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The BCFA Archive dates back to February 2022. Our archives allow members to study information preceding the most recent reports in order to gain full understanding regardless of their current familiarity with the topic of interest.

August 19, 2023

Institute for the Study of War:  As Russian missiles attack a Ukrainian theater, Ukrainian drones hit Russian air base

Institute for the Study of War

Russian forces launched a missile strike during the day on August 19 targeting Chernihiv City center after carrying out a series of Shahed drone strikes overnight. Russian forces struck Taras Shevchenko Theater in Chernihiv City, killing seven people and injuring 117. Chernihiv Oblast Administration Head Vyacheslav Chaus reported that Russian forces “probably” launched a “ballistic missile” at the theater, and Russian sources claimed that Russian forces used an Iskander-M ballistic missile during the strike. The theater reportedly hosted a drone exposition called “Lyuti Ptashky” (Angry Birds), which had previously occurred in other Ukrainian cities. The event organizer, Maria Berlinska, stated that organizers only shared the location of the event with individuals who registered and were screened before attending the event. The event reportedly ended shortly after an air raid warning, and organizers advised people to hide in a shelter. Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar stated that Russian forces are targeting public events to emotionally affect Ukrainians and noted that Russian forces have previously struck public events even without prior public announcements of such events. Many Russian milbloggers originally claimed that Russian forces targeted a Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) building, before most indicated that Russian forces struck the drone exhibition.

Ukrainian military officials reported that Russian forces also carried out 17 Shahed drone strikes overnight on August 19 and that Ukrainian forces shot down 15 drones. The Ukrainian General Staff later reported that Russian forces also carried out five missile strikes. The Russian Ministry of Defense claimed that Russian forces destroyed a Ukrainian ammunition depot in Khmelnytskyi Oblast, and Ukrainian regional officials reported that Russian attacks overnight on unspecified targets wounded eight people. The Zhytomyr Oblast Administration reported that a Russian loitering munition targeted unspecified infrastructure in the oblast and that debris from the shot down drone sparked a localized fire.

Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted a drone strike on Soltsy airbase in Novgorod Oblast and reportedly damaged strategic aircraft on August 19. Geolocated images published on August 19 show smoke rising from the Soltsy airbase. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) and other Russian sources claimed that Russian forces shot down a Ukrainian drone using small arms and that a fire damaged one aircraft. A Russian insider source claimed that the fire damaged at least two aircraft and that the Soltsy airbase housed an unspecified number of Tu-22M3 (NATO reporting name Backfire-C) long-range supersonic bombers. The source also claimed that Russian forces moved the undamaged aircraft to Olenya air base, Murmask Oblast.

Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations on at least three sectors of the front on August 19, and advanced along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line and in western Zaporizhia Oblast. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations in the Berdyansk (Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area) and Melitopol (western Zaporizhia Oblast) directions. Ukrainian Eastern Group of Forces Spokesperson Colonel Serhiy Cherevaty stated that Ukrainian forces continue to maintain the initiative in the Bakhmut direction. Geolocated footage published on August 16 indicates that Ukrainian forces recently made limited advances east of Nevelske (directly west of Donetsk City). Additional geolocated footage published on August 19 indicates that Ukrainian forces advanced north of Robotyne in western Zaporizhia Oblast. CBS News reported on August 18 that anonymous US officials stated that Ukrainian forces are advancing in the direction of Tokmak (a major Russian stronghold in western Zaporizhia Oblast) and have cleared a Russian minefield north of Tokmak. US officials are likely referring to recent Ukrainian advances north and east of Robotyne (about 23km northeast of Tokmak). ISW previously assessed that recent Ukrainian advances near small settlements in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area and in western Zaporizhia are likely tactically significant because of the structure of Russian defensive lines. These advances may allow Ukrainian forces to begin operating in less heavily mined areas of the Russian line of defense that are likely more conducive to more rapid Ukrainian gains.

Key Takeaways: 

  • Russian forces launched a missile strike during the day on August 19 targeting Chernihiv City center after carrying out a series of Shahed drone strikes overnight.
  • Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted a drone strike on Soltsy airbase in Novgorod Oblast and reportedly damaged strategic aircraft on August 19.
  • Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations on at least three sectors of the front on August 19, and advanced along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line and in western Zaporizhia Oblast.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Chief of the Russian General Staff and overall theater commander Army General Valery Gerasimov and senior officers at the Southern Military District (SMD) headquarters in Rostov-on-Don on August 19.
  • The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) is continuing to set conditions to possibly replace Wagner Group forces with MoD-affiliated private military companies (PMCs).
  • Russian forces conducted offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line, and in the western Donetsk-eastern Zaporizhia Oblast border area and advanced in certain areas on August 19.
  • Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin signed a decree on August 17 establishing the Donetsk Higher Combined Arms Command School under the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD), likely in an effort to further integrate proxy military formations in occupied Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.
  • Russian officials continue to deport children from occupied Ukraine to Russia.
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