Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, September 10
Kateryna Stepanenko, Grace Mappes, George Barros, Angela Howard, and Mason Clark
September 10, 11:30pm 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.
The Ukrainian counteroffensive in Kharkiv Oblast is routing Russian forces and collapsing Russia’s northern Donbas axis. Russian forces are not conducting a controlled withdrawal and are hurriedly fleeing southeastern Kharkiv Oblast to escape encirclement around Izyum. Russian forces have previously weakened the northern Donbas axis by redeploying units from this area to Southern Ukraine, complicating efforts to slow the Ukrainian advance or at minimum deploy a covering force for the retreat. Ukrainian gains are not confined to the Izyum area; Ukrainian forces reportedly captured Velikiy Burluk on September 10, which would place Ukrainian forces within 15 kilometers of the international border. Ukrainian forces have penetrated Russian lines to a depth of up to 70 kilometers in some places and captured over 3,000 square kilometers of territory in the past five days since September 6 – more territory than Russian forces have captured in all their operations since April.
Ukrainian forces will likely capture the city of Izyum itself in the next 48 hours if they have not already done so. The liberation of Izyum would be the most significant Ukrainian military achievement since winning the Battle of Kyiv in March. It would eliminate the Russian advance in northwest Donetsk Oblast along the E40 highway that the Russian military sought to use to outflank Ukrainian positions along the Slovyansk – Kramatorsk line. A successful encirclement of Russian forces fleeing Izyum would result in the destruction or capture of significant Russian forces and exacerbate Russian manpower and morale issues. Russian war correspondents and milbloggers have also reported facing challenges when evacuating from Izyum, indicating Ukrainian forces are at least partially closing a cauldron in some areas.
The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) announced the withdrawal of troops from the Balakliya-Izyum line on September 10, falsely framing the retreat as a “regrouping” of forces to support Russian efforts in the Donetsk Oblast direction – mirroring the Kremlin’s false explanation for the Russian withdrawal after the Battle of Kyiv. The Russian MoD did not acknowledge Ukrainian successes around Kharkiv Oblast as the primary factor for the Russian retreat, and claimed that Russian military command has been carrying out a controlled withdrawal from the Balakliya-Izyum area for the past three days. The Russian MoD falsely claimed that Russian forces undertook a number of demonstrative actions and used artillery and aviation to ensure the safety of withdrawing Russian forces. These Russian statements have no relation to the situation on the ground.
The Russian MoD’s inability to admit Russian failures in Kharkiv Oblast and effectively set information conditions is collapsing the Russian information space. Kremlin-sponsored TV propagandists offered a wide range of confused explanations for Ukrainian successes ranging from justifications that Russian forces are fighting against the entire Western Bloc, to downplaying the importance of Russian ground lines of communication (GLOCS) in Kupyansk. The Kremlin’s propagandists appeared unusually disorganized in their narratives, with some confirming the liberation of certain towns and others refuting such reports. Guest experts also were unable to reaffirm the hosts’ narratives that Ukrainian successes are not significant for the Donbas axis. Such programming may reveal the true progress of the Russian “special military operation” to the general Russian public that relies on state media and the Russian MoD for updates.
The withdrawal announcement further alienated the Russian milblogger and Russian nationalist communities that support the Kremlin’s grandiose vision for capturing the entirety of Ukraine. Russian milbloggers condemned the Russian MoD for remaining quiet, choosing self-isolation, and distorting situational awareness in Russia. One milblogger even stated that the Russian MoD’s silence is a betrayal of Russian servicemen that fought and still fight in Ukraine. A Russian milblogger also noted that the Russian MoD has repeatedly ignored or demeaned the milblogger community that raised concerns with Russian military leadership and lack of transparency on the frontlines. The milbloggers called on the Russian MoD to take the information space into its own hands and stop relying on silencing information.
Prior to the withdrawal announcement, the Russian MoD released footage of Russian military convoys reportedly moving to reinforce the Kharkiv direction on September 9. Many Russian outlets and milbloggers expressed hope that these reinforcements would stabilize the frontline and repel Ukrainian advances on Izyum despite the Russian MoD failing to address the unfolding situation days prior. Russian milbloggers would have likely accepted MoD’s announcement of a withdrawal like they previously did with the Russian retreat from the Snake Island and other tactical Russian losses if the Russian information space was not oversaturated with footage of Ukrainian successes. Such inconsistencies in messaging further support ISW’s assessment that the Russian MoD faces challenges in responding to unexpected developments within the established informational framework, which portrays Russian invasion of Ukraine as an easy and faultless operation. Most importantly, such unaware information practices erode the Russian public’s trust in Russian MoD messaging and disrupt the Kremlin’s propaganda facade.
Russian milbloggers also criticized the Russian occupation authorities for failing to organize evacuation measures in Kharkiv Oblast. Some milbloggers noted that occupation administrations are disoriented and lack initiative. The Ukrainian counteroffensive is effectively paralyzing the Russian occupation leadership that is likely afraid for its fate.
- Ukrainian forces in Kharkiv Oblast are collapsing Russia’s northern Donbas axis, and Ukrainian forces will likely recapture Izyum itself in the next 48 hours.
- The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) announced the withdrawal of troops from the Balakliya-Izyum line on September 10, and the Russian MoD’s failure to set effective information conditions is collapsing the Russian information space.
- The withdrawal announcement and occupation authorities’ failure to organize evacuation measures is further alienating the Russian milblogger and Russian nationalist communities that support the Kremlin’s grandiose vision of capturing the entirety of Ukraine.
- Ukrainian forces reached positions within 15–25km of the Russo-Ukrainian border in northeastern Kharkiv Oblast, Izyum’s northern outskirts, and Lyman’s south and southwestern outskirts, and captured the western half of Kupyansk.
- Russian forces are reinforcing frontline positions in Kherson Oblast while Ukrainian forces conduct positional battles and continue their interdiction campaign against Russian logistics lines.
- Russian forces conducted limited ground assaults north of Kharkiv City, south of Bakhmut, and west of Donetsk City.
- Russian recruitment drives are generating some criticism among Russian milbloggers and regions.
- Russian forces are reportedly intensifying filtration measures in Kherson and Zaporizhia Oblasts in response to Ukrainian counteroffensives on the Southern Axis.
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 1- Kharkiv City
- Russian Supporting Effort 2- Southern Axis
- Russian Mobilization and Force Generation Efforts
- Activities in Russian-occupied Areas
Ukrainian Counteroffensives (Ukrainian efforts to liberate Russian-occupied territories)
Eastern Ukraine: (Vovchansk-Kupyansk-Izyum-Lyman Line)
Ukrainian forces reached the northern outskirts of Izyum on September 10 and will likely recapture the city within the next 48 hours if they have not already. Russian and Ukrainian sources reported that Ukrainian forces have not yet entered Izyum and largely reported that Russian forces are withdrawing from the city. Russian sources reported that the Russian military deployed reinforcements to cover a withdrawal from Izyum to the left bank of the Oskil River. Ukrainian forces’ northern advance has severed Russian forces’ most significant ground lines of communication (GLOCS) to Izyum. Russian forces must now rely on suboptimal paths to the south and southeast that run through difficult terrain and over the Siverskyi Donets and Oskil rivers to withdraw forces.
[Source: Esri, Maxar, Earthstar Geographics, and the GIS User Community]
Ukrainian forces seized the western half of Kupyansk on September 10 and can likely take the rest of the city within 24 hours if they choose to cross the Oskil River. Russian sources reported that Russian forces retreated from western Kupyansk to the east bank of the Oskil River, where, a Russian source claimed, Russian forces can defend Kupyansk’s industrial zone more easily. A Russian source claimed that Ukrainian sabotage and reconnaissance groups are operating in the eastern half of Kupyansk. Geolocated footage shows Russian forces fleeing east from Kupyansk’s eastern outskirts, suggesting that most or all Russian forces in Kupyansk are withdrawing or have withdrawn to the east, most likely to Svatove, Luhansk Oblast.
Ukrainian forces advanced to the southern and southwestern outskirts of Lyman on September 10, where Russian forces are covering the Izyum group’s withdrawal. Russian sources reported that Russian forces defended positions in Lyman against Ukrainian advances. Some Russian sources reported that Ukrainian forces established positions in small areas of Lyman’s environs, but that the Russian defense holds. Conflicting Russian reports that Russian forces withdrew from Lyman are likely false but attest to the panicked and confused state of the Russian information space about Russian forces’ situation in this area.
Ukrainian forces advanced to positions within 15–25km of the Russo-Ukrainian border in northeastern Kharkiv Oblast on September 10. Russian sources reported that Ukrainian forces captured Velyky Burlyk at the T2111 and T2114 intersection and Khotomlya on the east bank of the Pechenhy Reservoir. Russian sources stated that Ukrainian forces took advantage of the absence of a continuous Russian front line while advancing on Velyky Burluk. Ukrainian forces’ continued quick pace of advance is severing long-held Russian GLOCS that support operations in northern Luhansk Oblast, and their loss will severely hamper Russian and proxy operations.
Russian forces likely no longer hold all of Luhansk Oblast as of September 10. Ukrainian forces likely captured Bilohorivka sometime between September 4 and 10. Russian sources reported that Russian forces withdrew from Bilohorivka sometime on September 4–10. Luhansk Oblast Administration Head Serhiy Haidai stated that Ukrainian forces reached the outskirts of Lysychansk on September 10. A recently posted, though undated, video shows Ukrainian forces entering Bilohorivka on an unspecified date. Bilohorivka was on the previously known frontline and is immediately adjacent to Lysychansk.
Southern Ukraine: (Kherson Oblast)
Ukrainian military officials reported that Ukrainian forces are conducting positional battles in Kherson Oblast on September 10 but did not disclose specific areas of operation. Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command Spokesperson Nataliya Humenyuk stated that Ukrainian forces have advanced tens of kilometers in some unnamed areas of Kherson Oblast and noted that the Ukrainian counteroffensive is pushing Russian forces to retreat to their second lines of defenses. Humenyuk added that Russian forces continue to resist Ukrainian attacks and retain ammunition and supplies on the frontlines, but Russian units are suffering heavy losses. The Ukrainian General Staff, for example, stated that unspecified elements of the Russian 106th Guards Airborne Division operating in Kherson Oblast lost over 58 servicemen in one day. Humenyuk and other Ukrainian military officials reiterated that Ukrainian forces are continuing their interdiction campaign by striking Russian ground lines of communication (GLOCS), ammunition depots and key positions to further weaken the reportedly 25,000- to 35,000-strong group of Russian troops on the Dnipro River's right bank. Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command notably reported that Ukrainian forces destroyed another Russian ferry crossing over the Dnipro River in Lvove (west of Nova Kakhovka) and an ammunition depot in Bilyaivka in northern Kherson Oblast. Russian forces are also reportedly attempting to repair the collapsed Kakhovka Bridge.
Social media footage of strikes, explosions, and activated Russian air defense systems indicates Ukraine’s interdiction campaign against Russian logistics in Kherson Oblast continued on September 10. Kherson City Telegram channels and media outlets reported a powerful explosion at a local military recruitment center in Kherson City, which housed newly arrived Russian personnel and military staff. Ukrainian sources also reported explosions in Kherson City’s industrial zone and in the area of the Antonivsky Railway Bridge. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed to have destroyed five rounds of Ukrainian HIMARS strikes in the vicinity of Nova Kakhovka. Local reports also indicate that Russian forces are continuing to use barges to transport equipment to and from Kherson City.
Ukrainian military officials also noted the arrival of additional Russian troops to central Kherson Oblast, which will reinforce occupied positions. Russian forces reportedly deployed an unspecified 1,300-person-strong Chechen unit to Kherson Oblast. It is possible that the Chechen units may be newly formed volunteer battalions or are at least in part staffed by new recruits. The Ukrainian General Staff and Ukrainian intelligence previously noted that new arrivals are older and inexperienced men, which fits the profile of Russian volunteer recruits. Deputy Head of the Republic of Bashkortostan Alik Kamaletdinov announced that volunteer battalions from Bashkortostan are fighting on the frontlines in the Mykolaiv Oblast direction, suggesting that Russian forces are deploying newly formed volunteer units to the Southern Axis. Russian forces are reportedly also regrouping surviving personnel of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) 1st Army Corps into other units.
Ukrainian and Russian sources identified four areas of kinetic activity along the Kherson Oblast administrative border: west of Kherson City, near Snihurivka (about 60km east of Mykolaiv City), southeast of the Ukrainian bridgehead over the Inhulets River, and south of the Kherson-Dnipropetrovsk Oblast administrative border. Kremlin-affiliated Russian war correspondents published footage of Russian artillery reportedly striking Ukrainian forces attempting to advance on Oleksandrivka, approximately 40km west of Kherson City, and noted that the settlement is near a “gray zone” between Russian and Ukrainian artillery positions. A Russian milblogger also claimed that Russian forces are launching offensive operations from Snihurivka to suppress a claimed Ukrainian logistics hub in Bereznehuvate, about 25km due north from Snihurivka. The Russian MoD claimed that Russian forces struck a Ukrainian command post in the Snihurivka Raion. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces launched air strikes on Bruskynske (on the T2207 highway about 11km southeast of the bridgehead), which may indicate that Ukrainian forces are advancing in its vicinity or that Russian forces have left their positions near the settlement. A Russian milblogger also noted that Ukrainian and Russian forces engaged in positional battles near Ukrainian-liberated Vysokopillya, Olhyne, and Arkhanhelske in northern Kherson Oblast.
The Russian MoD did not comment on the progress of the Ukrainian southern counteroffensive on September 10. A Kremlin-affiliated war correspondent stated that Russian reporters in Kherson Oblast have strict restrictions on publishing combat footage and noted minimal use of commercially-available drones.
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 did not conduct any confirmed ground attacks in the Siversk area on September 10 and continued to conduct routine strikes on Siversk and surrounding settlements. A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces attempted to break through Russian defenses in Spirne (southeast of Siversk).
Russian forces attempted several minor ground attacks south of Bakhmut of September 10. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted failed offensive operations near Bakhmut, toward Mayorsk, Mykolayivka Druha, Zaitseve, Vesela Dolyna, and Bakhmut. Chechen Republic Head Ramzan Kadyrov posted footage of Chechen Akhmat Special Forces Commander Apta Alaudinov celebrating an alleged breakthrough at an unspecified point in the Soledar direction (approximately 12km northeast of Bakhmut), and a Russian milblogger mirrored claims of unspecified “slight” Wagner group advances east of Bakhmut. The milblogger also claimed that Russian forces took control of several blocks around the Knauf Gips Donbas gypsum factory southeast of Soledar. These represent the only claimed Russian territorial gains on September 10. Russian forces continued routine artillery strikes on Bakhmut and its surroundings.
Russian forces conducted two confirmed ground attacks west of Donetsk City on September 10. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled attempted Russian assaults on Pervomaiske (about 18km west of Donetsk City) and Novomykhailivka (about 29km southwest of Donetsk City). Russian milbloggers denied social media reports that Ukrainian forces attacked Russian positions near the Donetsk City Airport.
Supporting Effort #1- Kharkiv City (Russian objective: Prevent Ukrainian forces from reaching the Russian border)
Russian forces conducted a limited ground assault north of Kharkiv City and continued routine fire on Kharkiv City and the surrounding settlements on September 10. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled a Russian ground assault near Sosnivka, less than 10km from the international border. A Russian source claimed that Ukrainian forces are probing Russian defenses in Liptsy.
Supporting Effort #2- Southern Axis (Russian objective: Maintain frontline positions and secure rear areas against Ukrainian strikes)
Russian forces did not attempt to advance in western Zaporizhia Oblast and continued routine shelling throughout the Southern Axis. Ukrainian sources reported that Ukrainian forces struck unspecified targets in Russian-occupied Polohy on the western Zaporizhia Oblast frontline. Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov noted reports of unspecified explosions and shooting in Melitopol on the night of September 9–10.
Russian forces continued launching artillery, missile, and air strikes at Dnipropetrovsk and Mykolaiv Oblasts on September 10. Russian forces launched two Kh-59 cruise missiles on Dnipro City, and Ukrainian air defense units shot down one of the missiles. Russian forces continued to target Nikopol Raion with MLRS and heavy artillery and launched S-300 air defense missiles at the pier area in Mykolaiv City.
Russian occupations authorities are setting information conditions to seize control of Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) operations amid international outcries. Zaporizhia Oblast occupation official Vladimir Rogov claimed that Ukrainian officials deliberately shut down power to the ZNPP and that the occupation administration is considering having the ZNPP continue to generate power or conserving the plant through a cold shutdown. Rogov stated that he is opposed to peacekeepers visiting the ZNPP, claiming they will be biased against Russia, and claimed the ZNPP needs security against claimed Ukrainian shelling instead of peacekeepers. Rogov’s statement comes one day after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released a draft resolution calling on Russia to cease all operations at the ZNPP. Rogov’s statements indicate continued Russian hostility towards any non-Russian intervention at the ZNPP.
Mobilization and Force Generation Efforts (Russian objective: Expand combat power without conducting general mobilization)
Russian federal subjects’ (regions) excessive recruitment advertisements for contract service and enlistment into volunteer detachments are igniting some criticism among local Russians and milbloggers. Khaborovsk Krai residents started a petition to send Khabarovsk Krai Governor Mikhail Degtyaryov to the frontlines in Ukraine after Degtyaryov stated that he would love to fight in Ukraine if he did not hold his office. ISW previously reported that the Kremlin likely ordered regional heads to personally advertise contract service, and such efforts may give rise to local dissatisfaction with regional authorities. Hundreds of Khabarovsk Krai residents protested Degtyaryov’s appointment as the krai governor in summer of 2020, and his recruitment advertisement may be reopening public criticism of his leadership. Russian military correspondent and milblogger Maksim Fomin (known under the alias Vladlen Tatarsky) has called on interested volunteers to refrain from enlisting into volunteer battalions, despite previously welcoming the Kremlin’s force-generation initiative in mid-July. Fomin stated on September 10 that recruits should enlist into the Russian Armed Forces to fill out the 3rd battalion in existing Russian brigades (referencing the Russian practice of pulling personnel from each regiment’s first and second battalions to generate battalion tactical groups), rather than joining “disparate battalions and incomprehensible detachments.” Fomin also called on officers to properly train volunteers, instead of simply taking photos of recruits at the training ground for propaganda.
Russian forces are reportedly continuing to forcefully mobilize men in Luhansk Oblast and are recruiting Central Asian men for contract service. The Ukrainian General Staff noted that Russian recruiters are promising retired Kyrgyz military personnel high salaries through social media to serve in the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Luhansk Oblast Administration Head Serhiy Haidai stated that Russian forces continued to forcefully mobilize disabled and old men.
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 forces are reportedly intensifying filtration measures in Kherson and Zaporizhia Oblasts in response to Ukrainian counteroffensives on the Southern Axis. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces and Russian Security Service (FSB) elements deployed from Russia are searching for civilians who assist Ukrainian forces and are checking civilian mobile phones in Nova Kakhovka. The Ukrainian General Staff reported similar filtration practices in Enerhodar.
Russian occupation authorities are further restricting the movement of goods from Ukraine into occupied territories that will likely impact the transport of humanitarian cargo. Head of the Zaporizhia Occupation Administration Yevheny Balitsky announced a complete ban on September 10 of commercial cargo transport to occupied territories through the checkpoint at Vasylivka, Zaporizhia Oblast. Occupation authorities will likely use the ban on cargo transportation at Vasylivka to justify preventing humanitarian convoys from entering occupied Zaporizhia Oblast from unoccupied Ukraine.
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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