October 7, 2023

Institute for the Study of War: Ukraine makes modest gains in western Zaporizhia and Bakhmut

Institute for the Study of War

The Kremlin is already and will likely continue to exploit the Hamas attacks in Israel to advance several information operations intended to reduce US and Western support and attention to Ukraine. The Kremlin amplified several information operations following Hamas attacks in Israel on October 7, primarily blaming the West for neglecting conflicts in the Middle East in favor of supporting Ukraine and claiming the international community will cease to pay attention to Ukraine by portraying attention to the Middle East or alternatively Ukraine as a zero-sum comparison. Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev claimed the United States and its allies should have been “busy with” working on “Palestinian-Israeli settlement” rather than “interfering” with Russia and providing Ukraine with military aid. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) accused the West of blocking efforts by a necessary “quartet” of Russia, the US, the European Union, and the United Nations, leading to an escalation in violence, implicitly blaming the West for the current fighting. Prominent Russian propagandist Sergei Mardan directly stated that Russia will benefit from the escalation as the world “will take its mind off Ukraine for a while and get busy once again putting out the eternal fire in the Middle East.” These Kremlin narratives target Western audiences to drive a wedge in military support for Ukraine, seek to demoralize Ukrainian society by claiming Ukraine will lose international support, and intend to reassure Russian domestic audiences that the international society will ignore Ukraine’s war effort.Several key sources within the Russian information space shifted the focus of their daily coverage to the situation in Israel on October 7, which may impact the information environment around the war in Ukraine in the coming days or weeks. Many Russian milbloggers focused largely on the Hamas attacks in Israel on October 7, and some promoted Kremlin information operations by claiming that the West’s attention has shifted away from Ukraine and towards Israel. This focus on Israel even prompted one Russian milblogger to urge others to not “forget” about the war in Ukraine.  ISW cannot forecast at this time how the source environment will change as the Hamas attacks in Israel unfold but will provide clear updates on any impact on ISW’s ability to collect from Russian milbloggers and geolocation sources, and subsequent effects on the detail available ISW can provide in these daily assessments.Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations near Bakhmut and in western Zaporizhia Oblast on October 7 and reportedly advanced in both directions. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces were partially successful east of Andriivka (8km southwest of Bakhmut). Ukrainian Eastern Group of Forces Spokesperson Captain Ilya Yevlash noted that Ukrainian forces have advanced from 100 to 300 meters in different directions near Bakhmut over the past day. Ukrainian military sources additionally stated that Ukrainian forces advanced in western Zaporizhia Oblast in the areas north of Kopani (5km northwest of Robotyne) and north of Novoprokopivka (2km south of Robotyne).Key Takeaways:The Kremlin is already and will likely continue to exploit the Hamas attacks in Israel to advance several information operations intended to reduce US and Western support and attention to Ukraine.Several key sources within the Russian information space shifted the focus of their daily coverage to the situation in Israel on October 7, which may impact the information environment around the war in Ukraine in the coming days or weeks.Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations near Bakhmut and in western Zaporizhia Oblast on October 7 and reportedly advanced in both directions.Russian forces conducted a series of missile strikes targeting Ukrainian rear areas and port infrastructure on the night of October 6-7.The Russian government approved legislation temporarily restricting the border checkpoints that Ukrainian citizens can use to enter Russia from third countries, likely focused on Belarus and the Baltic States, likely in response to continued concern over the security of Russian border regions and possible Ukrainian infiltration efforts.Belarusian officials are leveraging international partnerships in an attempt to legitimize Belarus’ role in the illegal deportation of Ukrainian children.Russian “Vostok” Battalion Commander Alexander Khodakovsky stated that Russian “patriotic” communities remain vulnerable to division due to Russian officials’ failure to consolidate society, particularly after Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin’s June 24 rebellion.The Russian MoD highlighted the production of the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on October 7, supporting Russian President Vladimir Putin’s statements about successful tests of the missile on October 5 as part of a continued nuclear brinkmanship information operation.Russian forces conducted offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line, in western Donetsk Oblast, in the western Donetsk-eastern Zaporizhia Oblast border area, and in western Zaporizhia Oblast and reportedly advanced in some areas on October 7.Ukrainian partisan activity reportedly killed a United Russia official in occupied Kherson Oblast.
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