October 24, 2023

Institute for the Study of War: Ukraine makes gains south of Bakhmut while Russian forces advance near Avdiivka

Institute for the Study of War

Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations in eastern and southern Ukraine on October 24 and advanced south of Bakhmut and in western Zaporizhia Oblast. Geolocated footage published on October 23 indicates that Ukrainian forces advanced east of Andriivka (10 km southwest of Bakhmut), and geolocated footage published on October 24 indicates that Ukrainian forces marginally advanced west of Robotyne. The Ukrainian General Staff also reported on October 24 that Ukrainian forces continued offensive actions south of Bakhmut and achieved partial success near Robotyne.

Russia appears to be increasingly supplementing the use of Shahed-131/136 drones with cheaper and lighter domestically produced drone variants during strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure. Russian media speculated on October 23 that Russian forces used new long-range “Italmas” drones and Italmas variants for the first time in Ukraine during a drone attack on Kyiv Oblast. Russian sources noted that Italmas drones are lighter than Shaheds and are harder to detect and shoot down. Russian milbloggers noted that Italmas drones are cheaper than Shaheds, which means that they can be more widely manufactured and used, but that they deliver lighter payloads, which restricts their usefulness in isolation. Russian sources noted, therefore, that Russian forces will likely use the Italmas drones in tandem with Shaheds. ISW previously assessed that Russia is likely trying to expand and diversify its arsenal of drones, missiles, and guided bombs for strikes against Ukrainian critical infrastructure in advance of the fall-winter season, and increased use of Italmas drones is likely part of the wider munitions diversification effort.

Russian authorities are intensifying mobilization efforts targeting Central Asian migrant communities in Russia. Russian Internal Affairs (MVD) Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev met with the MVD board to discuss “migration problems” and “ethnic crime” and insinuated that migrants commit crimes at a higher rate than natural born Russian citizens. Kolokoltsev defended recent Russian law enforcement mobilization raids on migrant communities and claimed that Russian law enforcement is enforcing standard legal norms. A Russian insider source claimed that the Russian Investigative Committee is conducting investigations into naturalized migrants with Russian citizenship and is reopening previously terminated and canceled criminal cases in order to mobilize migrants to fight in Ukraine. The insider source also claimed that the Russian Investigative Committee will now investigate migrants for committing any offense, even minor ones, and will expand that individual’s investigation to include their friends and family. The insider source claimed that unspecified actors, possibly the MVD or MVD Head Alexander Bastrykin, ordered Russian state media to increase reporting about ethnic crime in Russia, likely to set informational conditions for further mobilization raids on migrant communities. Bastrykin has continually advocated for the targeted mobilization of migrants with Russian citizenship, in line with Russian law enforcement’s recent expansion of its efforts to detain and forcibly register migrants with Russian citizenship for military service.

Key Takeaways:

  • Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations in eastern and southern Ukraine on October 24 and advanced south of Bakhmut and in western Zaporizhia Oblast.
  • Russia appears to be increasingly supplementing the use of Shahed-131/136 drones with cheaper and lighter domestically produced drone variants during strikes on Ukrainian infrastructure.
  • Russian authorities are intensifying mobilization efforts targeting Central Asian migrant communities in Russia.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky highlighted diminishing Russian control over the Black Sea and Ukraine’s temporary grain corridors during a speech at the Crimean Platform summit on October 24.
  • Russian forces conducted offensive operations near Avdiivka on October 24 and made confirmed advances northeast of Avdiivka. 
  • Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces maintain some positions in Krynky (30km east of Kherson City and 2km from the Dnipro River) and continued limited attacks on the east (left) bank of the Dnipro River.
  • The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD)-affiliated “Redut” private military company (PMC) is reportedly trying to recruit women into combat roles.
  • Russian occupation authorities continue to establish programs to forcibly deport Ukrainian children to Russia.
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