October 23, 2023

Institute for the Study of War: Russian forces advance near Avdiivkal; Ukrainians advance south of Bakhmut

Institute for the Study of War

Russian forces are funneling additional forces to the Avdiivka front despite ongoing challenges with frontal mechanized assaults and the failure of a renewed push on October 19-20. Several Russian milbloggers claimed that there were no significant changes along the front in the Avdiivka direction on October 22. Russian forces are likely once again pausing following a failed major push which suffered heavy losses. A prominent Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces “unexpectedly” counterattacked in the direction of Pisky (8km southwest of Donetsk City) and pushed Russian forces from positions in the area. Another milblogger stated that claims of Ukrainian advances near Pisky and Opytne (4km south of Avdiivka) are false. Another Russian source allegedly serving in the Avdiivka direction claimed that Ukrainian forces did not conduct counterattacks in his unspecified sector of the front. Geolocated footage published on October 21 indicates that Russian forces recently made marginal advances southeast of Pervomaiske (11km southwest of Avdiivka). A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces have not completely cleared the Avdiivka waste heap area and that the area is currently a contested “gray zone.”

Russian forces conducted another series of missile and drone strikes against Ukraine on the night of October 22 to 23. The Ukrainian Air Force reported that Russian forces launched 13 Shahed-131/136 drones, one unspecified drone, and one Kh-59 cruise missile and that Ukrainian forces destroyed all targets. Ukrainian Southern Operational Command reported that Russian forces conducted nine airstrikes using an unspecified number of Kh-31 anti-radar air-to-surface missiles. Ukrainian Southern Operational Command also reported that Ukrainian forces shot down nine Shahed drones that Russian forces aimed at port infrastructure in Odesa Oblast. Russian forces have routinely targeted port and grain infrastructure in Odesa Oblast, and Ukrainian officials reported that Russia will likely renew strikes against Ukrainian critical infrastructure in the fall and winter. Russia will likely continue to target Ukrainian port and grain infrastructure in an attempt to disrupt Ukrainian grain exports as Russia tries to expand its own grain exports, most recently through a 2.7 trillion-ruble (about $26.5 billion) grain contract with China signed on October 17.

Ukrainian forces advanced south of Bakhmut on October 23 amid continued counteroffensive operations near Bakhmut and in western Zaporizhia Oblast. Geolocated footage published on October 22 indicates that Ukrainian forces advanced across the railway line north of Klishchiivka (7km southwest of Bakhmut), confirming prior statements by the Ukrainian General Staff and Russian milbloggers. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations in the Melitopol (western Zaporizhia Oblast) direction.

Key Takeaways:

  • Russia’s domestic production of artillery shells, supplemented by increased ammunition imports from North Korea, will likely allow Russian forces to sustain sufficient rates of artillery fire in Ukraine in 2024, albeit at a relatively lower level than during 2022.
  • Russian forces conducted offensive operations near Avdiivka and made confirmed advances northeast of Avdiivka.
  • Russian sources claimed that Russian forces pushed Ukrainian forces back from some newly captured positions on the east (left) bank of Kherson Oblast but noted that Ukrainian forces maintain a presence on the east bank.Russian forces conducted another series of missile and drone strikes against Ukraine on the night of October 22 to 23.
  • Ukrainian forces advanced south of Bakhmut on October 23 amid continued counteroffensive operations near Bakhmut and in western Zaporizhia Oblast.
  • The Russian government appears to be emphasizing defense spending over social programs in the 2024 federal budget despite contrary messaging intended to reassure the Russian populace.
  • Ukrainian Air Force Command Spokesperson Colonel Yuriy Ihnat stated on October 22 that the first group of Ukrainian pilots will begin training with instructors on F-16 fighter jets “in the near future.”
  • Russian forces conducted offensive operations near Kupyansk, along the Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, south of Donetsk City, in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area, and in western Zaporizhia Oblast and made confirmed gains in some areas.
  • Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu met with Russian Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matvienko and the Federation Committee on Defense and Security on October 23.






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