October 18, 2023

Institute for the Study of War: Ukrainian naval infantry cross the Dnipro River, briefly occupy town

Institute for the Study of War

Russian sources claimed that likely company-sized elements of two Ukrainian naval infantry brigades conducted an assault across the Dnipro River onto the east (left) bank of Kherson Oblast on October 17-18. Geolocated footage published on October 18 indicates that Ukrainian forces advanced north of Pishchanivka (14km east of Kherson City and 3km from the Dnipro River) and into Poyma (11km east of Kherson City and 4km from the Dnipro River). A prominent Russian milblogger claimed that two Ukrainian “assault groups” landed on the east bank of the Dnipro River and broke through initial Russian defenses, temporarily occupying all of Poyma and positions on the northern outskirts of Pishchanivka on the afternoon of October 17.The milblogger later claimed that Russian forces pushed Ukrainian forces back from these positions towards the Dnipro River. The milblogger claimed that a Ukrainian sabotage group is still operating in Pishchanivka as of the afternoon of October 18. The milblogger, however, suggested that Russian forces only maintain positions on the southern outskirts of the settlement. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) also acknowledged the Ukrainian operations, claiming that Russian forces stopped four Ukrainian sabotage and reconnaissance groups near Pidstepne (16km east of Kherson City) and Poyma. Another prominent Russian milblogger also claimed that Ukrainian forces occupied Poyma on the night of October 17 to 18.

Russian concerns about the ability of Russian forces to repel a potential Ukrainian offensive operation across the Dnipro River may be partially connected to the condition of the Russian grouping of forces on the left bank. The Russian command has drawn relatively more elite units from the Kherson direction to support defensive operations in western Zaporizhia Oblast in recent months due to likely viewing Kherson as a quiet sector, and the current force composition in the area is likely relatively less combat effective. Ukrainian Southern Operational Command Spokesperson Captain First Rank Nataliya Humenyuk stated on October 17 that Russian forces were still redeploying trained units from the Kherson direction to the Zaporizhia and eastern directions. The Russian military may have recently redeployed elements of the 41st Combined Arms Army (Central Military District) and the 810th Naval Infantry Brigade (Black Sea Fleet) to the Kherson direction, however, but it is unclear where in Kherson Oblast elements of the 41st Combined Arms Army are currently deployed. Ukrainian counteroffensive operations reportedly previously rendered the 810th Naval Infantry Brigade combat ineffective as of September 22.

ISW will not speculate on the scope and prospects of ongoing Ukrainian activity on the east bank of Kherson Oblast but does not assess that Ukrainian forces have created a bridgehead on the east bank of Kherson Oblast suitable for the further maneuver of sizeable mechanized forces at this time. However, it is noteworthy that prominent and generally reliable Russian sources are discussing Ukrainian activities on the east bank as occurring at a larger scale than previously documented tactical cross-river raids by Ukrainian forces. ISW will continue to monitor the area closely and assess control of terrain changes and Russian responses, in line with its standing policy of not forecasting Ukrainian actions.

Key Takeaways:

  • Russian sources claimed that likely company-sized elements of two Ukrainian naval infantry brigades conducted an assault across the Dnipro River onto the east (left) bank of Kherson Oblast on October 17-18.
  • Russian sources expressed pronounced concern about ongoing Ukrainian activity on the east bank of Kherson Oblast and framed these activities as part of a potential larger Ukrainian operation.
  • ISW will not speculate on the scope and prospects of ongoing Ukrainian activity on the east bank of Kherson Oblast but does not assess that Ukrainian forces have created a bridgehead on the east bank of Kherson Oblast suitable for the further maneuver of sizeable mechanized forces at this time.
  • Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations in eastern and southern Ukraine and reportedly advanced near Bakhmut and in western Zaporizhia Oblast.
  • Western media reported that the US has thus far provided Ukraine with a limited number of ATACMS missiles, and the Kremlin issued a muted response to the provision of these systems
  • Satellite imagery from October 17 suggests that the Ukrainian ATACMS strike on the Berdyansk airfield likely substantially damaged Russian aircraft and airfield infrastructure, but ISW cannot yet confirm the extent of the damage.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin indicated his desire to deepen Russian-Chinese economic and political ties but did not announce any practical changes at the One Belt One Road International Forum in Beijing, China on October 18.
  • Russian forces conducted offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, in the Avdiivka direction, southwest of Donetsk City, in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area, and in western Zaporizhia Oblast and advanced south of Avdiivka
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