Russian forces conducted a series of Shahed drone strikes on Ukraine on the night of November 25-26. Ukrainian military officials reported that Russian forces launched nine Shahed-136/131 from Primorsko-Akhtarsk direction and that Ukrainian air defenses shot down eight drones. Ukrainian Joint Forces Commander Lieutenant General Serhiy Nayev, like other Ukrainian officials on November 25, continued to praise the actions of Ukrainian mobile fire groups in intercepting Russian drones. Nayev stated that mobile fire groups will receive foreign-made man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS) in the near future.
Ukrainian officials reported that Russian forces began a renewed offensive effort towards Avdiivka on November 22, although likely with weaker mechanized capabilities than in the previous offensive waves that occurred in October. Ukrainian Tavriisk Group of Forces Commander Brigadier General Oleksandr Tarnavskyi reported on November 23 that Russian forces launched a “third wave” of assaults as part of the Russia offensive operation in the Avdiivka direction, and Tavriisk Group of Forces Spokesperson Colonel Oleksandr Shtupun stated that this “third wave” began on November 22. Shtupun reported a 25 to 30 percent increase in Russian ground attacks near Avdiivka on November 22 and stated that Ukrainian forces repelled several Russian columns of roughly a dozen armored vehicles in total during assaults. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled at least 50 Russian assaults in the Avdiivka direction on November 23 and 24. Russian sources claimed that Russian forces continued offensive operations on Avdiivka’s northern and southern flanks but did not characterize any Russian assaults as heavily mechanized.
Russian President Vladimir Putin reframed the Kremlin’s stance on the Israeli-Hamas war to a much more anti-Israel position in an attempt to demonstrate the supposed hypocrisy of Western condemnations of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Putin stated that attendees of the G20 summit who expressed shock at the continued Russian war in Ukraine should instead be “shocked” by the “bloody” 2014 Euromaidan Revolution in Ukraine and the subsequent war that the “Kyiv regime waged against its own people” in Donbas and by the “extermination of the civilian population in Palestine, in the Gaza sector.” Putin’s November 22 statement on the Israel-Hamas war referring to the “extermination of the civilian population of Palestine” was a departure from previous Kremlin framing that largely focused on calling for peace and claiming that the Israel-Hamas war will distract from the provision of Western military aid to Ukraine. Putin’s November 22 framing of the Israeli-Hamas war continues to exploit that war to undermine Western support for Ukraine, as ISW has previously assessed, and also signals potentially increasing support for Iranian interests in the region and an increased willingness to antagonize Israel.
Ukrainian and Russian forces continue to conduct offensive operations in eastern and southern Ukraine despite rainy and snowy weather conditions. Ukrainian Kherson Oblast Military Administration Advisor Serhiy Khlan stated on November 20 that Russian shelling of the west (right) bank of Kherson Oblast had decreased due to poor weather conditions. Ukrainian 14th Mechanized Brigade Spokesperson Nadiya Zamryha stated on November 21 that Russian forces continue to conduct assaults in the Kupyansk direction despite the snow and frost. Zamryha added that the number of Russian attacks will likely decrease due to weather conditions but that Russian forces will not stop offensive operations completely. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky emphasized the need to strengthen Ukrainian capabilities before the winter period during a meeting with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on November 20. Russian milbloggers claimed on November 20 and 21 that both Russian and Ukrainian forces are struggling to operate drones, including for artillery fire adjustment, in the poor weather conditions throughout the front. Russian milbloggers also claimed that muddy conditions are complicating vehicle movements but that both Ukrainian and Russian forces continue to maneuver and operate in all directions. ISW continues to assess that freezing weather conditions during the winter will likely prompt the resumption of more active combat operations, and ongoing rainy weather is unlikely to halt Ukrainian or Russian attacks.
Russia appears to be employing a known hybrid warfare tactic to artificially create a migrant crisis on the Finnish border. Russia’s apparent hybrid warfare tactic on the Russian-Finnish border is similar to Russia’s and Belarus’ creation of a migrant crisis on the Polish border in 2021 and is likely similarly aimed at destabilizing NATO.
Ukrainian and Russian forces are continuing combat operations in eastern and southern Ukraine, although the rainy weather will likely continue to slow the pace of combat operations until winter conditions fully set in. A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces continue to defend against a strong group of Russian forces attacking near Avdiivka and that Ukrainian forces maintain the initiative in southern Ukraine. The milblogger added that it is premature to declare any Russian victories to avoid creating any false impressions about the situation on the battlefield. Another Russian milblogger observed that poor weather is impeding the use of armored vehicles in western Zaporizhia Oblast but that Ukrainian forces are still attacking Russian positions with infantry units. The United Kingdon (UK) Ministry of Defense (MoD) assessed on November 18 that neither side has achieved any substantial progress in the Kupyansk and Avdiivka directions, or in east (left) bank Kherson Oblast — where the most intense battles are ongoing.
Russian forces conducted a series of drone strikes against Ukraine on the night of November 17 to 18. Ukrainian military sources reported on November 18 that Ukrainian air defenses downed 29 of 38 Russian-launched Shahed-131/136 drones over multiple unspecified oblasts. The Ukrainian Southern Operational Command reported that Russian Shaheds struck an energy infrastructure facility and administrative building in Odesa Oblast. The Ukrainian Northern Operational Command reported that Russian Shaheds also damaged infrastructure facilities in Chernihiv Oblast. Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces struck an oil depot in Altestove, Odesa Oblast, the Starokostyantyniv airfield in Khmelnytskyi Oblast, and Kyiv City, Kyiv Oblast.
Ukrainian officials stated that Ukrainian forces have established bridgeheads on the east (left) bank of Kherson Oblast and are conducting ground operations aimed at pushing Russian forces out of artillery range of the west (right) bank of the Dnipro River. The Ukrainian Marine Corps Command and the Ukrainian General Staff stated on November 17 that Ukrainian marines have secured several “bridgeheads” on the east bank following successful actions and are conducting actions to expand these positions. US military doctrine defines a bridgehead as “an area on the enemy’s side of the water obstacle that is large enough to accommodate the majority of the crossing force, has adequate terrain to permit defense of the crossing sites, provides security to crossing forces from enemy direct fire, and provides a base for continuing the attack.” The doctrinal definition of a bridgehead does not stipulate a certain size for the crossing force, the extent of the secured positions, or the ability to transfer and operate heavy military equipment from those positions. The necessary size of a bridgehead depends on the operations it is meant to support, and the official Ukrainian acknowledgment of these positions as bridgeheads indicates that the Ukrainian command assesses that these positions are sufficient for continuing ground operations on the east bank.
Russian forces conducted a series of missile and drone strikes against Ukraine on the night of November 15 to 16. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces launched 18 Shahed-131/136 drones of which Ukrainian forces destroyed 16. The Ukrainian Air Force reported that Russian forces launched S-300 missiles targeting Kharkiv Oblast and that Ukrainian forces destroyed a Kh-59 cruise missile over Poltava Oblast on the evening of November 15. Ukrainian Air Force Spokesperson Colonel Yuriy Ihnat reported on November 16 that Russian forces changed the timing of the November 16 drone attack from their normal strike pattern by conducting the drone strikes until around 9:30am local time, as opposed to conducting the attacks at their usual time from around 10:00pm to 3:00-4:00am. Ukrainian Southern Operational Command Spokesperson Captain First Rank Nataliya Humenyuk stated that the Russian military has concentrated over 800 missiles, including Kalibr and Onyx missiles, in occupied Crimea and intends to use all of them against Ukrainian energy infrastructure in winter 2023.
The European Union (EU) appears poised to ban the export of precision machine tools and key weapons manufacturing equipment components to Russia. The ban, if enacted and effectively enforced, could deal a significant blow to Russia’s defense industrial base (DIB) given precision machine tools’ importance in industrial manufacturing. Bloomberg reported on November 15 that the EU’s 12th sanctions package proposes a ban on the export of precision machine tools and machinery parts that Russia uses to make weapons and ammunition, such as welding machines, lithium batteries, thermostats, motors, and drone motors. Bloomberg reported that Russia has been importing precision machines and precision machine tools from Europe to sustain its ammunition production and other DIB production efforts. Bne Intellinews reported in June 2021 that Russia’s near total reliance on European- and US-produced precision machine tools makes Russia particularly vulnerable to such sanctions and noted that at the time Russia imported almost all of the precision machines it required.