October 8, 2023

Institute for the Study of War: Russian forces remining areas that Ukrainian troops had cleared in Robotyne in western Zaporizhia

Institute for the Study of War

Russia advanced legal mechanisms to reform the Leningrad Military District as part of ongoing large-scale military reforms. The Russian federal portal of draft regulatory legal acts published a presidential decree on October 8, prepared by the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD), which proposes stripping the Northern Fleet (NF) of its status as an “interspecific strategic territorial association.” Russian state media noted that the proposal indicates that the NF will no longer be a separate military-administrative unit equal to a military district, suggesting that the NF and its four constituent regions (The Komi Republic, Arkhangelsk, and Murmansk oblasts, and the Nenets Autonomous Okrug) will be transferred to the reformed Leningrad Military District. Russian military analyst Yuri Fedorov noted that the recreation of the Leningrad Military District suggests that Russia is preparing for possible conflicts with Baltic states and NATO. The Russian military merged the Moscow and Leningrad Military Districts into the Western Military District in 2010. The MoD created the Northern Fleet in 2014 out of territory covered by the Western Military District, and Russian President Vladimir Putin made the NF a military-administrative unit equal to a military district starting January 1, 2021. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu proposed the recreation of the Moscow and Leningrad Military Districts on the basis of the Western Military District (reversing the 2010 and 2014 changes) in December of 2022, and confirmed that these military districts were under active formation as of August 2023. The MoD’s decision to re-divide the WMD indicates Russia sees the need to restructure its forces facing NATO and likely posture on the Finnish border, although it remains unclear how Russia will be able to mobilize, train, and organize these forces into new military district-level formations.

Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations near Bakhmut and marginally advanced in western Zaporizhia Oblast on October 8. Geolocated footage published on October 8 shows that Ukrainian forces made limited gains north of Novoprokopivka (14km south of Orikhiv), and a Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces also advanced near Kopani (10km southwest of Orikhiv). The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces achieved partial success northeast of Andriivka (7km southwest of Bakhmut), and Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces continued attacks near Andriivka, and Kurdyumivka (11km southwest of Bakhmut). Russian and Ukrainian sources reported that deteriorating weather conditions are impacting both Russian and Ukrainian operations across the theater. Ukrainian Tavriisk Group of Forces Spokesperson Colonel Oleksandr Shtupun stated that Russian drone and aviation activity has decreased in the past few days due to poor weather. Russian milbloggers claimed that deteriorating weather conditions in the Bakhmut and Zaporizhia directions are impacting Ukrainian offensive operations as well as Russian aerial reconnaissance operations. Ukrainian Eastern Group of Forces Spokesperson Captain Ilya Yevlash reiterated that poor weather may impact drone and aviation operations but that the weather will not halt Ukraine’s counteroffensive.

Russian forces are intensifying mining efforts in the Robotyne-Verbove area and seek to fix Ukrainian forces on areas of the front away from western Zaporizhia Oblast. Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces have begun remining previously cleared areas on the Robotyne-Verbove line (10km south to 18km southeast of Orikhiv) to achieve tactical surprise. The milbloggers claimed that heavy Russian mining and remining efforts have disrupted the movement of heavy Ukrainian cargo and equipment in these areas in recent days. A prominent Kremlin-affiliated milblogger claimed that Russian forces intensified tactical offensive operations in several areas of the front beyond Zaporizhia Oblast in order to stretch Ukrainian defenses and divide Ukrainian attention. Ukrainian Tavriisk Group of Forces Spokesperson Colonel Oleksandr Shtupun stated that Russian forces are trying to fix Ukrainian forces in the Avdiivka and Marinka directions and prevent them from deploying reserves to the Zaporizhia direction.

Key Takeaways:

  • Russia advanced legal mechanisms to form the Leningrad Military District as part of ongoing large-scale military reforms.
  • Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations near Bakhmut and marginally advanced in western Zaporizhia Oblast on October 8.
  • Russian forces are intensifying mining efforts in the Robotyne-Verbove area and seek to fix Ukrainian forces on areas of the front away from western Zaporizhia Oblast.
  • Russian sources are highlighting apparent fault lines between regular Russian forces and irregular formations of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR).
  • Ukrainian Air Force Spokesperson Colonel Yuriy Ihnat expressed concern over an anticipated Russian Shahed 131/136 drone strike campaign against Ukraine this winter.
  • The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) observed satellite imagery showing that rail traffic between North Korea and Russia “dramatically” increased since Russian President Vladimir Putin met with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un on September 12-17
  • The Russian federal government continues to disenfranchise certain ethnic minority federal subjects (regions) while selectively empowering others.
  • Russian forces continued offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line, western Donetsk Oblast, and on the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast administrative border on October 8 and reportedly advanced in some areas.
  • Prague-based Russian-language outlet Current Time reported on October 8 that the number of desertion cases within the Russian military has increased.
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