Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, November 6, 2023

November 6, 2023 - ISW Press

Imprisoned ardent nationalist and former Russian officer Igor Girkin argued that Russian forces will be “even less capable of offensive operations than they are now” by spring 2024 given the current nature of Russian offensive operations along the frontline. Girkin’s wife, Miroslava Reginskaya, published a hand-written letter from Girkin dated October 26, in which he summarized the frontline situation in Ukraine for the month of October. Girkin claimed that the situation for Russian forces is “gradually deteriorating” and that Russian forces are showcasing “growing weakness (compared to [Ukraine’s] capabilities,” despite Russia’s “generally successful repulsion” of the Ukrainian offensive over the summer and fall of 2023. Girkin argued that Russian forces were not only unable to start broad offensive operations at the beginning of the fall season but were also unable to complete even limited offensive operations to achieve operationally significant goals – namely around Kupyansk, Lyman, and Avdiivka. Girkin claimed that Russian forces failed to advance in the Kupyansk direction and are now impaled in battles on “the distant approaches to the city,” while also failing to change the situation in the Lyman direction. Girkin added that tactical advances around Avdiivka led to significant losses in Russian manpower and equipment and did not lead to the further development of the Russian offensive. Girkin observed that the Avdiivka offensive demonstrated Russian forces’ inability “to achieve superiority on a very narrow sector of the front” despite Russia’s careful preparations, good coordination of strike forces and means for the initial stage of the offensive, and the abundance of ammunition “unheard of since the assault on Bakhmut.”

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, November 5, 2023

November 5, 2023 - ISW Press

Ukrainian forces conducted a successful strike on a Russian shipyard in Kerch, occupied Crimea on November 4, likely damaging a naval vessel. The Ukrainian Amed Forces Center for Strategic Communications (StratCom) stated that Ukrainian forces conducted successful strikes on Russian marine and port infrastructure at the Zalyv Shipyard in Kerch on the evening of November 4. Satellite imagery from November 4 shows that the strike damaged a Project 22800 Karakurt-class Kalibr missile carrier corvette at the shipyard, although the extent of the damage to the ship is currently unclear. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that Russian forces intercepted 13 of 15 Ukrainian missiles targeting the shipyard and acknowledged that two missiles damaged an unspecified ship.[3] Ukrainian officials stated that Ukrainian cruise missiles damaged the Askold missile carrier, a Karakurt-class corvette that the Russian Black Sea Fleet (BSF) launched in 2021. The Zalyv shipyard reportedly planned to construct 14 warships intended for the BSF between 2016 and 2021, including eight Project 22800 Karakurt-class corvettes. ISW has only confirmed that three Project 228000 Karakurt-class corvettes have launched from the Zalyv shipyard as of 2023, however. The Zalyv shipyard is the largest shipyard in Eastern Europe and is likely the main repair facility for the BSF in Crimea following a successful Ukraine strike on the Russian state-owned ship repair facility Sevmorzavod in Sevastopol on September 13, 2023. The extent of damage to the repair facilities at the Zalyv Shipyard is unclear, although the available satellite imagery suggests that the Ukrainian strike has likely not caused damage that will disrupt its operations in the medium-to-long term, unlike the previous strike on the Sevmorzavod facility. Radio Free Europe/Free Liberty (RFE/RL) has reported that Russian forces have three active shipyards, including the Zalyv facility, in occupied Crimea. ISW assesses that Ukrainian forces have conducted an interdiction campaign against Russian military infrastructure in occupied Crimea, primarily BSF assets, since June 2023 to degrade the Russian military's ability to use Crimea as a staging and rear area for Russian operations in southern Ukraine.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, November 4, 2023

November 4, 2023 - ISW Press

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky emphasized that the war in Ukraine is not a “stalemate” in a comment to the media about Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief General Valerii Zaluzhnyi’s essay on the positional nature of warfare in Ukraine. Zelensky stated during a joint press conference with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on November 4 that the current situation on the frontlines is “not a stalemate” even if “time has passed” and “people are tired.” Zelensky emphasized that Ukraine prioritizes the safety of its servicemen and needs US F-16 fighter aircraft and air defenses to gain an advantage over Russian forces. Zelensky recalled that many observers were quick to call the battlefield situation in 2022 “a stalemate,” but that Ukrainian forces with several “tricks, tactics, [and] military operations” were able to liberate Kharkiv Oblast and west (right) bank Kherson Oblast. Zelensky added that Russian President Vladimir Putin will not stop at Russia’s currently occupied lines and noted that Ukraine “has no right to even think about giving up.” Zelensky’s statements largely mirror the main arguments in Zaluzhnyi’s essay entitled, “Modern Positional Warfare and How to Win It.”

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, November 3, 2023

November 3, 2023 - ISW Press

Russian forces conducted a notably larger series of drone strikes throughout Ukraine on November 3. The Ukrainian Air Force reported that Russian forces launched four dozen Shahed-131/-136 drones from Kursk Oblast and Primorsko-Akhtarsk, Krasnodar Krai, and a Kh-59 cruise missile from occupied Kherson Oblast at targets in Ukraine. The Ukrainian Air Force reported that Ukrainian air defenses shot down the Kh-59 cruise missile and 24 of the Shahed drones. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky stated that Ukrainian forces intercepted over half of the roughly 40 drones that Russian forces launched at Ukraine. Ukrainian officials reported that Russian forces struck targets in Kharkiv, Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, and Odesa oblasts, and Zelensky stated that Ukrainian air defenses activated in Kharkiv, Zaporizhia, Kherson, Mykolaiv, Odesa, Kyiv, Kirovohrad, Vinnytsia, Khmelnytskyi, and Lviv oblasts.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, November 2, 2023

November 2, 2023 - ISW Press

Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted a missile strike on the Russian “Dnepr” Grouping of Forces headquarters in Kherson Oblast on November 1. A prominent Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces launched Storm Shadow cruise missiles and Neptune anti-ship missiles targeting Strilkove, Kherson Oblast, on the Arabat Spit and that Russian air defenses only intercepted half of the missiles. Multiple Russian sources claimed that Colonel General Mikhail Teplinsky, the recently named commander of the Russian “Dnepr” Grouping of Forces operating in the Kherson direction, was uninjured. Russian opposition media outlet Astra reported that four Ukrainian missiles struck the “Aura” recreation center near Strilkove that served as the Russian Dnepr Grouping’s headquarters.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, November 1, 2023

November 1, 2023 - ISW Press

Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief General Valerii Zaluzhnyi assessed on November 1 that the war in Ukraine has taken on a positional nature and offered a series of recommendations for Ukraine to restore maneuver to the battlespace. In an essay entitled "Modern Positional Warfare and How to Win It" and an interview with The Economist, Zaluzhnyi outlined the current operational environment in Ukraine and noted that, despite several previously successful Ukrainian counteroffensive operations in 2022, the war is now "gradually moving to a positional form." Zaluzhnyi heavily stressed that the current positional nature of the war is largely a result of military parity between Ukrainian and Russian forces, noting that a deep and dramatic Ukrainian penetration of Russian lines will likely not be possible with the relative technological and tactical equilibrium currently between Ukrainian and Russian forces. In his interview with The Economist, Zaluzhnyi acknowledged that technological and tactical parity between opposing forces in Ukraine has resulted in a "stalemate" similar to the case of the First World War. In the more extensive essay on the subject, Zaluzhnyi notably refrained from classifying the situation as a full stalemate and instead framed it as a "positional" war resulting from aspects of this technological-tactical parity.

Iran Update, October 31, 2023

October 31, 2023 - ISW Press

Israeli forces advanced into Beit Hanoun in the northeastern Gaza Strip to conduct clearing operations. Israeli infantry and tanks maneuvered through Beit Hanoun on October 31. Local media reported that Palestinian militias engaged the IDF north of Beit Hanoun. The New York Times noted that lines of armored vehicles traveled on the Salah al Din road running north to south in the Gaza Strip and in the northeastern corner of Beit Hanoun. The al Qassem Brigades attacked an IDF unit clearing a building in the area. The IDF said its forces engaged in fierce battles deep inside the Gaza Strip and eliminated military infrastructure and seized weapons, including IEDs. The al Qassem Brigades military spokesman said that militants have introduced various types of lethal explosive devices to the battle.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, October 31, 2023

October 31, 2023 - ISW Press

Chechen Republic Head Ramzan Kadyrov's response to the October 29 antisemitic riots in the Republic of Dagestan suggests that Russian officials may be increasingly concerned about the weakening of authoritarian control in regions on the periphery of the Russian Federation. Kadyrov responded to the riots in Dagestan by praising Russian President Vladimir Putin's accusation that the West orchestrated the situation to destabilize Russia. Kadyrov later called on Chechen security forces to immediately detain instigators of any potential riots in Chechnya or to "fire three warning shots in the air and after that, fire the fourth shot in the head." Kadyrov's reactions to the riots in Dagestan suggest that he is first and foremost concerned with maintaining the perception of his unwavering support of Putin and secondly with demonstrating the strength of his authoritarian rule over Chechnya by threatening a violent response to potential future riots.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, October 30, 2023

October 30, 2023 - ISW Press

Russian officials announced that Russian law enforcement suppressed the antisemitic riots in Makhachkala, Republic of Dagestan on October 30. The Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) stated that employees of the MVD and other law enforcement agencies suppressed mass riots in Makhachkala and restored order at the local airport after identifying over 150 participants and detaining 60 rioters. The MVD also claimed that rioters injured at least nine police officers and that searches for other rioters are ongoing. Dagestan Head Sergey Melikov claimed that he personally inspected the Makhachkala airport, which sustained minor damage, and claimed that the MVD and Rosgvardia used physical force as a last resort in hopes of calming the mob with reason. Russian sources claimed that rioters threw stones at law enforcement and that officers responded by firing guns into the air. Melikov stated that unspecified foreign actors, including pro-Ukrainian Telegram channels, are attempting to destabilize the region and claimed that the Telegram channel that published the rumors of the arrival of “Israeli refugees” in Dagestan was managed from Ukrainian territory.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, October 29, 2023

October 29, 2023 - ISW Press

Ongoing antisemitic demonstrations in the Republic of Dagestan and elsewhere in the North Caucasus are highlighting heightened interethnic and interreligious tensions in Russia. Hundreds of demonstrators in Dagestan broke into Makhachkala airport, blocked the runway, and attempted to board a plane arriving from Israel on the evening of October 29 following the circulation of rumors that Russian authorities were planning to resettle “Israeli refugees” in Dagestan and elsewhere in the North Caucasus. Hundreds of demonstrators gathered at a hotel in Khasavyurt, Dagestan on the evening of October 28 to look for suspected “Israeli refugees” based on similar rumors. Unknown actors reportedly set fire to a Jewish cultural center under construction in Nalchik, Kabardino-Balkarian Republic on the night of October 28 to 29.