May 1, 2024

Institute for the Study of War:  Russia redeploys elements of two airborne divisions into eastern Ukraine

Institute for the Study of War

The Russian military is reportedly redeploying elements of the 76th and 7th airborne (VDV) divisions from Zaporizhia Oblast in the direction of eastern Ukraine, likely to reinforce and intensify ongoing offensive operations. Select Russian and Ukrainian sources claimed that elements of the Russian 76th and 7th airborne (VDV) divisions that have been deployed to the Robotyne area in western Zaporizhia Oblast since the height of the Ukrainian summer 2023 counteroffensive are redeploying to new directions, but disagreed on the units redeploying and the areas to which these elements are redeploying. Ukrainian military observer Kostyantyn Mashovets stated on May 1 that the Russian military command recently decided to redeploy at least a battalion of the 76th VDV Division from the Orikhiv direction (western Zaporizhia Oblast) to the general Luhansk Oblast frontline or the Kramatorsk direction (the Bakhmut direction). A Russian milblogger, who has an avowed bias against VDV and “Dnepr” Grouping of Forces Commander Colonel General Mikhail Teplinsky, claimed on April 29 that the Russian military command decided to redeploy elements of the 76th and 7th VDV divisions from the “Dnepr” Grouping of Forces (deployed in east [left] bank Kherson Oblast and western Zaporizhia Oblast) to other unspecified directions. The milblogger later claimed on May 1 that the Russian command decided to transfer elements of the 76th VDV division to relieve elements of the 104th VDV Division near the limited Ukrainian tactical bridgehead in Krynky, Kherson Oblast. The milblogger has not yet offered any updates on the claimed redeployment of elements of the 7th VDV division. ISW has not yet observed confirmation that elements of the 76th and 7th VDV divisions have redeployed to other directions, though these Russian and Ukrainian reports are significant and any VDV redeployments from Zaporizhia Oblast towards eastern Ukraine warrant closer study in the coming days.

Russian forces notably redeployed elements of the 76th and 7th VDV divisions from the Lyman and Kherson directions to the Robotyne area in mid-summer 2023, and this successful redeployment reinforced Russia’s defense at a critical time to prevent Ukrainian forces from breaching the Russian defense in the area. These redeployed elements of the 76th and 7th VDV divisions conducted counterattacks that demonstrated that the 76th and 7th VDV divisions were relatively more combat effective than other Russian forces at the time, and these Russian elements have likely reconstituted to some degree during low-intensity Russian offensive operations in the Robotyne area since fall 2023. Russian forces have seized most of Robotyne in recent weeks, and the Russian military command may have decided that the likely combat effective elements of the 76th and 7th VDV divisions would be more useful elsewhere.

Key Takeaways

  • The Russian military is reportedly redeploying elements of the 76th and 7th airborne (VDV) divisions from Zaporizhia Oblast in the direction of eastern Ukraine, likely to reinforce and intensify ongoing offensive operations.
  • The Russian military may seek to redeploy elements of the 76th or 7th VDV division or both to eastern Ukraine to support Russia’s offensive operations in Donetsk Oblast and to capitalize on the current window of vulnerability before American military aid begins reaching the frontline at scale.
  • Ukrainian forces struck an oil refinery in Ryazan Oblast for the second time in less than a month on the night of April 30 to May 1.
  • Russian state-run news outlets appear to be amplifying anti-Western rhetoric from former Georgian Prime Minister and founder of the Georgian Dream party Bidzina Ivanishvili and are negatively portraying Georgians protesting against Georgia’s “foreign agents” bill, likely in an attempt to destabilize and divide Georgia.
  • The United Nations (UN) and Western organizations continue to demonstrate how North Korea and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) are directly and indirectly helping Russia’s war effort.
  • Russian insider sources speculated that the criminal investigation into Russian Deputy Defense Minister Timur Ivanov may also implicate another deputy defense minister, Rustam Tsalikov.
  • Bloomberg reported that four sanctioned Russian oil tankers have changed their names and are sailing under new flags.
  • Russian forces made confirmed advances near Chasiv Yar and Avdiivka and in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area.
  • Russian authorities continue recruiting convicted criminals to fight in Ukraine.

For full report: https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-may-1-2024

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