reinforcing the grouping of forces operating west of Donetsk City area with elements of the Central Military District (CMD). ISW has previously identified that CMD units, under the command of the CMD Commander Colonel General Aleksandr Lapin, operated in the Lysychansk-Siversk area and recently concluded an operational pause in mid-August. The movement of CMD units to Donetsk City area further suggests that Russian forces are deprioritizing the Siversk advance in favor of attempting to sustain momentum around the Donetsk City area. ISW has previously reported that Russian advances around Avdiivka and the western Donetsk City area have effectively culminated following Russian limited breakthroughs around the Butivka Coal Mine ventilation shaft. The redeployment suggests that the Russian command has recognized that it cannot pursue more than one offensive operation at a time.
The Ukrainian General Staff also reported that Russian forces are deploying elements of the newly-formed 3rd Army Corps, which is at least in part composed of inexperienced volunteers, to reinforce neglected Russian positions in Kharkiv and Zaporizhia Oblasts. The deployment of the 3rd Army Corps may indicate that Russian forces seek to recoup combat power for use in offensive operations around Donetsk City or defensive operations in Kherson by replacing experienced troops with raw and poorly trained volunteer units.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is likely setting conditions for the coerced cultural assimilation of displaced Ukrainians in Russia to erase their Ukrainian cultural identity. Head of the Russian Federal Agency for Ethnic Affairs, Igor Barinov, spoke about the creation of “adaptation centers” for “migrants” living in Russia with Putin on August 29.  Barinov stated that with Putin’s permission and support, the Federal Agency for Ethnic Affairs is working on programs in unspecified pilot regions to ensure that “migrants” to Russia know and respect Russian traditions, customs, and laws to prevent “migrants” from experiencing “social isolation” in Russia. Barinov claimed that there is a risk of ethnic minorities in Russia forming enclaves that will exacerbate ethnic crime within Russia, and that “adaptation centers” would be an effective tool in maintaining the stability of migrant communities. Russian outlet Vot Tak amplified statements made by Russian migration expert Alexander Verkhovsky that such programs should structure themselves as something between refugee camps and vocational training centers for migrants. Verkhovsky also noted that over 3.5 million displaced Ukrainians have entered Russia since the full-scale invasion began on February 24. Many displaced Ukrainians in Russia are not in Russia voluntarily, and the Russian government has forcefully transferred at least 1,000 children from Mariupol to Russia. The forcible transfer of children of one group to another “with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” is a violation of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
The creation of so-called social adaptation programs in Russia would add a social dimension to the legal frameworks through which Putin likely seeks to forcibly culturally assimilate Ukrainians into the Russian Federation. As ISW previously reported on August 29, Putin signed two decrees on August 27 in a purported effort to assist stateless peoples and migrants from Ukraine to indefinitely live and work in the Russian Federation with certain social payments allocated to those who left Ukraine following February 18. Russian Security Council Chairman Dmitry Medvedev also stated that Russia will begin working on a bill in September for the condition of entry, exit, and stay in Russia for foreigners. Putin’s decrees and the bill alluded to by Medvedev are likely meant to set conditions for migrants from Ukraine to remain in Russia permanently, thus essentially forming the backbone of an extended campaign to at population transfer between Ukraine and Russia with the purpose of Russifying Ukraine. Programs at so-called adaptation centers would likely serve as a form of cultural reprogramming to erase Ukrainian cultural identity from displaced Ukrainian who either fled to Russia or were deported by Russian authorities.
- Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations with ground assaults and strikes against Russian GLOCs across the Dnipro River. Ukrainian forces made gains on the ground and have begun striking pontoon ferries across the river.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin is likely setting legal and social conditions for the coerced cultural assimilation of displaced Ukrainians in Russia to erase their Ukrainian cultural identity.
- Russian forces conducted a limited ground attack north of Kharkiv City.
- Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks southwest of Izyum, south of Bakhmut, and near the western outskirts of Donetsk City.
- Russian forces conducted a limited ground attack in northern Kherson Oblast.
- An anonymous senior US military official stated that the US believes that Russia is firing artillery from positions around and in the vicinity of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.
- Russian occupation authorities are continuing efforts to forcibly-integrate schools in occupied Ukraine into the Russian educational system and extending methods of social control.
- Russian forces are continuing to move military equipment into Crimea.
- Russian federal subjects (regions) are continuing to recruit and deploy volunteer battalions.
- Russian occupation authorities are taking measures to forcibly-integrate Ukrainian schools into the Russian education space in preparation for the approaching school year.
Ukrainian Counteroffensives (Ukrainian efforts to liberate Russian-occupied territories)
Ukrainian military officials stated that the Ukrainian counteroffensive is ongoing in Kherson Oblast but did confirm any Ukrainian advances due to operational security measures as of August 30. Kherson Oblast Head Yaroslav Yanushevich stated that Ukrainian forces are continuing to prioritize the destruction of Russian ammunition depots, command posts, and force concentration areas alongside conducting ground maneuvers. Geolocated footage showed that Ukrainian forces have entered Arkhanhelske on the eastern bank of the Inhulets River and south of the Kherson-Dnipropetrovsk Oblast border. The geolocation can further corroborate the CNN report from August 29 which reported that Ukrainian forces liberated Arkhanhelske on the first day of Ukraine’s counteroffensive operation. Other evidence supports CNN’s report. Ukrainian military officials previously stated that the Donetsk People’s Republic’s (DNR) forcefully mobilized 109th Regiment fled an unspecified area in Kherson Oblast on August 29. The DNR deployed the 109th Regiment to Arkhanhelske and other settlements along the Inhulets River and Kherson-Dnipropetrovsk Oblast border in late July. All this evidence further indicates that Ukrainian forces have advanced to Arkhanhelske
Ukrainian forces intensified their strikes against Russian ground lines of communication (GLOCs), ammunition depots, and strongholds through northern and central Kherson Oblast on August 30. The Ukrainian Southern Operational Command reported on August 30 that Ukrainian forces continued to strike the Antonivsky road and railway bridges over the Dnipro River and the Darivka Bridge over the Inhulets River. Russian and Ukrainian social media users uploaded footage that shows the aftermath of the Ukrainian strikes on the Antonivsky Road Bridge. The Ukrainian Southern Operational Command also reported that Ukrainian aviation struck Russian forces and concentration points in Kyselivka and Kortyrka, along the frontline in Kherson Oblast. Russian Telegram channels published the video of a smoke plume in Nova Kakhovka reportedly around the area of the Novokahovka Electromechanic Plant (south of the Kakhovka Bridge), though ISW cannot verify the cause or the precise location of the explosion. Russian-appointed officials claimed that Ukrainian HIMARS strikes damaged residential areas in Nova Kakhovka, but ISW cannot verify this claim. Social media footage also showed a smoke plume accompanied by audible explosions in Tavriisk (east Nova Kakhovka), and some social media users reported the activation of Russian air-defense systems. Ukrainian forces also likely struck Beryslav, approximately 10km northeast of Nova Kakhovka and Oleshky, on the left bank of the Dnipro River. Russian and Ukrainian Telegram channels also reported explosions in Kherson City and Chornobaivka throughout the day.
Ukrainian partisans likely engaged in combat with Russian forces in Kherson City on August 30. Geolocated social media footage from the Tavriiskyi microdistrict in northern Kherson City featured audible small fire in the distance. Russian war correspondent Mikhail Andronik claimed that Russian security forces found an enclave of “Ukrainian militants” armed with small arms and improvised explosive devices in the Tavriiskyi microdistrict and noted that there was a shootout in the area. Russian sources additionally claimed that Russian forces destroyed a Ukrainian reconnaissance group in Kherson City, though it is unlikely that an unsupported Ukrainian reconnaissance element maneuvered from Ukrainian-controlled territory over 10 kilometers through Russian-controlled territory all the way to Kherson City.
The Russian Defense Ministry and Russian sources continued to claim Russian victory over the Ukrainian counteroffensive in Kherson Oblast, likely in an effort to exploit Ukraine's operational silence. The Russian Defense Ministry claimed that Russian forces defeated a Ukrainian counteroffensive in the Mykolaiv-Kryvyi Rih direction on August 29 and killed over 1,200 Ukrainian servicemen. Russian Telegram channels reshared footage of two damaged Polish T-72 tanks and two trucks reportedly in the Vysokopillya-Potomkyne area near the Kherson-Dnipropetrovsk Oblast border, as evidence of successful Russian defenses. Russian sources did not provide imagery to corroborate Russian battle damage claims. Russian-appointed Kherson Oblast Administration Head Kiril Stremeusov claimed that the Ukrainian counteroffensive is the “start of the liberation of the Russian city of Mykolaiv,” in a recording that Stremeusov made from the safety of Vozonezh Oblast, Russia. Russian sources are continuing to misreport ongoing Ukrainian attacks against Russian GLOCs in Kherson Oblast. The Russian Defense Ministry claimed that Russian air defense systems intercepted 44 HIMARS rockets on Kherson City, Nova Kakhovka, Antonivsky Bridge, and Khakovka Hydroelectric Power Plant (HPP). These claims are likely false given the lack of evidence of Russian air defense successfully intercepting a HIMARS rocket and the numerous documented explosions and strikes throughout northern and central Kherson Oblast on August 30. Russian sources will continue to misrepresent the Ukrainian counteroffensive to undermine the operation and portray it as ineffective in the international information space to erode public support for Ukraine.
Russian milbloggers and war correspondents continued to report on the progress of the Ukrainian counteroffensive in at least three directions, however, ISW cannot independently verify their claims. Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces seized Ternovi Pody, while Russian forces repelled Ukrainian advances in Pravdyne and Oleksandrivka (all situated northwest and west of Kherson City). Milbloggers said that they could not confirm reports of Ukrainian breakthroughs in Myrne about 23km west of Kherson City and claimed that fighting is ongoing in Soldatske (about 27km due northwest of Kherson City). Some milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces are fighting near Snihurvika and the area near the Ukrainian bridgehead over Inhulets River. Many of the milbloggers are reposting identical reports to amplify specific messages. Milbloggers’ reports about ongoing combat in southern Ukraine contradict the Russian Defense Ministry’s claims about a complete Russian victory over the Ukrainian counteroffensive.
We do not report in detail on Russian war crimes because those activities are well-covered in Western media and do not directly affect the military operations we are assessing and forecasting. We will continue to evaluate and report on the effects of these criminal activities on the Ukrainian military and population and specifically on combat in Ukrainian urban areas. We utterly condemn these Russian violations of the laws of armed conflict, Geneva Conventions, and humanity even though we do not describe them in these reports.
- Russian Main Effort—Eastern Ukraine (comprised of one subordinate and two supporting efforts);
- Russian Subordinate Main Effort—Encirclement of Ukrainian Troops in the Cauldron between Izyum and Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts
- Russian Supporting Effort 1—Kharkiv City
- Russian Supporting Effort 2—Southern Axis
- Russian Mobilization and Force Generation Efforts
- Activities in Russian-occupied Areas
Russian Main Effort—Eastern Ukraine
Russian Subordinate Main Effort—Southern Kharkiv, Donetsk, Luhansk Oblasts (Russian objective: Encircle Ukrainian forces in Eastern Ukraine and capture the entirety of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, the claimed territory of Russia’s proxies in Donbas)
Russian forces conducted a limited ground attack southwest of Izyum on August 30. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian troops unsuccessfully attempted to advance in the direction of Shnurky, about 30km south of Izyum and northwest of Slovyansk near the Kharkiv-Donetsk Oblast border. Russian forces additionally continued air, artillery, and MLRS attacks along the Izyum-Slovyansk line and struck Husarivka, Krasnopillya, Dolyna, Bohorodychne, Virnopillya, and multiple other settlements near the Kharkiv-Donetsk Oblast border.
Russian forces did not conduct any ground attacks towards Siversk on August 30 and shelled Siversk and surrounding settlements.
Russian forces conducted a series of limited ground attacks south of Bakhmut on August 30. Russian troops have likely advanced into Kodema, 13km southeast of Bakhmut. The Ukrainian General Staff noted that Russian troops are trying to consolidate control of Kodema from multiple directions and that fighting is continuing in the area of the settlement. Russian sources state that Russian forces have not yet fully cleared Kodema as of August 30, however. Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) Commander Eduard Basurin claimed that Ukrainian forces launched a localized counterattack in Kodema on August 30, which indicates that Russian forces are holding parts of the settlement which are under active contestation. Several Russian milbloggers amplified claims that Russian troops are fighting to fully consolidate control of the entirety of Kodema and use this position to launch attacks northward onto Bakhmut. The Ukrainian General Staff additionally reported that Russian troops are attempting to push towards Bakhmut from further south in the Horlivka area and attempted to advance from around Zaitseve (20km south of Bakhmut) and Shumy (23km southwest of Bakhmut). Russian forces continued to strike Bakhmut and its environs with tanks and tube and rocket artillery to support ongoing ground operations.
Russian forces continued ground attacks near the western outskirts of Donetsk City on August 30. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian troops attempted to advance on Opytne (about 5km northwest of the outskirts of Donetsk City), Pervomaiske (12km northwest of the outskirts of Donetsk City), and Krasnohorivka (15km west of the outskirts of Donetsk City). Russian troops also continued efforts to advance on Avdiivka and conducted mortar and artillery strikes on and around Avdiivka. Russian forces did not conduct any confirmed ground attacks southwest of Donetsk City and August 30 and continued shelling Ukrainian positions between Donetsk City and the Zaporizhia Oblast border.
Supporting Effort #1—Kharkiv City (Russian objective: Defend ground lines of communication (GLOCs) to Izyum and prevent Ukrainian forces from reaching the Russian border)
Russian forces conducted a limited ground attack north of Kharkiv City on August 30. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted a ground assault near Udy, 32km north of Kharkiv City. Russian forces struck the center of Kharkiv City and continued tube and rocket artillery strikes on the surrounding settlements.
Supporting Effort #2—Southern Axis (Russian objective: Defend Kherson and Zaporizhia Oblasts against Ukrainian counterattacks)
Russian forces conducted a limited ground attack on the Kherson-Mykolaiv Oblast front line on August 30. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces withdrew after an attempted ground assault towards Potomkyne, south of Kryvyi Rih on the T2207 highway. Russian forces struck Mykolaiv City with 16 S-300 missiles and conducted airstrikes and S-300 strikes on the Bashtanka District, northeast of Mykolaiv City on the H11 highway on August 29. Russian forces conducted UAV reconnaissance near Davydiv Brid, Snihurivka, Pravdyne, and Velyke Artakove, all northwest of Kherson City on the front line on August 30. Russian forces continued firing on settlements along the line of contact.
Russian forces did not conduct any confirmed ground assaults in Zaporizhia Oblast on August 30. The Russian MoD claimed that Russian forces struck Kryvyi Rih and Dnipro City, Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, and Veselyanka, Zaporizhia Oblast.  Russian forces also struck Zaporizhia City with rocket artillery.Russian forces struck settlements across the Dnipro River from Enerhodar, including Nikopol, Chervonohryhorivka, and Marhanets. Russian forces continued shelling settlements along the line of contact.
An anonymous senior US military official said on August 29 that the US believes that Russia is firing artillery from positions around and in the vicinity of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP). The senior US military official said that the US also believes that Ukrainian forces are actively taking measures to avoid striking the ZNPP to mitigate the risk of disaster. The Ukrainian General Staff explicitly reported that Russian forces are performing artillery strikes from positions around the ZNPP, and ISW previously reported on satellite imagery showing Russian military equipment apparently sheltering under ZNPP infrastructure close to a reactor vessel.
Ukrainian sources stated that Russian forces shelled the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) corridor to the ZNPP on August 30, one day before the IAEA delegation is set to arrive at the ZNPP. Head of the Zaporizhia Oblast occupation administration Yevheny Balitsky stated that the IAEA delegation is welcome to the ZNPP grounds and said the occupation administration will provide the IAEA with alleged proof of Ukrainian forces striking the plant. Russian sources accused Ukrainian forces of shelling the area around the ZNPP and flying four UAVs over the ZNPP on August 30, which the Russian Defense Ministry (MoD) claimed damaged a radioactive waste containment building after Russian air defenses shot them down.
Russian forces are continuing to transport more military equipment into Crimea, likely to reinforce Russian forces in Kherson Oblast. Geolocated footage shows Russian forces transporting tanks, trucks, and armored vehicles in Krasnodar Krai towards Crimea. More geolocated footage shows Russian trucks, a tank, and a Tigr vehicle at the Dzhankoy Rail Station in Crimea, possibly transported by rail from Russia.
Mobilization and Force Generation Efforts (Russian objective: Expand combat power without conducting general mobilization)
Russian federal subjects (regions) are continuing to recruit and deploy volunteer battalions. Oryol Oblast Governor Aleksandr Klychkov posted a recruitment reminder for the “Yermolov” volunteer battalion and the 3rd Army Corps and stated that the first batch of volunteers from Oryol Oblast have already been deployed to the frontline. Primorsky Krai Deputy Chairman Dmitry Mariza reported that the separate repair and restoration ”Arsenievsky” volunteer battalion deployed from Primorye to Donbas on August 29. ISW previously reported on the formation of this battalion on August 22, and its deployment to Ukraine within one week of its formation supports ISW’s assessment that volunteer battalions are deploying to Ukraine severely understrength and poorly trained. A local Primorsky Krai outlet also reported that Primorsky Krai is continuing recruitment efforts for volunteers for unspecified Pacific Fleet elements (likely naval infantry), the 83rd Separate Airborne Brigade, and unspecified elements of the Eastern Military District’s 5th Combined Arms Army.
The Kremlin is continuing measures to compensate for combat losses and low domestic willingness to volunteer for service in Ukraine. Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) reported that Russians in central and southeastern Russia are increasingly refusing to volunteer for combat in Ukraine so the Kremlin is turning to covert mobilization among private military companies (PMC). The GUR reported that the 4,500-5,000 PMC mercenaries currently operating in Ukraine are frontline assault troops, confirming ISW’s prior assessment that Wagner PMC forces are acting as the Kremlin’s preferred strike groups in Ukraine. GUR reported that this increasing reliance on PMC forces stems from residents of central and southeastern Russia, areas that disproportionately suffer high combat losses, becoming increasingly unwilling to volunteer for service amid high Russian combat losses.
Activity in Russian-occupied Areas (Russian objective: consolidate administrative control of occupied areas; set conditions for potential annexation into the Russian Federation or some other future political arrangement of Moscow’s choosing)
Russian occupation authorities are continuing to take measures to forcibly-integrate Ukrainian schools into the Russian education space in preparation for the approaching school year which begins on September 1. The Ukrainian Resistance Center reported on August 30 that Russian occupation authorities in Nova Kakhovka, Kherson Oblast, are promising to pay Ukrainian families 2,000 rubles ($33) per child who attends a Russian-run school. Russian magazine Rodina reported that they presented a textbook named “Donbas - The Heart of Russia” to secondary and higher schools in occupied Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts in order to ensure that children in Donbas learn from the “right textbooks.” The Russian-backed governor of Sevastopol, Crimea, stated that Russian and occupation administrators are providing Russian textbooks, literature, and educational material to schools in Melitopol. Similar Russian organizations and political organs have recently focused on disseminating Russian curricula into occupied Ukraine, likely as part of extended campaigns to Russify social infrastructure in occupied areas of Ukraine. 
Russian authorities will likely struggle to sustain substantial enrollment in Russian schools throughout occupied areas of Ukraine despite attempts at financial coercion and the provision of Russian educational materiel to occupied areas. The Ukrainian Resistance Center noted on August 29 that the number of families with children who are leaving occupied territories through Russian-controlled checkpoints has increased significantly over the past week, largely due to the imminently approaching school year. Efforts to forcibly integrate occupied territories into the Russian educational sphere may contribute to internal tensions and pressure against occupation regimes.
Note: ISW does not receive any classified material from any source, uses only publicly available information, and draws extensively on Russian, Ukrainian, and Western reporting and social media as well as commercially available satellite imagery and other geospatial data as the basis for these reports. References to all sources used are provided in the endnotes of each update.
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