August 12, 2023

Institute for the Study of War: Ukraine forces advance along Zaporizhia-Donetsk border

Institute for the Study of War

Russian milbloggers acknowledged that Ukrainian forces are maintaining a presence on the east (left) bank of the Dnipro River in Kherson Oblast in contrast to previous Ukrainian raids, but ISW does not yet assess that these positions constitute a bridgehead. A Kremlin-affiliated milblogger claimed on the evening of August 11 that Ukrainian forces have established positions west of Kozachi Laheri after several days of limited raids across the Dnipro River. Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian sabotage and reconnaissance groups continue to operate west of Kozachi Laheri, but that the settlement itself is still under Russian control. The milbloggers also claimed that Ukrainian reconnaissance groups continue to operate near the Antonivsky Bridge and in the Hola Prystan area and conduct raids across the Dnipro River. Continuing Russian claims that Ukrainian forces maintain a presence on the east bank of the Dnipro River suggest that Russian forces are concerned that Ukrainian forces have established semi-lasting positions across the river. Russian sources continue to describe Ukrainian groups operating on the left bank as small in size and fighting to be primarily between light infantry units. No Russian sources have indicated that Ukrainian forces on the left bank have the heavy equipment or vehicles likely required to establish a bridgehead that would be necessary to enable wider offensive operations into left bank Kherson Oblast. An effective Russian mechanized counterattack could threaten this Ukrainian advance position, but it is unclear if Russian forces possess the mechanized reserves necessary to do so. ISW will continue to offer a conservative assessment of the situation on the east bank of Kherson Oblast until or unless ISW observes visual confirmation of an enduring Ukrainian presence on the east bank of Kherson Oblast. ISW has not yet observed visual evidence that Ukrainian forces have established a permanent position or have deployed a substantial number of personnel near Kozachi Laheri.

Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations on at least two sectors of the front on August 12 and reportedly made tactically significant advances along the administrative border between Zaporizhia and Donetsk oblasts. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations in the Melitopol (western Zaporizhia Oblast) and Berdyansk (Zaporizhia-Donetsk Oblast border area) directions. Geolocated footage published on August 11 indicates that Ukrainian forces made marginal gains near Urozhaine (9km south of Velyka Novosilka) in the Zaporizhia-Donetsk Oblast border area. Russian milbloggers claimed late on August 12 that Russian forces abandoned their positions in Urozhaine after days of intense fighting, although ISW has not yet observed visual confirmation of these claims.

The “Vostok” volunteer battalion, which is allegedly defending in the Urozhaine area, had earlier expressed concern that Russian forces would lose Urozhaine if the Russian military does not fix persistent issues with Russian counterbattery capabilities. A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces are effectively using electronic warfare systems to disrupt Russian communications in western Zaporizhia Oblast and retain large artillery and precision munitions stocks to support interdiction efforts against Russian forces there. The milblogger also claimed that Ukrainian forces have significantly reduced the time between target identification and strikes on Russian targets with HIMARS rockets, warning that Russian forces need to move farther than 10km from the frontline in western Zaporizhia Oblast to be safe from Ukrainian strikes.

Key Takeaways: 

  • Russian milbloggers acknowledged that Ukrainian forces are maintaining a presence on the east (left) bank of the Dnipro River in Kherson Oblast in contrast to previous Ukrainian raids, but ISW does not yet assess that these positions constitute a bridgehead.
  • Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations on at least two sectors of the front on August 12 and reportedly made tactically significant advances along the administrative border between Zaporizhia and Donetsk oblasts.
  • Ukrainian forces reportedly launched two missile strikes targeting the Kerch Strait Bridge and a drone attack targeting occupied Crimea on August 12.
  • Russian forces conducted counteroffensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line, and in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area on August 12 and made no confirmed gains.
  • The Russian Ministry of Digital Development is preparing an amendment to the law on the conscription age that would increase the military service deferment age for IT specialists from 27 years to 30 years, likely in response to concerns about “brain drain” from Russia.
  • Russian authorities are reportedly adjusting propaganda language about the war aimed at Russian schoolchildren in Russia and occupied Ukraine.
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