August 15, 2023

Institute for the Study of War

Institute for the Study of War

Ukrainian forces conducted counteroffensive operations on at least three sectors of the front on August 15 and reportedly advanced in Luhansk Oblast and western Zaporizhia Oblast. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations in the Bakhmut, Melitopol (western Zaporizhia Oblast), and Berdyansk (western Donetsk-eastern Zaporizhia Oblast) directions. Coordinates published by a Russian milblogger on August 15 indicate that Ukrainian forces have advanced south of Dibrova (7km southwest of Kreminna). Geolocated footage posted on August 14 indicates that Ukrainian forces advanced into Robotyne, and further Russian and Ukrainian reporting published on August 15 suggests that Ukrainian forces have committed additional counteroffensive brigades to the western Zaporizhia oblast area. Ukrainian Colonel Petro Chernyk stated that the Ukrainian counteroffensive is advancing slowly in southern Ukraine because Ukrainian forces must overcome a three-echeloned Russian defensive line. Chernyk stated that the Russian line of defense includes a first line of minefields stretching several kilometers wide; a second line with artillery, equipment, and personnel concentrations; and a third line of rear positions meant to preserve resources. Chernyk noted that Ukrainian counterbattery measures are especially important in order to prevent Russian artillery from targeting Ukrainian mine-clearing equipment. Chernyk’s statements are in line with ISW’s previous assessments that Russia’s doctrinally sound elastic defense is slowing Ukrainian forces’ advances in southern Ukraine.

Russian forces conducted a large-scale missile strike against targets mainly in Ukrainian rear areas on the night of August 14-15. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces launched 28 missiles, including four Kh-22 anti-ship missiles, 20 Kh-101/555 air-based cruise missiles, and four Kalibr sea-based cruise missiles, at targets throughout Ukraine on the night of August 14-15 and that Ukrainian air defenses shot down 16 Kh-101/555 and Kalibr missiles. The Ukrainian General Staff also reported that Russian forces launched eight S-300/400 missiles in ground attack mode at targets in Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhia Oblasts. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that the missile strikes targeted key enterprises in Ukraine’s defense-industrial base.Ukrainian and Russian sources reported that Russian missiles targeted various rear areas of Ukraine, including industrial areas in Dnipropetrovsk, Volyn, Lviv, Cherkassy and Donetsk oblasts. Russian sources claimed that Russian forces struck the Starokostyantyniv airfield in Khmelnytskyi Oblast, although Ukrainian sources did not confirm this strike. Russian sources may be inflating claims of the strike on Khmelnytskyi Oblast in order to frame Russia as effectively targeting Ukrainian assets associated with Ukraine’s counteroffensive capabilities.

The Kremlin is using the Army-2023 forum in Moscow (August 14-20) to foster bilateral military and political relations with other states and posture itself as a reliable and technologically advanced partner. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that over 77,000 representatives from over 1,500 Russian defense industrial base (DIB) enterprises are presenting over 28,500 defensive and technical developments at the forum, and that representatives from over 82 countries are in attendance. The MoD claimed that Russia conducted 14 bilateral meetings on the first day of the forum. Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin met with officials from Myanmar, Pakistan, Cambodia, Laos, Bangladesh, and Djibouti to discuss bilateral defense relations. The Russian MoD also posted photographs of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu viewing Iranian, Chinese, and Indian exhibitions. Chinese Defense Minister Colonel General Li Shangfu spoke at the forum to celebrate Russian-Chinese strategic cooperation and to signal Chinese readiness for further cooperation. The Russian MoD featured multiple Iranian drones at the forum. The Russian MoD also postured itself as a viable long-term defense partner and weapons producer by hosting conversations on long term Russian military training, the intended integration of artificial intelligence (AI) into Russian weapons and control systems, the utilization of three-dimensional printing for Russian naval repairs, and the modernization of domestic rescue and underwater equipment.

Key Takeaways: 

  • Ukrainian forces conducted counteroffensive operations on at least three sectors of the front on August 15 and reportedly advanced in Luhansk Oblast and western Zaporizhia Oblast.
  • Russian forces conducted a large-scale missile strike against targets mainly in Ukrainian rear areas on the night of August 14-15.
  • The Kremlin is using the Army-2023 forum in Moscow (August 14-20) to foster bilateral military and political relations with other states and posture itself as a reliable and technologically advanced partner.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin and Shoigu made largely boilerplate comments framing the Russian government as effectively meeting Russian force generation efforts, portraying Western and Ukrainian resources as limited, and promoting international cooperation against the West.
  • Wagner Group affiliated sources are undermining private military companies (PMCs) affiliated with the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD).
  • Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin continues to comment on Wagner issues on the African continent to remain active in the information space but is notably refraining from commenting on the war in Ukraine.
  • Russian news outlet Kommersant reported that Russian authorities are developing a mechanism to fully control and shut off civilian mobile telecommunications networks in the event of a declared emergency, possibly related to pro-Ukrainian cross border raids.
  • Russian forces conducted offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line, and in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area, and reportedly advanced near Svatove and Bakhmut. 
  • Ukrainian forces conducted counteroffensive operations on at least three sectors of the front on August 15 and reportedly advanced in Luhansk Oblast and western Zaporizhia Oblast.
  • The Russian “Vostok” Battalion, which is notably fighting near Urozhaine claimed on August 15 that Russian forces have entirely lost Urozhaine and blamed a lack of infantry and equipment for the loss of the settlement, but ISW has not yet observed visual confirmation that Russian forces have completely withdrawn from the town.
  • The Russian federal subject “Bashkortostan Regiment” volunteer formation has reportedly deployed to Ukraine.
  • Russian authorities continue to integrate occupied Ukrainian territories into the Russian cultural and educational sphere.
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