September 20, 2023

Institue for the Study of War: Ukraine claims significant Russian losses in Bakhmut area fighting

Institute for the Study of War

Ukrainian forces continued offensive actions near Bakhmut and in western Zaporizhia Oblast on September 20. The Ukrainian General Staff stated that Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations and inflicted significant losses on Russian manpower and equipment in the Melitopol (western Zaporizhia Oblast) direction. The Ukrainian General Staff also reported that Ukrainian forces continued offensive actions in the Bakhmut direction and are consolidating in newly secured lines. The UK Ministry of Defense (MoD) assessed that Ukrainian forces secured positions in Klishchiivka (7km southwest of Bakhmut) and Andriivka (10km southwest of Bakhmut) and that Russian redeployments of airborne (VDV) forces from Bakhmut to the Zaporizhia direction have weakened Russian defenses around Bakhmut. ISW had previously observed elements of the 83rd Separate Air Assault Brigade operating in Zaporizhia, although it is unclear how large a proportion of that unit was redeployed from Bakhmut. Ukrainian Eastern Group of Forces Spokesperson Captain Ilya Yevlash stated that Ukrainian forces are preparing defensive positions before Russian forces renew their assaults in the Kupyansk-Lyman direction.

Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu met with Iranian Chief of the General Staff Mohammad Bagheri in Tehran, Iran to discuss Russian-Iranian military cooperation on September 19, a day after Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi denied Iran’s provision of drones to Russia. Raisi denied that Iran provides drones to Russia during his speech to the United Nations on September 18. Shoigu and Bagheri visited an Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Force facility where Shoigu saw Iranian-made drones, air defense systems, missiles; and tactical, medium, and long-range missile systems on September 20. Shoigu stated that Russia and Iran plan to implement a range of unspecified activities in spite of Western sanctions, likely in order to evade the sanctions.

Russian President Vladimir Putin emphasized Russian peacekeepers’ humanitarian actions in Nagorno-Karabakh as the Russian information space continues to observe that Russia is losing influence in Armenia. The Nagorno-Karabakh authorities accepted a Russian peacekeeper-mediated ceasefire agreement with Azerbaijan on September 20 and reported that Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijani officials will meet in Yevlakh, Azerbaijan on September 21 to discuss “reintegration” and “ensuring the rights and security of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh.” Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan stated that Armenian authorities were not involved in the ceasefire agreement and that Armenian forces were not present in Nagorno-Karabakh. Putin emphasized on September 20 Russian peacekeepers’ roles in protecting civilians and claimed that Russia is in constant contact with Armenian, Azerbaijani and Nagorno-Karabakh authorities.

Key Takeaways:

  • Ukrainian forces continued offensive actions near Bakhmut and in western Zaporizhia Oblast on September 20.
  • Russian servicemen and milbloggers revealed that the Russian military command orders Russian troops to carry out “ill-conceived and unsupported” counterattacks on Bakhmut’s southern flank to urgently regain lost ground.
  • Russian forces conducted another round of Shahed drone strikes against Ukraine overnight on September 19-20.
  • A Russian milblogger outlined Russian reconnaissance groups’ drone operator training and operation tactics in Ukraine.
  • Ukraine’s Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) reported that unspecified saboteurs damaged Russian strategic aircraft at Chkalovsky airfield near Moscow on September 18.
  • Chechen Republic Head Ramzan Kadyrov claimed on September 20 that he is in good health amidst continued speculations about his possible illness or death.
  • Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu met with Iranian Chief of the General Staff Mohammad Bagheri in Tehran, Iran to discuss Russian-Iranian military cooperation on September 19, a day after Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi denied Iran’s provision of drones to Russia.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin emphasized Russian peacekeepers’ humanitarian actions in Nagorno-Karabakh as the Russian information space continues to observe that Russia is losing influence in Armenia.
  • Russian forces conducted offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove line, near Bakhmut, along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line, and in western Zaporizhia Oblast but did not make confirmed gains.
  • The Russian Red Cross (RKK) indicated that the Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine, particularly partial mobilization efforts in autumn 2022, caused a decline in mental health among many Russians.
  • Russian and occupation authorities continue efforts to deport Ukrainian children to Russia and integrate Ukrainian children into Russian culture.
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