September 14, 2023

Institute for the Study of War: Ukrainian forces destroy a Russian S-400 air defense system in Crimea

Institute for the Study of War

Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations in western Zaporizhia Oblast and around Bakhmut and reportedly advanced south of Bakhmut on September 14. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces achieved unspecified partial successes near Bakhmut, Klishchiivka (7km southwest of Bakhmut), Andriivka (10km southwest of Bakhmut), and Kurdyumivka (13km southwest of Bakhmut). Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar prematurely announced the Ukrainian liberation of Andriivka but later clarified that heavy fighting for the settlement is still ongoing. Ukrainian Eastern Group of Forces Spokesperson Ilya Yevlash stated on September 13 that Ukrainian forces pushed Russian forces out of positions near Minkivka (15km northwest of Bakhmut) and Dubovo-Vasylivka (6km northwest of Bakhmut). The Ukrainian General Staff and Malyar stated that Ukrainian forces continue to gradually advance in the Melitopol direction (western Zaporizhia Oblast).

Ukrainian forces struck a Russian air defense system near occupied Yevpatoria, Crimea, on September 14, suggesting that there may be systemic tactical failures with Russian air defense systems in occupied Crimea. The Department of Strategic Communications of the Ukrainian Armed Forces stated that Ukrainian forces struck the location of a Russian surface-to-air missile system near Yevpatoria (68km northwest of Sevastopol). Ukrainian news outlet Ukrainska Pravda reported that a source affiliated with the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) stated that the SBU and the Ukrainian Navy conducted a “unique special operation” that destroyed a Russian S-400 “Triumf” system near Yevpatoria. Ukrainian forces reportedly struck the S-400 system’s radar and antennas with drones and struck the launch complexes with two Neptune cruise missiles. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) reported that Russian air defenses intercepted 11 Ukrainian drones over Crimea but did not mention any Ukrainian missile strikes. Geolocated footage published on September 14 shows an explosion near Yevpatoria and subsequent smoke plumes in the area. Additional geolocated footage shows that Russian forces had recently deployed an S-400 battery outside of Yevpatoria and that the explosion occurred in the same location where a Russian S-400 system had been deployed in August 2022. The strike suggests that Russian forces were unprepared to intercept missiles with the system or were unable to do so. Ukrainian forces struck a Russian S-400 air defense system near Olenivka, Crimea (117km northwest of Sevastopol) on August 23, and the second Ukrainian strike on a significant Russian air defense system in recent weeks indicates that such tactical failures may reflect a wider systemic issue with Russian air defenses in occupied Crimea.

The European Parliament adopted a resolution on September 13 recognizing Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko as complicit in Russian crimes committed in Ukraine and called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to issue an arrest warrant for him. The European Parliament’s resolution stated that Belarus is complicit in the war in Ukraine and is involved in the deportation of Ukrainian children to Belarus, Russia, and occupied areas of Ukraine. ISW continues to assess that Belarus is a co-belligerent in the war and is involved in the deportation of Ukrainian children. ISW has also assessed that Belarus may be facilitating sanctions evasion schemes for Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Lukashenko will meet in Sochi, Russia on September 15.

Key Takeaways:

  • Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations in western Zaporizhia Oblast and around Bakhmut and reportedly advanced south of Bakhmut on September 14.
  • Ukrainian forces struck a Russian air defense system near occupied Yevpatoria, Crimea, on September 14, suggesting that there may be systemic tactical failures with Russian air defense systems in occupied Crimea.
  • Russian forces conducted another series of Shahed-131/136 drone strikes targeting Ukrainian port infrastructure on September 14.
  • The commander of the Russian 247th Guards Air Assault (VDV) Regiment (7th VDV Division) Vasily Popov was reportedly killed in combat in Ukraine.
  • Some Russian sources suggested that ongoing tensions between the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) and the Wagner Group are diminishing Wagner’s ability to operate across the African theater.
  • Russian forces conducted offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line, and in western Zaporizhia Oblast and advanced in some areas on September 14.
  • Ukrainian forces also advanced along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line.
  • The Kremlin is reportedly trying to censor Russian media coverage of a possible second wave of reserve mobilization in order to prevent protests and voter discontent ahead of the 2024 Russian presidential elections.
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