Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, October 12
Karolina Hird, Riley Bailey, Grace Mappes, George Barros, and Frederick W. Kagan
October 12, 7:45pm 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.
Russia has seemingly intensified its information operation to falsely portray Ukraine as a terrorist state, likely to set information conditions to counter efforts to designate Russia as a terrorist state. Several Russian sources made unverified claims that Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) officers detained Ukrainian citizens for allegedly planning “terrorist attacks” in Sverdlovsk, Moscow, and Bryansk oblasts on October 12. Russian milbloggers relatedly amplified rhetoric accusing Ukraine of being a terrorist state and calling for Russian authorities to enhance “counterintelligence” procedures and formally designate Ukraine as a terrorist state. Claims of preparations for alleged and subversive Ukrainian activity in Russia align with a wider attempt to set information conditions to respond to Ukrainian attempts to formally designate Russia a terrorist state, especially in the wake of recent massive attacks on critical Ukrainian infrastructure and residential areas. The Russian information space may also be setting conditions to justify further massive strikes on Ukrainian rear areas; although, as ISW has previously assessed, these tactics are part of the Russian way of war and will likely be utilized regardless of informational conditions. Russian authorities may also be setting conditions for false-flag attacks against Russia framed as Ukrainian-perpetrated acts of terrorism.
Russian forces may have brought Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)-affiliated personnel to occupied areas in Ukraine to train Russian troops in the use of Shahed-136 drones. The Ukrainian Resistance Center reported on October 12 that Russian forces brought an unspecified number of Iranian instructors to Dzankoi in Crimea and Zalizniy Port and Hladivtsi in Kherson Oblast to teach Russian forces how to use Shahed-136 attack drones. The Resistance Center stated that the Iranian instructors directly control the launch of drones on civilian targets in Ukraine, including in Mykolaiv and Odesa oblasts. The IRGC is notably the primary operator of Iran‘s drone inventory, so these Iranian instructors are likely IRGC or IRGC-affiliated personnel.
- Russia is intensifying efforts to set information conditions to falsely portray Ukraine as a terrorist state to deflect recent calls to designate Russia as a terrorist state.
- Russian forces may have imported Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)-affiliated personnel to occupied areas in Ukraine to train Russian troops in the use of Shahed-136 drones.
- Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian troops continued counteroffensive operations toward Svatove and Kreminna. Russian forces are continuing defensive operations in this area.
- Russian sources continued to claim that Ukrainian forces are conducting ground attacks in northwestern and western Kherson Oblast.
- Russian forces conducted ground attacks around Bakhmut and Avdiivka.
- Russian forces are likely reinforcing the frontline in western Zaporizhia Oblast.
- The Russian military continues to face problems equipping individual Russian soldiers with basic personal equipment.
- Russian and occupation administration officials continue to employ coercive measures against residents in Russian-occupied territories.
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.
- Ukrainian Counteroffensives—Southern and Eastern Ukraine
- Russian Main Effort—Eastern Ukraine (comprised of one subordinate and two supporting efforts);
- Russian Subordinate Main Effort—Capture the entirety of Donetsk Oblast
- Russian Supporting Effort—Southern Axis
- Russian Mobilization and Force Generation Efforts
- Activities in Russian-occupied Areas
Ukrainian Counteroffensives (Ukrainian efforts to liberate Russian-occupied territories)
Eastern Ukraine: (Oskil River-Kreminna Line)
Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces continued to conduct counteroffensive operations in the direction of Svatove and Kreminna on October 12. Russian sources claimed that Russian forces repelled Ukrainian forces in the vicinity of Kyslivka, Kharkiv Oblast (25km northwest of Svatove). The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that Russian forces also repelled Ukrainian assaults in the direction of Tabaivka (24km northwest of Svatove) and Orlianka (29km northwest of Svatove) in Kharkiv Oblast and in the direction of Kuzemivka, Luhansk Oblast (13km northwest of Svatove). A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces advanced to the outskirts of Vilshana (44km northwest of Svatove) and reinforced positions in Dvorchina (54km northwest of Svatove) with air defense systems on October 12. Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces unsuccessfully attempted to cross the Zherebets River northwest of Kreminna near Raihorodka, Karmazinovka, Andriivka, Makiivka, and Novoliubivka in Luhansk Oblast. ISW makes no effort to evaluate these Russian claims and does not forecast Ukrainian ground movements. Ukrainian sources reported that Russian forces continued routine indirect fire in the Kupyansk direction.
Russian forces continued to conduct counterattacks west of Kreminna while strengthening defensive positions in the Svatove-Kreminna area on October 12. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled a Russian ground attack on Novosadove (16km west of Kreminna), despite recent Russian claims that Russian forces captured the settlement. A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces are still operating in Terny and Yampolivka (both 17km west of Kremina), despite similar claims that Russian forces recently occupied those settlements. The Russian milblogger added that Russian forces regained control of the left bank of the Zherebets River and that the area around Torske is currently a grey zone, although ISW cannot independently verify these claims. Ukrainian and social media sources reported that Russian forces continue efforts to establish trenches and fortified defensive positions along the Kreminna-Svatove line. Ukrainian sources also reported that Russian forces continue to mine bridges and territory around Kreminna-Svatove. Russian sources claimed that Russian forces completely control the Kreminna-Savtove highway despite previous reports of Ukrainian forces shelling the road and conducting reconnaissance-in-force operations in the area. Russian forces may be conducting counterattacks west of Kreminna to delay Ukrainian advances and buy Russian forces time to reinforce and resupply units and strengthen defensive positions in the Kreminna-Svatove area. However, the Russian elements in this area are likely substantially understrength. Odesa Oblast administration spokesperson Serhiy Bratchuk, citing unspecified partner sources, reported on October 12 that elements of the Russian 488th Motor Rifle Regiment of the 144th Guards Motor Rifle Division stationed near Kreminna are experiencing critical supply issues after Ukrainian forces struck Russian supply columns in the area on October 10 and 11.
Southern Ukraine: (Kherson Oblast)
Russian sources continued to claim that Ukrainian troops conducted counteroffensive operations in northwestern and western Kherson Oblast on October 12. Several milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces are continuing efforts to push south of the current frontline in northwestern Kherson Oblast and attacking toward Mylove (30km northeast of Beryslav along the western bank of the Dnipro River). Russian sources additionally claimed that Ukrainian troops are attempting to advance past the Davydiv Brid pocket in western Kherson Oblast, with several milbloggers indicating that Ukrainians attacked toward Ishchenka and Kostromka (both within 10km south of Davyid Brid) from positions near Davydiv Brid. ISW makes no effort to evaluate these claims or make forecasts regarding Ukrainian ground attacks in Kherson Oblast.
Ukrainian military officials confirmed that Ukrainian troops liberated five settlements in northern Kherson Oblast and otherwise maintained operational silence regarding specific Ukrainian ground maneuvers in this area on October 12. Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command noted that Ukrainian troops successfully retook control of Novovasylivka, Novohryhorivka, Nova Kamianka, Trifonivka, and Chervone—all settlements in northern Kherson Oblast within 25km south of the Dnipropetrosk Oblast border that Ukrainian forces liberated around October 4. Ukrainian military officials also noted that Ukrainian troops are continuing their interdiction campaign to target Russian concentration areas and military assets in Kherson Oblast to support ongoing ground maneuvers. Residents of Kherson Oblast posted imagery reportedly of the aftermath of Ukrainian strikes near Kherson City in the Chornobaivka and Komyshany areas, in the Nova Kakhovka-Beryslav area, and southwest of Kherson City in Nova Zburivka.
Russian Main Effort—Eastern Ukraine
Russian Subordinate Main Effort—Donetsk Oblast (Russian objective: Capture the entirety of Donetsk Oblast, the claimed territory of Russia’s proxies in Donbas)
Russian forces continued ground attacks in Donetsk Oblast on October 12. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian ground assaults near Bakhmut; to the northeast of Bakhmut near Soledar, Spirne, and Bakhmutske; and to the south of Bakhmut near Mayorsk, Ivanhrad, and Mykolaivka. A Russian source reiterated claims that Wagner Group forces entrenched themselves in Ivanhrad and advanced within a few kilometers of the center of Bakhmut. A Russian source also claimed that Russian forces seized an unspecified “important” road junction northeast of Bakhmut, likely referring to the E40 and T1302 intersection. The Ukrainian General Staff additionally reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian ground attacks west of Avdiivka near Pervomaiske and west of Donetsk City near Krasnohorivka. Russian sources claimed that the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) 100th Brigade made unspecified advances toward Nevelske, just northwest of Donetsk City. The RussianMoD claimed that Russian forces repelled a Ukrainian ground attack near Novodarivka in eastern Zaporizhia Oblast.
Supporting Effort—Southern Axis (Russian objective: Maintain frontline positions and secure rear areas against Ukrainian strikes)
Russian forces are likely reinforcing the Zaporizhia Oblast front line as of October 12. Pro-Kremlin Russian news outlet RIA Novosti reported a Russian soldier’s claims that Russian forces have equipped defensive lines along the Orikhiv-Polohy front and are prepared to advance. Russian forces are likely unable to conduct offensive operations in Zaporizhia Oblast; the RIA Novosti report is likely a response to the sustained milblogger concern over a Ukrainian counteroffensive in the south. Russian milbloggers continue expressing concern that Ukrainian forces are preparing to launch a counteroffensive in Zaporizhia Oblast but are divided about whether the attack is imminent or postponed. The Russian military may have reinforced the Zaporizhia front with elements of the 58th Combined Arms Army (CAA). Russian sources posted footage of a Russian T-90M tank of an unspecified element of the 58th Combined Arms Army (CAA) firing at a target in an unspecified area along the Zaporizhia Oblast front line. Ukrainian and Western sources previously reported the 58th CAA is severely degraded, and Russian sources reported on September 9 that Russian tank manufacturer Uralvagonzavod delivered a batch of T-90M tanks to the Russian Ministry of Defense and directed factories to work around the clock to increase production.
Russian forces continued routine artillery, air, and missile strikes west of Hulyaipole, and in Dnipropetrovsk, Mykolaiv, and Odesa oblasts on October 12. Russian and Ukrainian sources reported that Russian forces struck Zaporizhzhia City, Mykolaiv City, and Ochakiv. Ukrainian sources also reported that Russian forces used incendiary munitions to strike Nikopol and Marhanets on the northern bank of the Dnipro River. The Ukrainian Center for Strategic Communications reported that Ukrainian forces struck an ammunition depot in Tokmak, destroying six S-300 air-defense systems on October 11.
Russian forces have likely increased their usage of logistics lines through southern Zaporizhia and western Donetsk oblasts after the Kerch Bridge attack. Ukrainian Mariupol Mayoral Adviser Petro Andryushchenko posted footage on October 12 of Russian military equipment, including transport trucks, fuel trucks, and engineering equipment, headed both east and west from Mariupol. Andryushchenko also stated that Russian forces have established temporary military storage and housing facilities in Mariupol. The Russian reaction may also indicate increased fear at the possibility of further degradation of Russian logistics lines through Crimea apart from fears about the Kerch Strait Bridge.
The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) released its findings on the cause of the attack on the Kerch Strait Bridge in Crimea on October 11. The FSB claimed that the Ukrainian government transported the explosives used in the attack from Ukraine through the port of Odesa. Russian milbloggers amplified the FSB report and highlighted this detail as part of their calls for the Russian government to either not renew or pull out of the current agreement that allows Ukraine to export grain through the Black Sea.
Russian and Ukrainian sources exchanged accusations of shelling the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) on October 12; the shelling disconnected the ZNPP from external power lines for the second time in five days. Ukrainian state nuclear agency Energoatom reported on October 12 that Ukrainian engineers restored the ZNPP to the Ukrainian power grid. Russian sources claimed that Russian forces repelled a 30-person Ukrainian sabotage and reconnaissance group from advancing on the ZNPP from the Dnipro River.
Mobilization and Force Generation Efforts (Russian objective: Expand combat power without conducting general mobilization)
The Russian military continued facing problems equipping individual Russian soldiers with basic personal equipment—including winter gear. Sevastopol occupation governor Mikhail Razvozhayev announced that a Sevastopol entrepreneurial clothing brand organized a group of local seamstresses and sewed almost 400 pairs of thermal underwear for Russian forces for free when the brand learned that Russian forces need winter clothing. Razvozhayev stated that he would buy an additional 1000 pairs of thermal underwear to help supply Russian forces. One Russian milblogger stated that Russian soldiers complain too much and that running out of basic provisions like underwear, toilet paper, and soap is just a harsh reality of war. The Russian MoD continued downplaying of these problems may further decrease effectiveness of Russia’s mobilization efforts. The Russian MoD emphasized that all mobilized servicemen receive modern equipment, protective equipment, medical, tactical gear, appropriate field uniforms, and first-aid kits. Russian forces are likely experiencing shortages of more advanced equipment as well. A Russian milblogger promoted a Russian crowdfunding initiative to provide Russian soldiers with other supplies like transport vehicles, thermal imagers, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and battalion and brigade-level communication equipment.
The Russian government continues to send poorly disciplined mobilized Russians to Ukraine with little to no training. An anonymous Ukrainian military officer reportedly stated that hundreds of Russian convicts offered pardons for combat have already showed up on the battlefield in Ukraine and that some have gone absent without leave. More than 100 Russian conscripts from Bryansk reportedly refused to deploy to Ukraine from their base in Soloti, Belgorod Oblast. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that 500 mobilized replacements equipped with Soviet-era gear already joined the Russian 205th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade of the 49th Combined Arms Army in combat in Ukraine.
Russian occupation forces continue forming ad hoc units in occupied Ukraine comprised of Ukrainian citizens. Kherson Occupation Administration Head Vladimir Saldo stated on October 12 that Russian occupation forces are forming a volunteer reconnaissance battalion named after Hero of the Soviet Union Vasily Margelov in occupied Kherson Oblast. Saldo claimed that Russian occupation authorities are not mobilizing Kherson residents but calling on interested individuals to volunteer.
Activity in Russian-occupied Areas (Russian objective: consolidate administrative control of occupied and annexed areas; forcibly integrate Ukrainian civilians into Russian sociocultural, economic, military, and governance systems)
Russian and occupation administration officials continue to employ coercive measures against residents of Russian-occupied territories to generate forced support for Russian military operations in Ukraine. Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov reported on October 11 that Russian and occupation administration officials have detained and tortured more than 700 Melitopol residents in pursuit of coerced confessions and to compel cooperation with the Zaporizhia occupation administration. Fedorov also reported on October 12 that Russian and occupation administration officials forced Melitopol residents to donate blood for wounded Russian soldiers. The Ukrainian Resistance Center reported on October 12 that Russian forces have placed military personnel and equipment in schools in Yasynuvata, Donetsk Oblast, Tokmak, Zaporizhia Oblast, and Kadiivka, Luhansk Oblast, and in Myrolyubivka and Hladivka in Kherson Oblast. The Ukrainian Resistance Center reported that Russian forces quartering in Ukrainian schools during the Ukrainian school year means that these measures amount to Russian forces using schoolchildren as “human shields,” although ISW has no independent confirmation that the schools are in use by troops or students at this time.
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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