Iran plans to send more combat drones and new ballistic missile systems to Russia for use in Ukraine, likely further strengthening Russia’s reliance on Iranian-made weapon systems. The Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) reported on November 1 that Iranian officials intend to send a shipment of more than 200 Shahed-136, Mohajer-6, and Arash-2 combat drones to Russia. The GUR reported that Iran will send Russia the drones in a disassembled state and that Russian personnel will assemble them with Russian markings. CNN reported on November 1 that unnamed officials from a western country that closely monitors Iranian weapons programs stated that Iran plans to send a thousand weapons to Russia by the end of the year, including surface-to-surface short-range ballistic missiles and combat drones. This would be the first confirmed instance of Iran sending Russia advanced precision-guided missiles. Russia likely negotiated the additional Iranian shipment of weapons systems due to the depletion of its stockpile of cruise missile and drone systems over the course of the war in Ukraine, particularly during the Russian campaign against Ukrainian critical infrastructure. The GUR reported that Ukrainian air defenses have shot down more than 300 Shahed-136 drones since Russia starting using them in Ukraine on September 13. Russia will likely continue to use drone attacks and missile strikes against critical infrastructure to try to offset the failures and limitations of its conventional forces on the frontline. Russian dependence on Iranian-made systems, and therefore on Iran, will likely increase.
The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) started its semi-annual fall conscription drive on November 1, amidst reports of continuing covert mobilization throughout the country. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu announced that 2,700 draft committees across 85 federal subjects began the fall conscription call-up of 120,000 men. Shoigu also stated that partial mobilization in Russia concluded. Head of the Main Organizational and Mobilization Directorate of the Russian General Staff, Yevgeniy Burdinsky, reiterated that Russia is conscripting 7,500 fewer men than in previous years and noted that partial mobilization postponed the conscription cycle by one month. Burdinsky claimed that conscripts will not serve in occupied Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, or Zaporizhia oblasts this year and will not participate in combat. Head of the 4th Directorate of the Main Organizational and Mobilization Directorate of the Russian General Staff Vladimir Tsimlyansky added that most recruits will deploy to training formations and military units where they will train for five months, while others will receive specializations based on their skills and education level. The Russian MoD has conducted semi-annual conscription call-ups for decades and should be able to execute this process effectively and efficiently. Any problems with the execution of the fall call-up would likely indicate that partial mobilization and the war in Ukraine have complicated a standard procedure.
Numerous Russian sources reported that Russian enlistment officers are continuing to mobilize men despite Shoigu’s previous announcements of the conclusion of partial mobilization and transition into the conscription period on October 28. Local Russian outlets reported instances of men receiving mobilization notices in Tyumen and St. Petersburg as of October 31. The Russian Central Military District (CMD) reportedly told journalists of a Russian outlet that mobilization processes will continue across Russia until Russian President Vladimir Putin signs a decree ending the mobilization period. Ukrainian Melitopol and Mariupol authorities also reported that Russian occupation authorities are continuing to coerce Ukrainians into volunteer battalions and territorial defense units.
Commander of the 8th Combined Arms Army of the Southern Military District (SMD) Lieutenant-General Andrey Mordvichev reportedly replaced Colonel-General Alexander Lapin as commander of the Central Military District (CMD). Several Russian milbloggers—including some who appear on Russian state television—noted that Mordichev has replaced Lapin in this position, but the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) has not officially announced Mordichev’s appointment nor Lapin’s dismissal as of November 1. A Russian local outlet citing an unnamed official within the Russian MoD claimed that Mordichev will only replace Lapin as the commander of the “center“ forces in Ukraine for the duration of Lapin’s supposed three-week medical leave. A milblogger who frequently appears on Russian state media claimed that the Commander of the Russian Forces in Ukraine, Army General Sergey Surovikin, personally appointed Mordichev to replace Lapin due to his commitment to objective frontline reporting. If reports of Mordichev’s appointment are true, then the Kremlin may be attempting to appease the pro-war milblogger community that has been demanding transparency and more honest reporting. The milblogger added that Mordichev reportedly has “warm working relations” with Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, and that Kadyrov called Mordichev “the best commander” during their meeting in mid-March. Mordichev’s appointment may therefore indicate that the Kremlin is attempting to appease the siloviki faction—composed of Kadyrov and Wagner Group financier Yevgeniy Prigozhin—that has publicly criticized Lapin as well. Lapin’s dismissal may have also been Surovikin’s recommendation as well, however, given that both commanders operated in the Luhansk Oblast area to seize Lysychansk and its surroundings in June. ISW cannot independently verify milblogger or Russian local outlet reports at this time.
Wagner Group financier Yevgeniy Prigozhin is likely attempting to address critiques against his parallel military structures following Lapin’s reported dismissal. Prigozhin defended his mercenaries against unspecified “tens of thousands of critics,” stating that his Wagner mercenaries are dying while critics are refusing to go to the frontlines. Prigozhin has been responding to numerous inquiries in recent days regarding Wagner units suffering losses or facing outbreaks of infectious diseases among prisoner recruits, but his attacks against Lapin have prompted some within the pro-war community to publicly question his authority. Many Russian milbloggers who had defended Lapin heavily criticized Prigozhin’s comments about the Russian higher military command, with one milblogger stating that “shepherds and cooks,” sarcastically referring to Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and Prigozhin, could not assess Lapin’s performance. ISW has also previously noted that Prigozhin’s units have not made significant gains around Bakhmut since June.
Prigozhin is likely attempting to reduce the appearance that he might become too powerful, stating that he has no plans to hold political office and would refuse such a position if offered. Prigozhin also added that he does not consider himself to be a leader of public opinion and does not engage in “showdowns” with Russian officials, despite continuing to publicly attack St. Petersburg Governor Alexander Beglov and repeatedly calling for his resignation. Prigozhin added that he is not competing with Beglov in the St-Petersburg business sphere.
- Planned Iranian shipments of drones and ballistic missiles to Russia will likely further strengthen Russian reliance on Iran and Iranian-made weapons systems.
- The Russian MoD started its semi-annual fall conscription cycle despite reports of Russian authorities covertly continuing mobilization measures.
- Commander of the 8th Combined Arms Army of the Southern Military District (SMD), Lieutenant-General Andrey Mordvichev, reportedly replaced Colonel-General Alexander Lapin as commander of the Central Military District (CMD).
- Wagner Group financier Yevgeniy Prigozhin is likely attempting to address critiques against his parallel military structures following Lapin’s reported dismissal.
- Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces continued to conduct counteroffensive operations in the directions of Svatove and Kreminna.
- Russian forces continued defensive preparations while Ukrainian forces conducted counteroffensive operations in Kherson Oblast.
- Russian forces continued to conduct offensive operations around Bakhmut and around Donetsk City.
- Russian forces continued to strengthen Russian control over the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.
- Russian military structures are reportedly expanding training capabilities.
- Russian occupation officials continued to set conditions for the long-term and permanent relocation of residents from the east bank of the Dnipro River in Kherson Oblast.