October 9, 2023

Institute for the Study of War:  Worsening weather conditions slowing both Ukrainian and Russian forces

Institute for the Study of War

The Kremlin remains focused on promoting the purported legality and legitimacy of Russian internal politics despite Kremlin officials’ admissions to the contrary. Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov responded on October 9 to Chechen Head Ramzan Kadyrov’s October 7 proposal to cancel the upcoming 2024 presidential election and instead hold a unanimous vote for Russian President Vladimir Putin, remarking that this will not happen because Putin has “emphasized the need to comply with all of the requirements of democracy, the constitution, and accordingly, to hold these elections.” Peskov then claimed that Russian society has consolidated behind Putin with unprecedented unanimity and suggested that Putin is “a politician with whom it is unlikely that anyone, even theoretically, can compete in any way electorally.” Peskov’s statements indicate that while the Kremlin is invested in creating the guise that the 2024 elections will be free and fair by encouraging Russians to at least nominally participate in the practices of democracy, the Russian government does not intend for any alternative political candidate to pose an actual threat to Putin’s re-election. Russian opposition outlet Meduza similarly noted in July that its internal sources claimed that the Kremlin has already decided that Putin will win over 80 percent of the vote in the upcoming presidential elections.

Peskov’s strong comments also indicate the Kremlin’s desire to posture confidence and steadfastness against the backdrop of Kremlin concerns over Russian opinions on and support for Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. Peskov’s suggestion that Russia intends to hold regular elections has the effect of emphasizing that Russia is still a functioning and confident state despite the war, and the insinuation that Putin will win the elections unanimously also frames him as an effective and capable war-time leader with the total support of his society. ISW has recently reported on several instances of the Kremlin strengthening efforts to control the information space and seeking to dispel concerns over another mobilization wave prior to 2024, enabling the Kremlin to consolidate its narratives within the Russian information space. ISW has also consistently observed several indicators that the Kremlin is concerned about the impact of the war on domestic Russian support for Putin and his regime, including refusing to conduct additional mobilization or otherwise move Russian society to a full wartime footing.

Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations and reportedly advanced in western Zaporizhia Oblast and near Bakhmut on October 9 amid reports of deteriorating weather conditions in Ukraine. The Ukrainian General Staff and Ukrainian Tavriisk Group of Forces Spokesperson Colonel Oleksandr Shtupun reported that Ukrainian forces achieved partial success west of Verbove (18km southeast of Orikhiv), and near Klishchiivka (5km southwest of Bakhmut) and Andriivka (10km southwest of Bakhmut). Russian milbloggers claimed that rainfall has worsened visibility in southern Ukraine, hindering Russian and Ukrainian reconnaissance drone operations. One Russian milblogger claimed that the ground has become muddy and obstructs tracked vehicle movement, though another milblogger claimed that the ground has not yet become muddy enough to inhibit vehicle movement. Exact conditions likely vary along the frontline, though weather conditions are generally worsening. Ukrainian Eastern Group of Forces Spokesperson Captain Ilya Yevlash reported that Russian forces are relying less heavily on aviation and drone activity in the Kupyansk-Lyman direction due to heavy rainfall.

Key Takeaways:

  • The Kremlin remains focused on promoting the purported legality and legitimacy of Russian internal politics despite Kremlin officials’ admissions to the contrary.
  • Peskov’s strong comments also indicate the Kremlin’s desire to posture confidence and steadfastness against the backdrop of Kremlin concerns over Russian opinions on and support for Putin‘s invasion of Ukraine.
  • Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations and reportedly advanced in western Zaporizhia Oblast and near Bakhmut on October 9 amid reports of deteriorating weather conditions in Ukraine.
  • Russian forces reportedly launched localized offensive operations south of Hulyaipole and may have reorganized the Southern Grouping of Forces, likely in an attempt to further defend against Ukrainian counteroffensive operations.
  • Imprisoned former Russian officer and ardent nationalist Igor Girkin reiterated his previous claims that the Russian military will continue to conduct a strategic defense to freeze the frontlines before the Russian presidential elections in March 2024.
  • The Russian government is moving toward revoking Russia’s ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.
  • 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 advanced in some areas on October 9.
  • Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations near Bakhmut, in western Donetsk Oblast, and western Zaporizhia Oblast, and reportedly advanced in some areas.
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