September 22, 2023

Institute for the Study of War: Ukraine missiles and drones seriously damage Russian Black Sea Fleet HQ in Sevastopol

Institute for the Study of War

Ukrainian forces carried out drone and cruise missile strikes on occupied Crimea and significantly damaged the Russian Black Sea Fleet (BSF) Command headquarters in Sevastopol on September 22. The Ukrainian Armed Forces Center for Strategic Communications (StratCom) stated that Ukrainian forces launched a successful strike on the Russian BSF Command headquarters in Sevastopol, Crimea on September 22.[1] Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces used Storm Shadow cruise missiles to conduct the strike, and social media footage of the headquarters indicates significant damage to the building.[2] The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that Russian air defenses shot down five Ukrainian missiles and acknowledged that the Ukrainian strike damaged a building of BSF Command headquarters.[3] Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces launched a drone strike preceding the missile strike, and the Russian MoD claimed that Russian air defenses shot down two Ukrainian drones on the western coast of Crimea on the morning of September 22.[4]

Ukrainian Air Force Commander Lieutenant General Mykola Oleshchuk thanked Ukrainian pilots in general when amplifying footage of the strike.[5] Ukrainian Southern Operational Command Spokesperson Captain First Rank Nataliya Humenyuk stated that Ukrainian forces will strike more Russian military targets in Crimea in the future.[6] Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov stated that Ukrainian forces will continue to strike Sevastopol and that the Russian BSF should destroy their own ships in order to avoid further Ukrainian strikes.

The Russian information space heavily focused its attention on the Ukrainian strike on Sevastopol on September 22. One Russian milblogger complained about Russian authorities’ inability to control the spread of Ukrainian information about the consequences of the strike, and other milbloggers criticized Russian authorities and the Russian military for not retaliating sufficiently.[8] Another Russian milblogger claimed that such Ukrainian strikes on Crimea are expected as Ukraine and its Western partners consider Crimea to be Ukrainian territory.[9] Multiple Russian milbloggers claimed that Western partners helped Ukrainian forces target the BSF Command headquarters.[10]

Ukrainian forces advanced south of Bakhmut and reportedly advanced in western Zaporizhia Oblast on September 22. Geolocated footage published on September 22 indicates that Ukrainian forces advanced southeast of Klishchiivka (7km southwest of Bakhmut).[11] A Kremlin-affiliated milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces slightly advanced north of Novoprokopivka and are currently about 800 meters away from the settlement’s outskirts, a claim that generally corresponds to ISW’s assessment of the closest approach of the Ukrainian counter-offensive to the settlement.[12] The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces continued to conduct offensive operations in the Melitopol (western Zaporizhia Oblast) direction and offensive actions in the Bakhmut direction, exhausting and inflicting losses on Russian forces along the entire front.[13]

Key Takeaways:

  • Ukrainian forces carried out drone and cruise missile strikes on occupied Crimea and significantly damaged the Russian Black Sea Fleet (BSF) Command headquarters in Sevastopol on September 22.
  • The Russian information space heavily focused its attention on the Ukrainian strike on Sevastopol on September 22.
  • Ukrainian forces advanced south of Bakhmut and reportedly advanced in western Zaporizhia Oblast on September 22.
  • The US Department of Defense (DoD) announced a new security assistance package on September 21, providing Ukraine with $325 million worth of military equipment.
  • The US will reportedly soon provide long-range army tactical missile systems (ATACMS) to Ukraine.
  • Russian efforts to intensify divisions between Ukraine and its Central European partners appear to have suffered a setback as Polish Prime Minister Andrzej Duda reiterated the strength of Polish-Ukrainian relations on September 22.
  • A Ukrainian military official swiftly denied Russian claims that Wagner Group forces are operating in occupied Kherson Oblast.
  • The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) is reportedly investigating high-ranking Rosgvardia officials over their potential involvement in Wagner Group’s rebellion on June 24.
  • Russian forces conducted offensive operations in the Kupyansk area, near Bakhmut, along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line, and in western Donetsk Oblast and reportedly advanced in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast administrative border area.
  • The Russian government is reportedly planning to increase defense spending by 4.4 trillion rubles ($46 billion) in 2024.
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