Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, October 19, 2023

October 19, 2023 - ISW Press

Russian sources continued to discuss larger-than-usual Ukrainian ground operations on the east (left) bank of Kherson Oblast on October 19, and Ukrainian forces likely maintain a limited presence in some east bank areas near the Dnipro River shoreline and the Antonivsky railway bridge. The prominent Russian milblogger who initiated Russian discussion of Ukrainian assaults on the east bank on October 18 claimed on October 19 that two Ukrainian sabotage and reconnaissance groups of a Ukrainian naval infantry brigade crossed the Dnipro River, overwhelmed the Russian troops in the area, and gained a foothold in the village of Krynky (30km east of Kherson City and about 2km inland from the Dnipro River shoreline). The milblogger claimed that Russian infantry counterattacked and pushed Ukrainian forces back towards the outskirts of the village but noted that Ukrainian troops still control some houses in Krynky and are waiting for reinforcements to arrive in the area. Another Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces used more manpower in attacks on Krynky than in previous attacks. Several Russian sources, including Kherson Oblast occupation head Vladimir Saldo, claimed that Russian forces managed to push Ukrainian forces back from the Poyma-Pishchanivka-Pidstepne area (15km east of Kherson City) to the Dnipro River shoreline and to positions under the Antonivsky railway bridge, where they claim Ukrainian forces are trying to rest and regroup under constant Russian air and artillery strikes.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, October 18, 2023

October 18, 2023 - ISW Press

Russian sources claimed that likely company-sized elements of two Ukrainian naval infantry brigades conducted an assault across the Dnipro River onto the east (left) bank of Kherson Oblast on October 17-18. Geolocated footage published on October 18 indicates that Ukrainian forces advanced north of Pishchanivka (14km east of Kherson City and 3km from the Dnipro River) and into Poyma (11km east of Kherson City and 4km from the Dnipro River). A prominent Russian milblogger claimed that two Ukrainian “assault groups” landed on the east bank of the Dnipro River and broke through initial Russian defenses, temporarily occupying all of Poyma and positions on the northern outskirts of Pishchanivka on the afternoon of October 17. The milblogger later claimed that Russian forces pushed Ukrainian forces back from these positions towards the Dnipro River. The milblogger claimed that a Ukrainian sabotage group is still operating in Pishchanivka as of the afternoon of October 18. The milblogger, however, suggested that Russian forces only maintain positions on the southern outskirts of the settlement. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) also acknowledged the Ukrainian operations, claiming that Russian forces stopped four Ukrainian sabotage and reconnaissance groups near Pidstepne (16km east of Kherson City) and Poyma. Another prominent Russian milblogger also claimed that Ukrainian forces occupied Poyma on the night of October 17 to 18.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, October 17, 2023

October 17, 2023 - ISW Press

Ukraine used US-provided ATACMS long-range missiles to strike Russian targets in occupied Ukraine for the first time on October 17. The Wall Street Journal and other Western media outlets confirmed on October 17 that the US “secretly” provided Ukraine with ATACMS with a range of 165km in recent days and reported that Ukrainian forces already used ATACMS to strike Russian-controlled airfields in occupied Berdyansk, Zaporizhia Oblast and Luhansk City, Luhansk Oblast. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also stated in his nightly address on October 17 that ATACMS “have proven themselves” but did not directly confirm ATACMS were used in these strikes, and multiple Russian sources claimed Ukrainian forces used ATACMS in the Berdyansk strike. Various Russian sources amplified images reportedly of ATACMS M74 cluster submunitions found at the site of the strike in Berdyansk. The US likely transferred the ATACMS systems in secret to provide Ukrainian forces operational surprise, and the overall shock in the Russian information space suggests that Ukraine achieved the desired effect.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, October 16, 2023

October 16, 2023 - ISW Press

Russia likely deployed elements of at least two Central Military District (CMD) brigades to reinforce offensive operations by Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) forces on the Avdiivka front. A Ukrainian military observer reported on October 16 that three Russian brigades — the DNR’s 114th Motorized Rifle Brigade (MRB) and the CMD’s 15th and 21st MRBs (both of the 2nd Combined Arms Army [2nd CAA]) — have been involved in recent attacks on Avdiivka alongside various scattered DNR elements, while Russian forces are holding the CMD’s 30th MRB in tactical reserve. Elements of the CMD, particularly of the 2nd CAA, have been active along the Svatove-Kreminna line until recently, and the newly formed 25th CAA likely relieved them along the Svatove-Kreminna line. 2nd CAA elements have primarily conducted defensive operations along the Svatove-Kreminna line for the last several months and have therefore likely had more time to rest and reconstitute before deploying to a more challenging sector of the frontline, which accounts in part for recent Russian advances in the previously stagnant Avdiivka sector of the front.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, October 15, 2023

October 15, 2023 - ISW Press

Russian President Vladimir Putin may be trying to temper expectations of significant Russian advances around Avdiivka in Donetsk Oblast. Putin claimed in an interview on Russian state television on October 15 that Russian forces are conducting an “active defense” in the Avdiivka, Kupyansk, and Zaporizhia directions. Putin’s characterization of Russian offensive operations near Avdiivka as an “active defense,” instead of “active combat operations” as Russian UN Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya claimed on October 13, or discussing Russian operations as an “offensive” as some milbloggers have, may be an attempt to temper expectations of significant Russian advances. Russian operations including intensive artillery and airstrikes are likely intended to degrade Ukrainian forces around Avdiivka. Russian forces are unlikely to make significant breakthroughs or cut off Ukrainian forces in the settlement in the near term, and potential advances at scale would likely require a significant and protracted commitment of personnel and materiel.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, October 14, 2023

October 14, 2023 - ISW Press

US and Ukrainian officials reported on October 12 and 13 that they anticipated the Russian offensive operations around Avdiivka and expressed confidence in Ukrainian defenses. US National Security Council Spokesperson John Kirby reported on October 13 that the new Russian offensive operations near Lyman and Avdiivka “did not come as a surprise.” Kirby stated that the US is confident that Ukrainian forces will repel these Russian attacks. Kirby also reported that Russian forces appear to be using human wave tactics, wherein the Russian military uses masses of poorly trained and equipped Russian soldiers to attempt to advance - the same practice Russian forces used during their failed winter offensive in winter 2023. ISW has additionally observed Russian forces using higher than usual numbers of armored vehicles in ongoing operations. Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) Representative Andriy Yusov similarly reported on October 12 that Ukrainian forces knew about and prepared for the Russian attack near Avdiivka and that Russian forces did not form sufficient reserves to attack along the entire frontline, but only in certain sectors. Several Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian mines are slowing Russian advances near Avdiivka, indicating Ukrainian prior preparations for the attack.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, October 13, 2023

October 13, 2023 - ISW Press

Ongoing Russian offensive operations throughout the Avdiivka, Donetsk Oblast area on October 13 reportedly faced setbacks around the city. Russian sources claimed that Russian forces continued to attack areas north and south of Avdiivka, and geolocated footage published on October 12 and 13 indicates that Russian forces advanced south of Krasnohorivka (5km north of Avdiivka) and southeast of Pervomaiske (11km southwest of Avdiivka). Russian sources also published conflicting reports about previous claims by Russian sources of Russian control of the Avdiivka Coke Plant, and ISW has not observed any evidence to confirm that Russian forces control the plant as of publication. Ukrainian military officials reported that Ukrainian forces continue to repel Russian attacks around Avdiivka.[3] A Russian milblogger noted that Ukrainian forces are using minefields to slow down Russian advances in the Avdiivka direction. A Russian volunteer in the 4th Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) Brigade (2nd Army Corps, Southern Military District) claimed that worn out barrels are reducing the accuracy of Russian artillery near Avdiivka, a complaint about Russian artillery that ISW has previously observed from Russian sources.The volunteer assessed that Russian forces can ”compress the [Ukrainian] perimeter” by capturing less fortified Ukrainian-held territory near Avdiivka, but expressed concern that Russian generals will misinterpret these limited advances and try to speed up offensive efforts towards Avdiivka. The volunteer noted that such a misinterpretation may lead Russian forces to “beat on concrete” fortifications until these forces run out.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, October 12, 2023

October 12, 2023 - ISW Press

Russian forces likely launched a significant and ongoing offensive effort around Avdiivka, Donetsk Oblast on October 10. ISW observed Russian forces simultaneously attacking northwest, west, and south of Avdiivka using armored assault groups, rotary wing aircraft, and concentrated artillery starting on October 10. Avdiivka City Military Administration Head Vitaliy Barabash indicated that Russian forces are carrying out assaults with air support in 10 to 12 directions around the settlement. Ukrainian military observers framed Russian offensive operations against Avdiivka as a “major attack” and noted that Russian forces used an unusually high number of armored vehicles in combat. Russian forces’ increased use of armored vehicles and aviation – alongside persistent simultaneous ground attacks – indicates that Russian forces are conducting an offensive effort more significant in scope and intent than ISW previously assessed on October 10 and October 11. ISW is revising its assessment that Russian attacks around Avdiivka are local efforts intended solely to fix Ukrainian forces but is not prepared to assess the exact objectives and likely outcome of Russian efforts in the Avdiivka direction at this time.

Russian Regular Ground Forces Order of Battle: Russian Military 101

October 12, 2023 - ISW Press

This report contains two sections: an introductory essay on the regular Russian ground forces; and a fully sourced order of battle (ORBAT) of Russia’s regular ground forces down to the brigade and regiment echelon (with select independent battalions), including the army, ground forces controlled by the the navy, Airborne (VDV) units, and GRU Spetsnaz formations.

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, October 11, 2023

October 11, 2023 - ISW Press

Ongoing localized Russian offensive operations near Avdiivka likely demonstrate the ability of Russian forces to learn and apply tactical battlefield lessons in Ukraine. Russian forces launched localized attacks towards Avdiivka after intensive artillery preparation of the battlefield in the early hours of October 10, and geolocated footage from October 10 and 11 confirms that Russian troops advanced southwest of Avdiivka near Sieverne and northwest of Avdiivka near Stepove and Krasnohorivka. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that a grouping of up to three Russian battalions with tank and armored vehicle support intensified offensive operations near Avdiivka. Ukrainian General Staff Spokesperson Andrii Kovavlev clarified that these battalions are part of three motorized rifle brigades of the Southern Military District’s 8th Combined Arms Army.