September 10, 2023

Institute for the Study of War: Ukraine advances south of Robotyne in western Zaporizhiz

Institute for the Study of War

Ukrainian forces continued to advance south of Robotyne in western Zaporizhia Oblast and reportedly advanced near Bakhmut on September 10. Geolocated footage posted on September 10 shows that Ukrainian forces have advanced east of Novoprokopivka (18km southeast of Orikhiv).[1] Ukrainian Tavriisk Group of Forces Spokesperson Oleksandr Shtupun noted that Ukrainian forces continue to advance near Robotyne (12km south of Orikhiv) and have liberated 1.5 square kilometers of territory in this direction.[2] The Ukrainian General Staff and Ukrainian Eastern Group of Forces Spokesperson Ilya Yevlash reported that Ukrainian forces achieved unspecified success near Klishchiivka (7km southwest of Bakhmut) in Donetsk Oblast.[3]

Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) Head Kyrylo Budanov stated on September 10 that Ukrainian forces will continue counteroffensive operations into late 2023.[4] Cold and wet weather will affect but not halt active combat, as it has done in the first 18 months of the war. Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley stated on September 10 that Ukrainian forces probably have 30 to 45 days of “fighting weather” left.[5] Seasonal heavy rains and heavy mud in late autumn will slow ground movements for both sides, and low temperatures impose a variety of logistics challenges. The start of such seasonal weather is variable, however.[6] While weather considerations will affect Ukrainian counteroffensive operations, they will not impose a definite end to them. A hard freeze occurs throughout Ukraine in the winter that makes the ground more conducive to mechanized maneuver warfare, and Ukrainian officials expressed routine interest in exploiting these weather conditions in winter 2022–2023.[7]

Russian military personnel continue to detail persistent problems hindering Russian operations along the frontline in Ukraine. The “Rusich” Sabotage and Reconnaissance Group, a far-right Russian irregular paramilitary unit, published a list of various issues on September 8 that it claims are persistent along the frontline. Rusich claimed that Russian counterbattery range and accuracy are inferior to Ukrainian capabilities and claimed that Russian forces lack laser-guided Krasnopol shells and UAVs to guide them.[8] The Rusich Group also claimed that the Russian Tornado-S multiple launch rocket system (MLRS) is less resistant to electronic warfare (EW) than Ukraine’s US-provided HIMARS systems.[9] The Rusich Group also noted that many Russian personnel buy their own communication technology, making it difficult for different units using different models of technology to communicate with each other.[10] The Rusich Group claimed that Russian forces do not evacuate wounded or dead personnel from frontline areas, and that this lack of evacuations has prompted some Russian personnel to refuse to complete combat tasks.[11] The Rusich Group may be experiencing these problems at a higher intensity and frequency than Russian forces writ large because it is a small and irregular formation, but ISW has routinely observed other Russian units expressing similar issues with counterbattery capabilities, communications, and evacuations.[12]

Russian forces conducted a series of Shahed-131/-136 drone strikes targeting Kyiv Oblast on the night of September 9 to 10. Ukrainian military sources reported on September 10 that Ukrainian forces downed 26 of 33 drones that Russian forces launched from the direction of Kursk Oblast.[13] Ukrainian Air Force Spokesperson Colonel Yuriy Ihnat stated that Russian forces dispersed the Shahed drones in the air and attacked targets from different directions in order to complicate Ukrainian air defense operations.[14] Kyiv Oblast Administration Head Ruslan Kravchenko stated that Russian strikes damaged an infrastructure facility, a school, residential buildings, and a rehabilitation center in Kyiv Oblast.[15] Russian milbloggers claimed that NASA FIRMS/VIIRS data suggests that Russian forces struck a Ukrainian military arsenal in Rokytnyanskyi Raion, Kyiv Oblast.[16]

Army General Sergei Surovikin, the previously dismissed Wagner-affiliated former commander of Russia’s Aerospace Forces (VKS), has reportedly become the head of the Coordination Committee on Air Defense Issues under the Council of Defense Ministers of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Several low-profile and local Russian outlets reported on September 10 that the CIS Council of Defense Ministers unanimously voted on Surovikin’s appointment to head of the air defense committee, and noted that Surovikin will now be responsible for overseeing the function of the joint air defense system of CIS member states.[17] More mainstream and Kremlin-affiliated newswires notably did not report on Surovikin’s new appointment and have not mentioned Surovikin at all since Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed him as VKS commander on August 23.[18] ISW previously assessed that Surovikin’s move to a leadership position with the CIS is consistent with previous patterns of the Russian military leadership shifting disgraced and ineffective commanders to peripheral positions far removed from Ukraine without discharging them from the Russian military entirely.[19]

Russia held the final day of voting for regional elections on September 10 amid reports of electoral falsifications and intimidation. Affiliates of imprisoned ultranationalist Igor Girkin claimed that Russian officials falsified all electoral results in Nakhodka, Primorsky Krai, and attacked an independent candidate in Saratov, Saratov Oblast.[20] Girkin’s affiliates noted that Russian officials coerced people to vote to improve voter turnout but that average turnout will likely be at 35 percent.[21] The Radio Free Europe/Free Liberty (RFE/RL) branch Sever Realii reported that Russian authorities detained three Yabloko Party candidates in Veliky Novgorod, Novgorod Oblast.[22] Russian sources also reported that Kremlin newswire RIA Novosti published the results of the regional elections in the Republic of Sakha before the closure of the polls there.[23] RFE/RL branch Idel Realii reported that Russian authorities issued a military summons to a Communist Party candidate in the Republic of Bashkortostan when he visited a polling station.[24]

Russian sources claimed that the Russian peacekeeping contingent in Nagorno-Karabakh has not conducted personnel rotations due to increasing tension between Armenia and Azerbaijan.[25] The Russian sources also claimed that the Russian peacekeeping contingent is on “full alert” because of the potential escalation between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces.[26] Russian sources will likely increasingly discuss the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh if hostilities between Armenia and Azerbaijan intensify, which may impact their coverage of the war in Ukraine.

Key Takeaways:

  • Ukrainian forces continued to advance south of Robotyne in western Zaporizhia Oblast and reportedly advanced near Bakhmut on September 10.
  • Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) Head Kyrylo Budanov stated on September 10 that Ukrainian forces will continue counteroffensive operations into late 2023. Cold and wet weather will affect but not halt active combat, as it has done in the first 18 months of the war.
  • Russian military personnel continue to detail persistent problems hindering Russian operations along the frontline in Ukraine.
  • Russian forces conducted a series of Shahed-131/-136 drone strikes targeting Kyiv Oblast on the night of September 9 to 10.
  • Russian forces conducted offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line, in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area, and in western Zaporizhia Oblast and reportedly regained some lost positions in some areas.
  • Ukrainian Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) Spokesperson Major General Vadym Skibitskyi stated on September 10 that the Russian military has concentrated over 420,000 military personnel in occupied Ukraine, not including Rosgvardia (Russian national guard) and other military units and structures.
  • Russian occupation officials held the final day of voting for Russian regional elections in occupied territories on September 10, continuing efforts to coerce residents to vote and portray the elections as legitimate.
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