September 6, 2023

Institute for the Study of War: Ukrainian forces advance along the trench line in western Zaporizhia

Institute for the Study of War

Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations in the Bakhmut and western Zaporizhia Oblast directions and have made gains in western Zaporizhia Oblast as of September 6. Geolocated footage shows that Ukrainian forces have advanced along the trench line west of Verbove (about 20km southeast of Orikhiv), and the Ukrainian General Staff stated that Ukrainian forces achieved unspecified successes in the Robotyne—Novoprokopivka direction south of Orikhiv.[1] The Ukrainian General Staff additionally reported that Ukrainian forces are continuing successful offensive operations south of Bakhmut.[2]

Ukrainian and Russian sources report the Russian defense industrial base (DIB) faces growing challenges in replacing basic supplies in addition to known challenges in rebuilding its stocks of precision weapons. Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence (GUR) Representative Andriy Yusov reported on September 6 that Russia can only produce “dozens” of Kalibr cruise missiles and smaller numbers of Iskander missiles per month, which will not enable Russia to the replenish its pre-2022 stocks.[3] Yusov reported that Russia struggles to obtain modern optical equipment, electronics, chips, and circuits and that “gray imports” and smuggling cannot completely cover the Russian DIB’s needs. Russian sources additionally noted that the Russian DIB cannot produce enough rubber to replace worn tires for military equipment vital to frontline operations, and noted that increasing wear on tires will make it difficult for wheeled vehicles to move in muddy, rainy, and icy conditions.[4] The Russian sources claimed that Russian authorities claimed at an unspecified time that they would find solutions to worn tires by mid-August, but the situation has not changed as of September 5.[5] Poor quality and insufficient tires will impose increasing constraints on Russian mobility in the muddy season and winter.

Russian forces conducted a large missile and drone strike against Ukraine overnight on September 5-6. Ukrainian officials reported that Russian forces launched seven Kh-101, Kh-555, and Kh-55 air-launched cruise missiles from aircraft operating out of Engels airbase in Saratov Oblast; one Iskander-M ballistic missile; and 25 Shahed 136/131 drones from the Primorsko-Akhtarsk direction.[6] Ukrainian air defenses shot down all eight missiles and 15 drones.[7] Ukrainian officials reported that the Russian strike damaged the port and agricultural infrastructure in Odesa Oblast.[8] Romanian Defense Minister Angel Tilvar stated on September 6 that several pieces of a Russian drone fell on Romanian territory near its border with Ukraine.[9] The Romanian Ministry of Defense previously denied the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry’s September 4 statement that a Russian drone fell on Romanian territory.[10]

Russian sources continue to speculate on the current role and future of dismissed Wagner-affiliated Army General Sergei Surovikin, the former commander of Russia’s Aerospace Forces (VKS). Several Russian insider sources and milbloggers remarked that the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) removed Surovikin’s profile from the official MoD website other than his video appeal released during the Wagner rebellion asking the group to stand down.[11] The removal of Surovikin’s profile is not remarkable in itself — Russian military leadership removed Surovikin as commander of the Aerospace Forces (VKS) in August, and the absence of his profile from the MoD website could be a simple reflection of this fact.[12] Some Russian insider sources additionally claimed that State Duma Deputy and retired Colonel General Viktor Zavarzin stated that Surovikin has taken a new position in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).[13] ISW has previously observed a pattern of Russian generals who underperform in command roles in Ukraine (such as former Eastern Military District (EMD) Commander Alexander Chaiko and former Airborne Forces (VDV) Commander Andrey Serdyukov) being reassigned to external theaters and peripheral locations such as Syria as a form of punishment, while not being entirely removed from the Russian military.[14] Appointing Surovikin to a role in the CIS, which does not appear to be a military or command role, suggests that Russian military leadership is likely continuing the practice of shifting disgraced or ineffective commanders to positions not involved in the war in Ukraine.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced an additional $175 million military assistance package for Ukraine during an unannounced visit to Kyiv on September 6. The package includes air defense equipment, artillery rounds, and anti-tank weapons.[15] Blinken stated that the United States aims to ensure that Ukraine “has what it needs” to both succeed in the current counteroffensive and to develop long term defensive capabilities.[16] Blinken called Ukrainian progress in the counteroffensive “very, very encouraging.”[17]

Key Takeaways:

  • Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations in the Bakhmut and western Zaporizhia Oblast directions and have made gains in western Zaporizhia Oblast as of September 6.
  • Ukrainian and Russian sources report the Russian defense industrial base (DIB) faces growing challenges replacing basic supplies in addition to known challenges rebuilding its stocks of precision weapons.
  • Russian forces conducted a large missile and drone strike against Ukraine overnight on September 5-6.
  • Russian sources continue to speculate on the current role and future of dismissed Wagner-affiliated Army General Sergei Surovikin, the former commander of Russia’s Aerospace Forces (VKS).
  • US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced an additional $175 million military assistance package for Ukraine during an unannounced visit to Kyiv on September 6.
  • Russian forces conducted offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, along the Avdiivka-Donestk City line, and in western Zaporizhia Oblast and advanced in some areas on September 6.
  • Ukrainian forces conducted offensive operations in at least two sectors of the front and advanced near Bakhmut, along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line, and in western Zaporizhia Oblast on September 6.
  • Russian authorities continue crypto-mobilization efforts amid continued rumors of a new wave of general mobilization.
  • Ukrainian reports indicate that Russian and occupation authorities continue attempts to increase social control in occupied Ukraine by cracking down against pro-Ukrainian materials in occupied schools.
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