November 21, 2023

Institute for the Study of War: rain and snow hamper the use of drones by both Russian and Ukrainian forces

Institute for the Study of War

Ukrainian and Russian forces continue to conduct offensive operations in eastern and southern Ukraine despite rainy and snowy weather conditions. Ukrainian Kherson Oblast Military Administration Advisor Serhiy Khlan stated on November 20 that Russian shelling of the west (right) bank of Kherson Oblast had decreased due to poor weather conditions. Ukrainian 14th Mechanized Brigade Spokesperson Nadiya Zamryha stated on November 21 that Russian forces continue to conduct assaults in the Kupyansk direction despite the snow and frost. Zamryha added that the number of Russian attacks will likely decrease due to weather conditions but that Russian forces will not stop offensive operations completely. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky emphasized the need to strengthen Ukrainian capabilities before the winter period during a meeting with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on November 20. Russian milbloggers claimed on November 20 and 21 that both Russian and Ukrainian forces are struggling to operate drones, including for artillery fire adjustment, in the poor weather conditions throughout the front. Russian milbloggers also claimed that muddy conditions are complicating vehicle movements but that both Ukrainian and Russian forces continue to maneuver and operate in all directions. ISW continues to assess that freezing weather conditions during the winter will likely prompt the resumption of more active combat operations, and ongoing rainy weather is unlikely to halt Ukrainian or Russian attacks.

The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) and Russian officials are struggling to subdue Russian hysteria around Ukrainian operations in the east (left) bank of Kherson Oblast. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu addressed the Russian MoD Collegium on November 21 and claimed that Russian forces prevented all Ukrainian attempts to conduct successful “amphibious operations in the Kherson direction.” Shoigu further claimed that Russian forces are inflicting “colossal” losses on Ukrainian forces. Shoigu’s statement is likely an attempt to downplay some Russian milbloggers’ concerns over Russia’s inability to decisively repel Ukrainian attacks on the east bank of the Dnipro River but is unlikely to calm the ever-growing complaints in the Russian information space.

Key Takeaways:

  • Ukrainian and Russian forces continue to conduct offensive operations in eastern and southern Ukraine despite rainy and snowy weather conditions.
  • The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) and Russian officials are struggling to subdue Russian hysteria around Ukrainian operations in the east (left) bank of Kherson Oblast.
  • Russian forces conducted a series of missile and drone strikes overnight on November 20-21 and on November 21 targeting port and civilian infrastructure, including a hospital in Donetsk Oblast.
  • US National Security Council Spokesperson John Kirby reported on November 21 that the Wagner Group is preparing to provide an air defense system to either Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah or Iran.
  • Imprisoned ardent nationalist and former Russian officer Igor Girkin’s presidential campaign announcement has generated some discourse in the Russian information space, but most Russian milbloggers refrained from discussing Girkin’s campaign likely due to self-censorship.
  • Washington, D.C.-based analytics company Gallup found that Russian society’s confidence in the Russian military has marginally decreased in 2023.
  • German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius announced a new military aid package to Ukraine during a visit to Kyiv on November 21.
  • The Armenian Ministry of Defense (MoD) denied Russian allegations that Armenia is planning to supply Ukraine with weapons.
  • Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev accused the West of destabilizing the South Caucasus region by supplying weapons to Armenia.
  • A former Russian Investigative Committee departmental head who was serving sentences for accepting bribes from the Russian mafia died in prison on the night of November 20-21, allegedly by suicide.
  • Russian forces conducted offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, near Avdiivka, west and southwest of Donetsk City, in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area, and in western Zaporizhia Oblast on November 21 and advanced in some areas.
  • Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu addressed the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) Collegium on November 21 and announced the that the Russian MoD is increasing its military training efforts across Russia.
  • US Department of State Spokesperson Matthew Miller commented on November 20 about a report that found that Russian officials in collaborations with Belarusian officials transported more than 2,400 Ukrainian children between ages six and 17 to Belarus.
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