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Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 209: Urgent fake referenda in Luhansk and Donetsk Oblasts planned

Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 209: Urgent fake referenda in Luhansk and Donetsk Oblasts planned
Article by: Zarina Zabrisky

Russia’s proxies hold an urgent discussion of the need to hold referenda to join the Russian Federation in Luhansk and Donetsk Oblasts. Ukrainian counter-offensive successes are degrading morale among Russian elite units. Ukrainian forces are likely continuing limited and localized offensive operations across the Oskil River and along the Lyman-Yampil-Bilohorivka line. Russian forces continued ground attacks south of Bakhmut. Ukrainian forces are continuing to strike Russian military, transportation, and logistics assets in Kherson Oblast. Russia is deploying air defense systems and anti-aircraft missiles from the St. Petersburg region, possibly to Ukraine. Russian troops fired on the South Ukrainian nuclear power plant. The Baltic countries and Poland ban entrance for Russian tourists. Germany will provide Ukraine with four more Panzerhaubitze 2000 self-propelled howitzers with ammunition. The United States will help Ukraine as much as it takes, despite the energy blackmail of the Russian Federation, Biden said.

Daily overview — Summary report, September 20

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 06.00 am, September 17, 2022 is in the dropdown menu below.

Situation in Ukraine COT. September 19, 2022. Source: ISW.

The two hundred-ninth (209) day of the heroic resistance of the Ukrainian people to a russian military large-scale invasion continues.
Donetsk Battle Map. September 19, 2022. Source: ISW.
The enemy continues to focus its efforts on the full occupation of Donetsk oblast, the organization of defence and maintenance of the captured territories, as well as the disruption of the active actions of the Defence Forces in certain areas. It fires at the positions of our troops along the contact line, regroups its troops, and constantly conducts aerial reconnaissance.
Over the past 24 hours, the russian occupiers have launched 10 missile and 15 airstrikes, fired more than 56 anti-aircraft missiles at objects on the territory of Ukraine, violating the norms of International Humanitarian Law, laws and customs of warfare.
As a result of russian shelling over the past day, the infrastructure of more than 33 settlements was damaged. In particular, these are Slavhorod, Kramatorsk, Bakhmut, Mayorsk, Vodyane, Dorozhne, Soledar, Novopil, Zaporizhzhia, Mykolayiv, Oleksandrivka, Snihurivka, Nova Odesa, Shyroke, Bilohirsk, Myrolyubivka, and Bila Krynytsia.
The threat of air and missile strikes by the enemy on the entire territory of Ukraine remains.
The situation has not changed on the Volyn and Polissya directions.
In other directions, the enemy fired from tanks, mortars and artillery of various types, namely:
in the Siverskyi direction – in the areas of Mykolaivka, Chernihiv oblast, and Novovasylivka, Slavhorod, and Ryasne, Sumy oblast;
Kharkiv Battle Map. September 19, 2022. Source: ISW.
in the Slobozhanskyi direction – in the areas of Kozacha Lopan, Shevchenkove, Derhachi, Kamyanka, Strilecha, Hlyboke and Dvorichna settlements;
in the Kramatorsk direction – Oleksandrivka, Donetske, Raihorodok, Shchurove, Kryva Luka, Ozerne, Bilohorivka, Pryshyb, Hryhorivka and Siversk;
in the Bakhmut direction – Mayorsk, Mykolaivka, Verkhnokamianske, Soledar, Bakhmutske, Bakhmut, Vesela Dolyna, Odradivka, Vesele, Vyimka, Mykolayivka Druha, New York, Bilohorivka, Yuryivka, Spirne, Zaitseve and Yakovlivka;
in the Avdiivka direction – Krasnohorivka, Mariinka, Novomykhailivka and Pervomayiske;
the enemy did not take active actions in the Novopavlivsky and Zaporizhzhia directions. The settlements of Vuhledar, Velyka Novosilka, Mykilske, Mali Shcherbaky, Novomayorske, Mala Tokmachka, Chervone, Pavlivka, Hulyaipole, Novopil and Vremivka were affected by artillery shelling in these directions.
Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. September 19, 2022. Source: ISW.
The enemy shelled more than 28 settlements in the South Buh direction. Among them are Oleksandrivka, Novohryhorivka, Zorya, Shevchenkove, Myrne, Shyroke, Bilohirka, Bezimenne, Myrolyubivka, Visokopillya and Olhyne.
The so-called “mobilization” measures are continuing in the territories temporarily occupied by the enemy. According to the available information, as of September 14 of this year, the previously issued documents on postponement of mobilization for about five hundred employees of the Yenakiyiv Metallurgical Plant have been canceled. In addition, a ban was introduced on the departure of men from the territory of the temporarily occupied Crimea without the permission of the military commissariats.
On September 18 of this year, in the area of ​​the settlement of Novoaydar, Luhansk oblast, the area where the enemy’s weapons and military equipment were concentrated was confirmed. At that time, about 50 units of military equipment were eliminated and disabled, and ammunition was destroyed.
In addition, in the area of ​​the settlement of Svatove, units of the Defence Forces inflicted damage on the area where the enemy’s manpower was concentrated. It is known that 70% of the personnel who were at the specified facility died.
The enemy continues to take measures to replenish losses and form reserve units. According to available information, the formation of four rifle battalions is underway at the base of the 36th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade of the 29th Combined Arms Army of the Eastern Military District, located in the village of Borzya in the Trans-Baikal Region. Staffing of officer positions in the mentioned battalions is carried out by using the teachers of the Far Eastern Higher Military Command School. Earlier it was reported about the formation of a naval rifle regiment on the basis of the Black Sea Higher Naval School in temporarily occupied Sevastopol. The russian military leadership, during the formation of these units, continues to apply the practice of the Second World War, which indicates significant problems and miscalculations.
During the day, units of the Defence Forces of Ukraine repelled enemy attacks in the areas of Mayorsk, Vesele, Kurdyumivka and Novomykhailivka settlements.
During the past 24 hours, the Air Force of the Defence Forces hit 24 areas where the enemy’s manpower and military equipment are concentrated, 4 positions of anti-aircraft missile systems and one ammunition depot.
In addition, our air defence units, in different directions, destroyed the Su-25 aircraft, a guided air missile and three enemy UAVs.
Missile troops and artillery over the past day inflicted fire damage on 16 enemy objects. In particular, in 6 areas of concentration of personnel, weapons and military equipment, 7 areas of concentration of artillery, as well as 3 warehouses of ammunition. The total losses of the enemy are being clarified.

Military Updates

Ukraine is in confidential talks with the US on the transfer of fourth-generation American F-16 fighter jets, Gray Eagle reconnaissance and strikes drones, and Patriot anti-aircraft missile systems to the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Politico received information about this. The publication says that the “quiet” method of negotiations was chosen in order to avoid an exacerbated reaction from Russia.

Russia is deploying air defense systems and anti-aircraft missiles from the St. Petersburg region, possibly to Ukraine, reports the Finnish edition of Yle, citing satellite images and expert commentary. These images show that mobile firing platforms and missiles disappeared from the base on the Karelian Isthmus. According to Yle, St. Petersburg has long been surrounded by a protective ring of 14 air defense bases, and several of them are empty at the moment.

Shelling by Russian troops. Icelandic Data analyst.

Ukraine’s recent successes on the battlefield will not change Russia’s plans. It will still continue its offensive in the Donbas. This is stated in a secret NATO intelligence report. According to the expectations of NATO experts, Russia will intensify hostilities, especially with the use of conventional weapons, destroying infrastructure in all directions.

Regional Updates 

In the Luhansk Oblast, the Ukrainian army liberated Belohorivka. The head of the OVA Serhiy Haidai noted that the settlement has now been completely cleared and has come under the control of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

In the Donetsk Oblast, Russians launched a massive blow to Avdiivka. The city center suffered. In addition, at night the invaders fired at Toretsk, New York, and Kramatorsk. In Toretsk, 1 killed.

In the Kharkiv Oblast, the bodies of two children were exhumed at the site of a mass burial near Izium. The children died as a result of an airstrike by Russian bombers on a five-story building. As of today, about 160 bodies have already been exhumed. Determining the cause of death of all deceased is challenging but there are recorded cases of deaths of civilians due to torture. The police do not specify the exact number of such cases.  The majority of civilians died due to enemy shelling. Forensic experts plan to complete the exhumation procedure by the end of this week, but in the future, they will have to find out the exact causes of death of all buried and establish their identities. The exact number of people buried at this location is currently unknown.

In Izium, 80% of the infrastructure destroyed; most buildings are destroyed. There is still no electricity, water, or gas in Izium. Locals cook food on fire. Volunteers bring food and clothes to the city. Shops are looted and destroyed, only one shop is open.

In the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, the Russians fired on the Zelenodolsk from heavy artillery. The scale of the destruction is being specified. 1 wounded. An explosion in Kryvyi Rih Vilkul is reported.

In the Zaporizhzhia Oblast, Russian troops attacked the city of Zaporizhzhia, two infrastructure objects hit. One missile hit the regional center, near the Dnipro river. A village in the Zaporizhzhia Oblast was hit as well. In Enerhodar, the Russian military is shelling the opposite bank of the Kakhovka reservoir, while launching shells at the objects of the industrial zone of the city. As a result of this shelling, the water supply is disrupted. An explosion reported at the airfield in Melitopol.

According to British Defence Intelligence, (last 48 hours): 

  • The command of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet has almost certainly relocated its KILO-class submarines from their home port of Sevastopol in Crimea to Novorossiysk in Krasnodar Krai, southern Russia.
  • This is highly likely due to the recent change in the local security threat level in the face of increased Ukrainian long-range strike capability. In the last two months, the fleet headquarters and its main naval aviation airfield have been attacked.
  • Guaranteeing the Black Sea Fleet’s Crimea basing was likely one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s motivations for annexing the peninsula in 2014. Base security has now been directly undermined by Russia’s continued aggression against Ukraine.

Losses of the Russian army 

As of 17 September, the approximate losses of weapons and military equipment of the Russian Armed Forces from the beginning of the war to the present day:



Russian troops fired on the South Ukrainian nuclear power plant. A rocket hit 300 meters from the nuclear reactors. The building of the nuclear power plant was damaged by the shock wave, and more than 100 windows were broken. A crater is 2 m in diameter, 4 m in depth. One of the hydroelectric units of the Aleksandrovskaya HPP, which is part of the South Ukrainian energy complex, is turned off. Three high-voltage power lines  also switched off. All three power units of the South Ukrainian NPP are operating normally. No casualties among the station personnel.


The Baltic countries and Poland ban entrance for Russian tourists. This applies to those Russian citizens who have Schengen visas issued by third countries. Also, from September 19, the simplified issuance of visas for Russians has been suspended.


Germany will provide Ukraine with four more Panzerhaubitze 2000 self-propelled howitzers with ammunition. It is specified that now 22 Panzerhaubitze 2000 self-propelled guns have already been transferred to Ukraine, 14 of which were supplied by Germany, and 8 by the Netherlands. The manufacturer calls the PzH 2000 the most efficient cannon artillery system in the world. The fully automatic handling of the 60-round airborne stock and the highly effective 155mm L52 cannon provide maximum effect against targets with a high rate of fire. The PzH 2000 is capable of firing three rounds in nine seconds or ten rounds in 56 seconds at a range of up to 40 km. The howitzer holds a world record – at a training ground in South Africa, she fired a V-LAP projectile (active rocket with improved aerodynamics) at 56 km. Designed for joint operations, the complete autonomy of the common command, navigation, and fire control system and stability allows the self-propelled guns to perform new mission options: shooting at moving targets, camp defense, etc.
The United States will help Ukraine as much as it takes, despite the energy blackmail of the Russian Federation.  Biden noted that the Ukrainian people are paying an extremely high price, and “we will be with them as long as they need our help.” “We in the US are in much better shape than anyone else, especially Russia, but he (Putin) has been trying to achieve this for some time. He won’t succeed,” Biden said. He also said that the development of the situation in Ukraine showed that “Russia does not have such competencies and capabilities as many thought,” and Ukraine is now winning, but the damage caused by the war to Ukraine “can hardly be considered a victory” for Kyiv.

New Developments 

The US has no evidence that China is supplying weapons to Russia, said US president Biden, adding that he personally warned Chinese leader Xi Jinping against helping Russia bypass Western sanctions. This probably also played a role in Beijing’s position. Biden does not believe that the world is in a “new, more complex cold war” — in his opinion, the international situation is manageable.

The “Public Chamber of the LNR” turned to the leader of the “republic” Pasechnik with the initiative to immediately hold a referendum on recognizing it as a subject of the Russian Federation.

Ukraine will donate grain as humanitarian aid to Ethiopia and Somalia because of the threat of famine in these countries, as stated in the decree of the Cabinet of Ministers.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres called on Ukraine and Russia to conduct an exchange of prisoners and added in an interview with Russian media that he does not yet see the conditions for direct negotiations between Zelensky and Putin.


  1. On the war. 

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of 19 September, 2022:

Urgent discussion on September 19 among Russia’s proxies of the need for Russia to immediately annex Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts (much of the latter of which is not under Russian control) suggests that Ukraine’s ongoing northern counter-offensive is panicking proxy forces and some Kremlin decision-makers. The legislatures of Russia’s proxies in occupied Ukraine, the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics (DNR and LNR), each called on their leadership to “immediately” hold a referendum on recognizing the DNR and LNR as Russian subjects.[1] Russian propagandist and RT Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan spoke glowingly of the call, referring to it as the “Crimean scenario.” She wrote that by recognizing occupied Ukrainian land as Russian territory, Russia could more easily threaten NATO with retaliatory strikes for Ukrainian counterattacks, “untying Russia’s hands in all respects.”[2]

This approach is incoherent. Russian forces do not control all of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. Annexing the claimed territories of the DNR and LNR would, therefore, have Russia annex oblasts that would be by Kremlin definition partially ”occupied” by legitimate Ukrainian authorities and advancing Ukrainian forces. Ukrainian strikes into Russian-annexed Crimea clearly demonstrate that Ukrainian attacks on Russia’s illegally annexed territory do not automatically trigger Russian retaliation against NATO, as Simonyan would have her readers believe. Partial annexation at this stage would also place the Kremlin in the strange position of demanding that Ukrainian forces unoccupy “Russian” territory, and the humiliating position of being unable to enforce that demand. It remains very unclear that Russian President Vladimir Putin would be willing to place himself in such a bind for the dubious benefit of making it easier to threaten NATO or Ukraine with escalation he remains highly unlikely to conduct at this stage.

Russian leadership may be running out of ways to try to stop Ukrainian forces as they advance across the Oskil River and closer to Luhansk Oblast. The Kremlin may believe that partial annexation could drive recruitment of additional forces, both from within Russia and from within newly annexed Ukrainian territory. Russian forces are desperately attempting to mobilize additional forces from all potential sources to backfill their heavily degraded and demoralized units but have proven unable to generate significant combat power, as ISW has repeatedly written.[3]

This latest annexation discussion also omits other parts of Russian-occupied southern Ukraine in which the Kremlin was previously planning sham annexation referenda. A willingness to abandon the promise to bring all the occupied areas into Russia at the same time would be a significant retreat for Putin to make in the eyes of the hardline pro-war groups he appears to be courting. It remains to be seen if he is willing to compromise himself internally in such a fashion. The Kremlin’s proxies in Donbas regularly outpace Kremlin messaging, on the other hand, and may have done so again as they scramble to retain their occupied territory in the face of Ukraine’s successful and ongoing counter-offensive.

Recent Ukrainian counter-offensive successes are further reducing the already poor morale among Russian units that had been considered elite before February 24. Independent Belarusian media outlet Vot Tak posted images of intercepted documents left behind by Russian soldiers of Unit 31135 of the 1st Motorized Rifle Regiment of the 2nd Guards Motor Rifle Division as they fled Izium en masse.[4] The signed documents (dated to August 30, prior to Ukraine’s counter-offensive in Kharkiv on September 7) include written pleas to commanders of Unit 31135 to dismiss the letters’ authors due to persistent “physical and moral fatigue.”[5] Ukrainian intelligence claimed that 90% of the personnel of the 1st Motorized Rifle Regiment wrote damning reports on the state of morale as early as May 23, 2022.[6] The 2nd Guards Motor Rifle Division is one of three divisions of the 1st Guards Tank Army, which, prior to the current war in Ukraine, was considered Russia’s premier mechanized force and was to be Russia’s key force in a large-scale conventional war with NATO.[7] The intercepted letters indicate pervasive morale issues among Russia’s most elite units and the degradation of Russia’s conventional capabilities against NATO.

Key Takeaways

  • Urgent discussion on September 19 among Russia’s proxies of the need for Russia to immediately annex Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts (much of the latter of which are not under Russian control) suggests that Ukraine’s ongoing northern counter-offensive is panicking proxy forces and some Kremlin decision-makers.
  • Ukrainian counter-offensive successes are degrading morale among Russian units that were regarded as elite prior to the invasion of Ukraine.
  • Ukrainian forces are likely continuing limited and localized offensive operations across the Oskil River and along the Lyman-Yampil-Bilohorivka line.
  • Russian forces continued ground attacks south of Bakhmut.
  • Ukrainian forces are continuing to strike Russian military, transportation, and logistics assets in Kherson Oblast.
  • Ukrainian and Russian sources identified three areas of kinetic activity on September 19: northwest of Kherson City, near the Ukrainian bridgehead over the Inhulets River, and in northern Kherson Oblast near Olhine.
  • The size of volunteer units Russia can generate is likely decreasing.

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