September 25, 2023

Institue for the Study of War: Strike on Russian Black Sea command HQ killed 34 officers, including fleet commander — Ukraine military

Institute for the Study of War

The tactical situation in Verbove remains unclear amid continued Ukrainian offensive operations in western Zaporizhia Oblast on September 25. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations in the Melitopol (western Zaporizhia Oblast) direction and offensive assaults in the Bakhmut direction, inflicting losses on Russian manpower and equipment and depleting Russian forces along the entire front line. Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces reached northern Verbove (18km southeast of Orikhiv) but that Russian forces pushed them back to their original positions. Russian sources have yet to directly address a claim from a source reportedly affiliated with the Russian Airborne (VDV) Forces that Ukrainian forces control half of Verbove as of September 24.

The Ukrainian Special Operations Forces reported on September 25 that a precision Ukrainian strike on the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet (BSF) in occupied Sevastopol, Crimea, on September 22 killed 34 Russian officers, including BSF Commander Admiral Viktor Sokolov. Ukrainian Special Operations Forces reported that the strike, which occurred during a meeting of senior BSF leadership, also wounded 105 Russian personnel. Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) Head Lieutenant General Kyrylo Budanov stated on September 23 that the strike seriously wounded the commander of the Russian 200th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade (Northern Fleet), Lieutenant General Oleg Tsekov, and the commander of the Russian grouping of forces in Zaporizhia Oblast, Colonel General Alexander Romanchuk. Ukrainian Special Operations Forces also reported that the Ukrainian strike on the Minsk landing ship in Sevastopol on September 13 killed 62 personnel, noting that many personnel were present as the Minsk was scheduled to go on combat duty on September 14. ISW has yet to observe confirmation that these Ukrainian strikes killed Sokolov or any other high-ranking Russian commanders, although the Russian command would be able to easily disprove Ukrainian reporting if these reports are false. Sokolov’s and other Russian officers’ reported deaths would create significant disruptions in command and control in the Russian Black Sea Fleet.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed on September 25 that US-provided Abrams tanks have arrived in Ukraine. The New York Times reported that US officials stated that the US delivered an unspecified number of Abrams tanks to Ukraine on September 23 and that the Biden administration intends to send 31 Abrams in total. Politico previously reported on August 31 that Ukraine would receive the first 10 of 31 Abrams tanks in mid-September.

Key Takeaways:

  • The tactical situation in Verbove remains unclear amid continued Ukrainian offensive operations in western Zaporizhia Oblast on September 25.
  • The Ukrainian Special Operations Forces reported on September 25 that a precision Ukrainian strike on the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet (BSF) in occupied Sevastopol, Crimea, on September 22 killed 34 Russian officers, including BSF Commander Admiral Viktor Sokolov
  • Ukrainian forces reportedly struck the Khalino Airfield and a Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) building in Kursk Oblast during a series of drone strikes on September 24.
  • Russian forces conducted a series of Shahed-131/136 drone and missile strikes on the night of September 24-25 against Ukrainian port, grain, and military targets.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky confirmed on September 25 that US-provided Abrams tanks have arrived in Ukraine.
  • Russian military officials continue efforts to build out the Russian armed forces to suit the needs of Russian forces fighting in Ukraine.
  • The Kremlin and the Armenian government continue to deflect blame onto one another over the surrender of Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan amidst deteriorating Armenian-Russian relations.
  • Russian forces continued unsuccessful offensive operations near Bakhmut, along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line, and in western Zaporizhia Oblast.
  • Ukrainian forces conducted offensive operations near Bakhmut, in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area, and in western Zaporizhia Oblast but did not make any confirmed gains.
  • Russian officials continue to deport children from occupied Ukraine to Russia.
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