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Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 210: Putin declares partial mobilization, threatens to use nuclear weapons

Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 210: Putin declares partial mobilization, threatens to use nuclear weapons

Putin threatens to use nuclear weapons and announced partial mobilization in Russia. Russia is getting prepared to hold all sham referendums from 23 to 27 September. Russian soldiers caught between Ukraine’s Armed Forces and right bank of Dnipro River seek ways to surrender. The Ukrainian army sinks Russian barge carrying weapons and military personnel. Invaders illegally remove from Ukraine over 2,000 children. A nuclear security zone must be immediately created at ZNPP, says IAEA chief. Two more Russian torture chambers discovered in liberated Kozacha Lopan. Ukraine asks the world to stop Russian terrorism in the areas of the Black and Azov Seas and the Kerch Strait. EU donates EUR 500,000 worth of thermal imagers to Ukrainian border guards.

Daily overview — Summary report, September 21

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 06.00 am, September 20, 2022 is in the dropdown menu below.

Situation in Ukraine. September 20, 2022. Source: ISW.

Donetsk Battle Map. September 20, 2022. Source: ISW.

“Russian forces continue to focus its efforts on attempts to fully occupy the Donetsk region, organize defence and hold the captured territories, as well as disrupt the active actions of the Defense Forces in certain areas. Russian forces regroup their troops, constantly conduct aerial reconnaissance, and fire at the positions of our troops along the contact line.

Over the past day, Russian forces launched 8 missile strikes, 35 airstrikes and more than 120 MLRS attacks on objects on the territory of Ukraine, violating the norms of international humanitarian law, laws and customs of warfare.

As a result of shelling by Russian troops, the infrastructure of more than 50 settlements was damaged during the current day. Among them are Oskil, Sloviansk, Siversk, Oleksandrivka, Soledar, Bakhmut, Velyka Novosilka, Vremivka, Vugledar, Stepne, Zaporizhzhia, Nikopol and Ochakiv. Russian forces tried to hit the Sloviansk TPP with strikes on the city of Mykolaivka.

The threat of air and missile strikes by Russian forces on the entire territory of Ukraine remains.

The situation has not changed in the Volyn and Poliske directions.

In other directions, Russian forces continue shelling from tanks, mortars and artillery of various types:

  • in the Siverskyi directions – in the areas of Zaliznyi Myst, Mykhailove and Huta-Studenetska settlements of Chernihiv Oblast and Sosnivka, Golyshivske, Yunakivka and Turya of Sumy Oblast;
Kharkiv Battle Map. September 20, 2022. Source: ISW.
  • in the Slobozhansk direction – in the areas of Veterinarne, Hoptivka, Hlyboke, Dergachi, Hrushivka, Kupiansk and Kamianka settlements;
  • in the Kramatorsk direction – Donetske, Studenok, Yarova, Tetyanivka, Bogorodichne, Pryshyb, Shchurove, Stariy Karavan, Raihorodok, Mykolaivka, Rozdolivka, Oleksandrivka and Hryhorivka;
  • in the Bakhmut direction – Siversk, Verkhnyokamianske, Vyimka, Vesele, Bilogorivka, Yakovlivka, Soledar, Bakhmutske, Bakhmut, Odradivka, Mykolaivka Druga, Zaitseve, Sukha Balka, Yuryivka and New York;
  • in the Avdiivka direction – Berdychi, Avdiivka, Vodyane, Krasnohorivka, Mariinka, Paraskoviivka, Novomykhailivka and Pervomaiske;
  • in the Zaporizhzhia direction – Novopil, Vremivka, Velyka Novosilka, Novoukrainka, Prechistivka, Vugledar, Pavlivka, Volodymyrivka, Zaliznychne, Gulyaipole and Chervone.
Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. September 20, 2022: Source ISW.
  • In the Pivdenny Buh direction, more than 25 settlements along the entire line of contact were shelled by Russian forces, in particular, these are Visokopillya, Myrolyubivka, Karierne, Novogrigorivka, Bilogirka, Blagodativka, Andriivka, Zorya, Shevchenkove, Ternovy Pody, Pravdyne, and Myrne.

During the day, our troops repelled enemy attacks in the areas of the settlements of Vesele, Kurdyumivka, Mykolaivka Druga, Bakhmutske, Zaitseve, Mayorsk, Pervomaiske, Mariinka and Novomykhailivka.

During the past 24 hours, the Air Force of the Defense Forces carried out more than 20 strikes on enemy positions. It was confirmed that 19 areas of concentration of enemy manpower and military equipment and two positions of anti-aircraft missile systems were hit. In addition, air defence units destroyed one SU-25 and four enemy UAVs.

Missile troops and artillery over the past day inflicted fire damage on 40 enemy objects. In particular, in 20 areas of concentration of personnel, weapons and military equipment, 13 areas of concentration of artillery, as well as in 7 ammunition warehouses. The losses of Russian forces are specified.

Thanks to the successful actions of the Defense Forces, Russian forces continue to suffer losses in manpower and equipment. In particular, as a result of strikes on enemy personnel and military equipment areas on September 19 of this year, it was confirmed: damage to the personnel concentration area in the Pologiv district, numbering more than 20 people; in the Melitopol district – an ammunition warehouse, 5 units of military equipment and more than 20 military personnel; in the area of ​​the settlement of Kamianka – 10 units of military equipment and more than 10 servicemen of units of the occupation forces. The destruction of the commandant’s office in the city of Svatove, Luhansk region, where Russian forces organized a headquarters and ammunition depot, was also confirmed.

[As a result of the successful actions of units of the Defense Forces in the Bakhmut and Avdiivka directions, Russian forces continue to suffer significant losses. Medical facilities in the city of Horlivka are full of seriously wounded servicemen of the occupation forces. In addition, two large trucks with the bodies of dead persons from the 1st Army Corps of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation were moved from the territory of the Kherson oblast to the temporarily occupied territory of the Donetsk oblast. The quantity is being specified.]

Forced mobilization of residents continues in the temporarily occupied territories of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions to replenish the personnel losses of the units of the occupation forces. The occupiers detain and send men of conscription age to assembly points for further dispatch to replenish units that have suffered losses in battles with the Defense Forces of Ukraine.

[Due to the unsuccessful implementation of covert mobilization measures, the military-political leadership of the Russian federation made a decision to withdraw the units of the 217th Parachute Regiment from the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic and their further preparation for transfer to the territory of Ukraine.]”

Military Updates

Russian soldiers caught between Ukraine’s Armed Forces and right bank of Dnipro River seek ways to surrender, Ukrainska Pravda reported on Monday, citing Operational Command South. “Russian units in southern Ukraine are trapped between the Ukrainian army and the right bank of the Dnipro River. Some of the Russian occupiers’ commanders are trying to get in touch with representatives of the Ukrainian Armed Forces to lay down their arms and surrender.

Ukrainian Armed Forces sink Russian barge carrying weapons and military personnel, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Operational Command South. “The Russians’ attempts to establish an alternative crossing over the River Dnipro near Nova Kakhovka and Kozatske were unsuccessful. The construction of a pontoon crossing was paused as a result of Ukrainian fire. A barge carrying weapons, equipment and military personnel joined the occupiers’ underwater fleet [i.e., sunk down – ed.] after it came under Ukrainian fire.”

AFU hit a column of enemy equipment near crossing in Nova Kakhovka, Ukrinform reports. “The situation in the area of responsibility in Southern Buh direction is quite difficult, dynamic, but controlled. The defense forces continue to conduct active actions, forcing Russian forces to abandon the occupied positions, to set up new lines of defense. Having no success and prospects on land, Russian forces resorts to fire and psychological pressure, technogenic blackmail, and the use of kamikaze drones, the Operational Command South reports.

Missile and artillery units performed more than 210 fire missions, striking a command post of enemy troops in Beryslav district, forces and equipment clusters in Havrylivka and Chornobayivka areas, the Daryivka Bridge, and a pontoon crossing near Nova Kakhovka. Also in Nova Kakhovka, the fire control stopped the repair works on the bridge and damaged a column of military equipment that was about to cross the Dnipro River.

Russian forces lost 151 soldiers and more than 40 units of equipment, including seven tanks, 19 armored vehicles, four howitzers (Msta-S, Msta-B, Akatsiya), four self-propelled artillery systems.”

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

According to British Defence Intelligence, (previous 24 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 Wednesday 21 September, the approximate losses of weapons and military equipment of the Russian Armed Forces from the beginning of the war to the present day:

  • Personnel – more than 55110 (+300),
  • Tanks – 2227 (+11),
  • Armoured combat vehicles – 4748 (+24),
  • Artillery systems – 1340 (+17),
  • Multiple rocket launchers –MLRS – 318 (+0),
  • Air defence means – 168 (+0),
  • Aircraft – 253 (+1),
  • Helicopters – 217 (+0),
  • Automotive technology and fuel tanks – 3610 (+23),
  • Vessels/boats – 15 (+0),
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 932 (+7),
  • Special equipment – 125 (+0),
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (+0),
  • Cruise missiles – 239 (+0)

Russian enemy suffered the greatest losses (of the last day) in the Donetsk direction.

Russian reserve command post with weapon arsenal and 2 infantry combat vehicles found in Kharkiv region, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing press-service of the State Investigation Bureau. “Among other things, Ruscists [Russian invaders] stored an entire arsenal at one command post. The ammunition was stored in a carefully disguised cellar.

Dozens of crates with ammunition, including projectiles for guns and tanks of different calibres, mines, grenades, and propellant charges have been seized. Apart from that, the State Investigation Bureau found 2 infantry combat vehicles with a payload. Seized ammunition and military equipment was handed over to the Armed Forces of Ukraine.”

Putin orders Russian military industrial complex to immediately supply troops with munitions and analyse Western weapons, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing  RIA Novosti. “[Appropriate] organisations of the military industrial facilities must ensure the supply of the necessary weapons, equipment and munitions as soon as possible. At the same time, Putin stated he and representatives of the military industry would discuss the supply of arms specifically to the units located in Ukraine.

He also urged these officers to analyse the Western weapons used in Ukraine, although, in his opinion, Russian arms effectively “resist” them. In support of the current regime in Kyiv, as you know, nearly all of the NATO stocks from their arsenals have been sent to Ukraine, which means that we should and will study these weapons, and [see] what is used against us, Putin said. The Russian leader wants 100% import substitution in Russia’s defence sector, demanding to increase production capacity and shorten production time.”


Invaders illegally remove from Ukraine over 2,000 children, Ukrinform reports, citing Suspilne. “We are talking about 2,161 children. This is what we were aware of as of September 1. These are children, deprived of parental care, we call ‘status children.’ Of them, by the way, we have already returned 55, said [Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine Iryna] Vereshchuk. According to the official, these are not the exact numbers.

“We are verifying information systematizing them, and immediately turning to the Russian Federation. We regard it (as international law allows us to) the forcible removal of Ukrainian children to the territory of the aggressor country. And it is obvious that this is a crime, so it will be qualified those guilty will be brought to justice. But now our task is to find those children, locate them, and demand that they be returned,” explained Vereshchuk.

She noted that Russia is trying to find guardians for some of the Ukrainian children. “We have information that Russia is preparing some of them for certain guardian families, as they call it, some forms of adoption. I’d like to state once again: this is absolutely unacceptable… We demand that our children be returned, we appeal to the international community with the demand to do everything to make Russia pay, that is, to strengthen sanctions, over the fact that today our children are illegally held on the territory of the Russian Federation,” said the Deputy Prime Minister. […]

As Ukrinform reported earlier, the Government of Ukraine will sue Russia for the so-called adoption of abducted and deported children.”

OHCHR recorded 14,532 civilian casualties in Ukraine as of September 19. 5,916 were killed (including 379 children) and 8,616 injured (including 663 children).


A nuclear security zone must be immediately created at ZNPP – IAEA chief, Ukrinform reports, citing IAEA press service. “The situation at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant remains fragile and precarious. Last week, we saw some improvements regarding its power supplies, but today we were informed about a new setback in this regard. The plant is located in the middle of a war zone, and its power status is far from safe and secure. Therefore, a nuclear safety and security protection zone must urgently be established there, Director General Grossi said.

Also, the agency chief commented on the latest Russian missile strike on the South Ukrainian NPP. While we have recently focused on the urgent need for action to prevent a nuclear accident at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant – establishing an IAEA presence there earlier this month – today’s explosion near the South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant all too clearly demonstrates the potential dangers also at other nuclear facilities in the country, Director General Grossi said. Any military action that threatens nuclear safety and security is unacceptable and must stop immediately.

As Ukrinform reported earlier, a Russian missile landed just 300 meters from the South Ukrainian NPP’s nuclear reactors on Monday, September 19.”

Mutilated bodies found with genitals cut off in Kharkiv Oblast, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “The Ukrainian government has regained control over, and conducted mop-up operations in 118 cities, towns and villages in Kharkiv Oblast that were previously occupied by Russian forces. [Yevhen Yenin, Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine] said that around 50 bodies of civilians [killed in the course of Russian occupation – ed.] have been found on the liberated territories of Kharkiv Oblast on 18 September. Law enforcement officers have found a total of 168 bodies since the beginning of the counteroffensive.

Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs said that law enforcement officers have exhumed 52 bodies from 48 graves at the mass burial site in Izium. He confirmed that the bodies bear signs of torture. We are continuing to find numerous bodies with marks of violent death, including broken ribs and skulls, men with hands tied behind their backs, with broken jaws, with their genitals cut off, Yenin said. He added that the mass grave in Izium is not the only one even in that area.

So far, a total of 292 war crimes have been recorded in Kharkiv Oblast alone. The majority of them concern the violation of laws and customs of war. On 19 September, 146 bodies were exhumed from the mass burial site in Izium, including the bodies of women and children. Russian occupiers tortured civilians in the local police department and at other sites throughout the city.”

Two more Russian torture chambers discovered in liberated Kozacha Lopan, Ukrinform reports, citing the Prosecutor General’s Office. “On September 20, prosecutors of the Derhachivsky District Prosecutor’s Office in Kharkiv region inspected two basement premises in the village of Kozacha Lopan, where the Russian army had been torturing civilians during the occupation, the statement reads. The invaders set up torture chambers in the basements of the railway station and a local shop. the Russian military would forcibly detain people, subject them to torture, physical and psychological violence.”

IT Army of Ukraine hacks website of Wagner  PMC: ” Personal data of mercenaries at our disposal“, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Mykhailo Fedorov, Minister of Digital Transformation. “The website of the Wagner group, which recruits Russian prisoners for the war in Ukraine, has been hacked by the IT Army! We have all the personal data of mercenaries! Every executioner, murderer and rapist will be severely punished. Revenge is inevitable!”

Earlier, a video appeared showing oligarch Yevgenii Prigozhyn, the organiser and handler of Wagner Private Military Company; Prigozhin, who also belongs to Vladimir Putin’s close circle, personally encouraged Russian prisoners to go to war in Ukraine.”

391 children were killed, 764 children injured, 7,754 deported by foe forces, and 233 reported missing – the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine reports as of September 21. 2,500 educational establishments are damaged as a result of shelling and bombings, 289 of them are destroyed fully. 34,723 crimes of aggression and war crimes and 15,870 crimes against national security were registered.


Ukraine asks the world to stop Russian terrorism in the areas of the Black and Azov Seas and the Kerch Strait – Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, reports. “The document also instructs the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada to contact the President regarding the need to prepare and approve the Maritime Security Strategy of Ukraine. Parliamentarians at the plenary session on September 20 adopted the Resolution “On the aggression of the Russian Federation in the areas of the Black and Azov Seas and the Kerch Strait.”

The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine appealed to the United Nations, the European Parliament, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, and the governments, and parliaments of foreign countries to condemn the aggression of the Russian Federation in the Black Sea, the Sea of Azov, and the Kerch Strait.

Providing assistance to Ukraine as a victim of aggression in realizing the inalienable right to self-defence, as well as taking effective collective measures to eliminate the threat to peace and curb acts of aggression by the Russian Federation in the Black Sea, the Sea of Azov and the Kerch Strait, in particular, conducting operations to ensure freedom of navigation. – says the explanatory note.

The resolution reminds us that Ukraine is a maritime country. Access to the sea is the basis of economic development and is of critical importance for ensuring Ukraine’s national security. About 70% of Ukrainian exports of Ukraine are carried out by sea, which brings 60% of foreign currency income.

From February 24, 2022, the Russian Federation began to block and mine Ukrainian ports, and attack commercial ships and port infrastructure. The aggressor state purposefully destroys grain and fuel storage facilities, laboratories, railway infrastructure and oil refineries with missiles. We, as people’s deputies of Ukraine, together with the UN, other international organizations and partners must find a solution to fully unblock the ports to avoid a global food crisis and world hunger. This requires recognizing the actions taken by the Russian Federation as threatening both Ukraine and the whole world, as well as seeking help from the world communities,” the parliamentarians said.”

Over 80% of Ukrainians say donated money to Armed Forces, Ukrinform reports. “Despite decreasing incomes amid the war unleashed by Russia, 81% of Ukrainians say they donated money to the Armed Forces of Ukraine at least once. That’s according to a survey run by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology, Ukrinform reports.

The full-scale war affected every Ukrainian citizen: many report a decrease in income, deterioration of mental and physical health, separation from and loss of friends or family members, and loss of jobs and homes.

According to the poll, in August 70% of Ukrainians faced a decrease in income, 31% lost their jobs, and 9% – their homes. Despite the fact that the war affects people’s lives and financial situation, almost all Ukrainians contribute to humanitarian and military aid, the statement reads.

Some 81% of respondents have donated money to the Armed Forces, although 95% say lack money to live a comfortable life. In addition, 63% donated essentials to internally displaced persons (IDPs), 60% donated money to humanitarian aid, and more than half sheltered or otherwise helped IDPs.”

Activists ask US Congress to approve new aid package ASAP, Ukrinform reports. “Transatlantic Task Force for Ukraine (TTFU), the organization uniting influential activists, experts, and civil society leaders, have turned to US Congress with an open letter, calling on legislators to speed up the process of approving a new assistance package to Ukraine worth over $11 billion. The full text of the letter has been published on the organization’s website.

The Transatlantic Task Force for Ukraine strongly urges the US Congress to swiftly pass additional military and economic aid for Ukraine to help defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity and, by doing so, enhance the US and transatlantic security and restore the rules-based international order, the appeal reads.”

EU donates EUR 500,000 worth of thermal imagers to Ukrainian border guards, Ukrinform reports. “The European Union has donated thermal imaging equipment for monitoring the border, valued at almost $500,000, to Ukraine’s State Border Guard Service. That’s according to a statement posted on the agency’s website.

Ukraine to get 28 M-55S tanks from Slovenia, Ukrinform reports, citing a statement from the Slovenian government. “In the spirit of solidarity with the Ukrainian people, Prime Minister Golob and Chancellor Scholz agreed to joint action, so that the Ukrainian side will receive 28 Slovenian M-55S tanks. In return, Slovenia will obtain 40 German military transport vehicles, including 35 heavy 8×8 hook loaders and 5 heavy 8×8 water tankers. As such, the ring exchange will also strengthen defence cooperation between Slovenia and Germany, the statement said.

M-55S tanks are a modernized version of the Soviet T-55s. Slovenia’s STO RAVNE and Israel’s Elbit upgraded the combat vehicles in 1999.”

Ukraine asks Australia for more Bushmaster armoured vehicles, Ukrinform reports. “Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba has asked the Australian government to consider supplying Ukraine with a larger number of Bushmaster armoured vehicles. The head of Ukrainian diplomacy announced this on Twitter after meeting with his Australian counterpart Penny Wong on the sidelines of the 77th session of the UN General Assembly.”

New Developments

  1. Putin threatens to use nuclear weapons, Ukrainska PravdaI would like to remind those who make such statements about Russia that our country also has various means of destruction at its disposal, including some that are more modern than those of NATO countries. If the territorial integrity of our country is threatened, we will certainly use all means at our disposal to protect Russia and our people. This is not a bluff.”
  2. Putin today announced partial mobilization in Russia, TASS Putin has already signed the relevant decree. Mobilization activities will start today. Shoigu said that during the partial mobilization, a total of 300,000 reservists will be called up.
  3. Ukraine wants to restore territorial integrity within its borders of 1991 – FM Kuleba, UkrinformThe key moment for Ukraine is to restore our territorial integrity within the internationally recognized borders of 1991. There can be no agreement that would be based on Ukraine’s territorial concessions, [Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro] Kuleba stressed.”
  4. Occupiers are getting prepared to hold all sham referendums from 23 to 27 September, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Interfax. “The so-called “People’s Council of Luhansk People’s Republic” is planning to hold a pseudo-referendum in Luhansk Oblast from 23 to 27 September.
  5. Ukraine says Russian referendums will destroy possibility of talks, ReutersAny referendums on joining Russia in Russian-occupied Ukrainian territories would destroy any remaining window for talks between Kyiv and Moscow, Ukrainian publication cited the Ukrainian president’s office spokesman as saying on Tuesday. Without the referendums, there is still the smallest chance for a diplomatic solution. After the referendums – no, quoted Serhiy Nykyforov as saying.”
  6. US rejects Russia’s plans to hold referendums in parts of Ukraine, ReutersThe United States rejected plans to hold referendums in Ukraine and will never recognize any Russian claims to annex parts of Ukraine, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Tuesday. Sullivan said Moscow may be making the move to recruit troops in those areas after suffering extensive losses on the battlefield.”
  7. Russia’s threats with referendums and mobilisation are not going to work, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Andrii Yermak, head of the Office of the President of Ukraine. “Naive blackmail, [and] threats to hold referendums and announce mobilisation from those [Russians] who only know how to fight with children and unarmed people. This is what the fear of defeat looks like. Russia is afraid, it tries to primitively manipulate. Ukraine will solve the “Russian issue”. The threat can be eliminated only by force.”
  8. Lukashenko says he will not let Russia be stabbed in the back, ready to alert the military, Ukrainska PravdaAleksandr Lukashenko, the self-proclaimed president of Belarus, has declared that there would be no attack on Russian troops through the country. He has called for the borders with Ukraine to be covered, and, if necessary, for military forces to be put on alert.”


    1. On the War

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of 20 September, 2022:

Ukrainian Counteroffensives (Ukrainian efforts to liberate Russian-occupied territories)

Eastern Ukraine: (Vovchansk-Kupiansk-Izium-Lyman Line)

Ukrainian forces likely continued offensive operations along the Lyman-Yampil-Bilohorivka line on September 20. An unnamed senior US defense official stated that Ukrainian and Russian forces are engaged in artillery duels near Lyman. Several Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian troops are attacking Lyman from the northwest (around the Sviatohirsk-Yarova area) and south (along the Shchurove-Dibrova line). A Russian milblogger stated that Ukrainian troops attempted to attack Drobysheve, about 5km northwest of Lyman. Geolocated combat footage confirms Russian and Ukrainian claims that Ukrainian troops have taken control of Bilohorivka, Luhansk Oblast (about 30km southeast of Lyman). Russian sources also continue to indicate that Ukrainian troops are likely conducting offensive operations across the Oskil River with the intention of penetrating Russian rear areas in occupied Luhansk Oblast.

Russian forces are likely targeting Ukrainian hydrotechnical infrastructure in Kharkiv and Luhansk Oblasts to threaten Ukrainian positions along the Siverskyi Donets River. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces unsuccessfully attempted to destroy a dam over the Pechenizske Reservoir (35km due east of Kharkiv City). The Ukrainian General Staff statement is likely corroborated by social media footage that shows an explosion and a large smoke plume after impact following a reported Russian strike on a dam across the Siverskyi Donets River east of Kharkiv City. The Pechenizske Reservoir is just upstream of the Siverskyi Donets River, along which Ukrainian troops have likely established pontoon bridges and other alternative river crossings on the Tetianivka-Pryshyb-Lyman-Yampil line. Russian forces likely sought to target this dam to flood the Siverskyi Donets River and isolate Ukrainian troops who have crossed the river south of Lyman from established positions on the right bank as well as to prevent additional Ukrainian troops from crossing to attack Russian positions on the left bank.

Southern Ukraine: (Kherson Oblast)

Ukrainian forces continued efforts to interdict Russian ground lines of communication (GLOCs) in Kherson Oblast on September 19 and 20 as Russian troops continue attempts to reconstitute their GLOCs. Ukrainian officials reported multiple Ukrainian air and artillery strikes against Russian manpower and equipment concentration in the Berislav, Henichesk, Kakhovsk, and Kherson districts among other areas, as well as on bridges and pontoon and barge crossings. Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command reported that Ukrainian artillery strikes disrupted Russian attempts to establish alternative crossing sites across the Dnipro River around Nova Kakhovka and Kozatske (both 60km east of Kherson City) and that one of the strikes hit a Russian barge loaded with weapons, equipment, and personnel. Social media imagery analysis confirms that the Russians have been trying to establish an alternative crossing point near the Kakhovka Dam from at least September 2 through September 18.

Ukrainian official sources maintained operational silence regarding Ukrainian ground attacks in Kherson Oblast, and Russian sources offered unusually limited coverage of activities in this area on September 20.

ISW has observed no evidence that the Kremlin is imminently intending to change its conscription practices. The Kremlin’s new law is about strengthening the Kremlin’s coercive volunteerism, or what Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov called “self-mobilization.”

The Kremlin is taking steps to directly increase force generation through continued voluntary self-mobilization and an expansion of its legal authority to deploy Russian conscripts already with the force to fight in Ukraine.

  • Putin’s illegal annexation of occupied Ukrainian territory will broaden the domestic legal definition of “Russian” territory under Russian law, enabling the Russian military to legally and openly deploy conscripts already in the Russian military to fight in eastern and southern Ukraine. Russian leadership has already deployed undertrained conscripts to Ukraine in direct violation of Russian law and faced domestic backlash. Russia’s semi-annual conscription cycle usually generates around 130,000 conscripts twice per year. The next cycle runs from October 1 to December 31. Russian law generally requires that conscripts receive at least four months of training prior to deployment overseas, and Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly denied that conscripts will be deployed to Ukraine. Annexation could provide him a legal loophole allowing for the overt deployment of conscripts to fight.
  • Russian-appointed occupation officials in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia oblasts announced the formation of “volunteer” units to fight with the Russian military against Ukraine. Russian forces will likely coerce or physically force at least some Ukrainian men in occupied areas to fight in these units, as they have done in the territories of the Russian proxy Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics (DNR and LNR).
  • The Russian State Duma separately passed new incentives for foreign nationals to fight in Russia’s military to obtain Russian citizenship and will likely increase overseas recruitment accordingly. That new law, which deputies also rushed through normal procedures on September 20, allows foreign nationals to gain Russian citizenship by signing a contract and serving in the Russian military for one year. Russian law previously required three years of service to apply for citizenship.
  • Putin’s appeals to nationalism may generate small increases in volunteer recruitment from within Russia and parts of occupied Donetsk and Luhansk. However, forces generated from such volunteers, if they manifest, will be small and poorly trained. Most eager and able-bodied Russian men and Ukrainian collaborators have likely already volunteered in one of the earlier recruitment phases.
  • Local Russian administrators will continue to attempt to form volunteer units, with decreasing effect, as ISW has previously reported and mapped.
  • Russian forces and the Wagner Private Military Company are also directly recruiting from Russian prisons, as ISW has previously reported. These troops will be undisciplined and unlikely to meaningfully increase Russian combat power.

Putin likely hopes that increasing self-mobilization, and cracking down on unwilling Russian forces, will enable him to take the rest of Donetsk and defend Russian-occupied parts of Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia oblasts. He is mistaken. Putin has neither the time nor the resources needed to generate effective combat power. But Putin will likely wait to see if these efforts are successful before either escalating further or blaming his loss on a scapegoat. His most likely scapegoat is Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and the Russian Ministry of Defense.  Reports that Shoigu would accompany Putin while Putin gave a speech announced and then postponed on September 20 suggest that Putin intended to make Shoigu the face of the current effort.

Russian President Vladimir Putin likely also intends to deter Ukraine’s ongoing counteroffensives by annexing occupied Ukrainian territory and framing Ukrainian attempts to liberate occupied territory as attacks on Russia. Russian officials and propagandists such as Russian Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev issued vague warnings on September 20 that “the infringement of Russian territory is a crime; committing this crime permits using all means of self-defense.” Russian officials are demonstrably panicked over Ukrainian advances, as ISW assessed on September 19. The Kremlin likely intends these vague warnings to exacerbate Ukrainian and global fears of nuclear escalation. However, Putin has already declined to enforce any territory-specific redlines in response to Ukrainian attacks on Russian-annexed Crimea, occupied territory he has controlled for eight years and declares to be Russian.

Ukrainian and Western leaders responded to reports of the impending referenda with renewed declarations of commitment to restoring Ukrainian sovereignty over occupied Ukrainian territory.  Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba stated on September 20 that “sham ‘referendums’ will not change anything … Ukraine has every right to liberate its territories and will keep liberating them whatever Russia has to say.” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on September 20 that “[sham referendums] will only further worsen the situation, and therefore we need to provide more support to Ukraine.” US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said on September 20 that the United States “will never recognize this territory as anything other than a part of Ukraine” and will continue to provide “historic support” to Ukraine. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz emphasized on September 19 that “Ukraine has every right to defend the sovereignty and integrity of its own territory and its own democracy.” French President Emmanuel Macron called the sham referenda a “parody” and a “provocation.”

Key Takeaways

  • Russian-appointed occupation officials in Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia oblasts announced on September 20 that they will hold a “referendum” on acceding to Russia, with a vote taking place from September 23-27.
  • The Kremlin’s annexation plans are primarily targeting a domestic audience; Putin likely intends to improve Russian force generation capabilities by calling on the Russian people to volunteer for a war ostensibly to defend newly-claimed Russian territory.
  • Ukrainian forces continued disrupting ongoing Russian efforts to reestablish ground lines of communications (GLOCs) across the Dnipro River in Kherson Oblast.
  • Russian forces are likely targeting Ukrainian hydrotechnical infrastructure in Kharkiv and Luhansk oblasts to threaten Ukrainian positions along the Siverskyi Donets River.
  • Russian forces conducted ground attacks in Donetsk Oblast on September 20.
  • Russian forces did not conduct any confirmed ground attacks west of Hulyaipole on September 20 and continued routine artillery strikes throughout Zaporizhzhia Oblast.

Russian forces continue to degrade their force generation capabilities by cannibalizing training elements to fight in combat formations in Ukraine.

Russian troops prepare for defence on the administrative border of Crimea, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the Presidential representative of Ukraine in Crimea. “The construction of fortifications for military personnel and heavy equipment of the Russian troops on the administrative border [of Crimea] with Kherson Oblast was noticed.

It is also reported that Sergey Aksyonov, the Russian-appointed head of Crimea occupying administration, said that two military battalions, which will be sent to war against Ukraine, are being formed in the temporarily occupied peninsula.”

Russian Army preparing for defensive actions in Ukraine, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing an interview of Major General Vadym Skibitskyi, Defence Intelligence of Ukraine (DIU) in Kyiv Post. “Military intelligence reports that the Russian forces are actively preparing for defensive operations. They are preparing their defence positions of the first and the second line.

In fact, they did that in the South of Ukraine, in Kherson Oblast. When the Russian forces occupied these territories, they organised defence of at least two or even three lines right away. Now they are trying to create reserve detachments to re-establish their positions. There are problems with that, we can see it clearly.”

Russian-sponsored Luhansk militants demand an immediate referendum to join Russian Federation, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing RIA Novosti. “The militants reportedly appealed to Leonid Pasechnik, the Russian-appointed leader of the “LNR”, demanding that a referendum be held immediately on recognising it as a one of the constitutive entities of the Russian Federation. They justify this initiative by saying that “joining Russia will secure the Republic and open up new opportunities on the way to returning to a peaceful life.”

Militants also “expressed confidence that the people of the Republic will support the initiative.” Despite Russian statements about “taking control of the entire territory of Luhansk Oblast”, the Russian troops did not show any success after over half a year of full-scale war. At the beginning of September, the Ukrainian military launched a counteroffensive.

On 12 September, the Luhansk Oblast Military Administration reported that some settlements in Luhansk Oblast had already been liberated, and that mop-up operations were underway. On 19 September, it became known that the Ukrainian military liberated the village of Bilohorivka from the Russian invaders.”

Announcement of general mobilisation in Russia to show whether Russians are ready to shed blood, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing an interview of Major General Vadym Skibitskyi, Defence Intelligence of Ukraine (DIU) in Kyiv Post. “Today we have started collecting information; this mobilisation-related information rhetoric in the Russian Federation has greatly increased. Zyuganov [leader of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation – ed.] and other Russian politicians say that yes, indeed, there is a war going on and that the Russian army cannot cope, it is necessary to declare war and mobilise. Again, they say that we will wage war not just with Ukraine, but with NATO and the United States because they are fighting on the side of Ukraine. […]

Skibitskyi recalled that the issue of mobilisation has been discussed by the leadership of the Russian Federation since the very beginning of the full-fledged war. During this period, when the Russian army suffered its first losses, especially in Kyiv and Chernihiv oblasts and in the south of Ukraine, they began to apply various approaches to replenish their resources and compensate for losses.

The so-called volunteer battalions and battalions of reservists were formed, the same private military companies were involved, and then the Third Army Corps was formed so that new detachments of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation would be created.

Later, President Putin issued a decree on increasing the size of the armed forces to 137,000 military personnel; this, too, is aimed at replenishing resources and continuing further active military operations. 

At the same time, according to Skibitskyi, the announcement of a general mobilisation will be a significant blow to Putin’s regime, because it will mean that the Russian government recognises the so-called “special operation” has not achieved desired results, and there is a real war going on.

The announcement of a general mobilisation, according to Skibitskyi, will only benefit Ukraine, because the protest mood in Russia is weak, but young people still do not want to go to war. According to the analysis of Russian society, most people who are over 50 years old will not go to war, but they do support the war of Putin’s regime. Young people aged 20 to 30 will go to war. Therefore, the very announcement of general mobilisation will be an indicator that will show how much the Russian people are ready to continue this bloody war.

After the successful counteroffensive of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the Kharkiv Oblast, Russian propagandist Olha Skabieieva said on television that we need to tell the citizens the truth: they say that the North Atlantic bloc is strong, and the whole Western world has attacked the Russians and the stakes are very high.”

Russia’s State Duma introduces concepts of mobilisation and wartime in Criminal Code, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Holod magazine, RIA Novosti and State Duma website. “The Russian State Duma has introduced the concepts of mobilisation and wartime in the Criminal Code, and it has also approved amendments on responsibility for desertion during mobilisation or wartime. New articles were included in the draft law on amendments to the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, adopted in the first reading in July, namely: “Voluntary surrender” (Art. 352.1) and “Looting” (Art. 356.1).

The new amendments stipulate that when it comes to crimes against military service, it will be considered an aggravating circumstance if they are committed not only in conditions of armed conflict or hostilities, but also “during mobilisation or martial law, during wartime”. State Duma has strengthened criminal responsibility for disobeying a military order, insubordination, unauthorised leaving of the place of service, desertion, evasion of duty, violation of military service rules, and loss of military property if these are committed “during martial law, in wartime or in conditions of armed conflict or hostilities”.

The State Duma has introduced criminal liability for voluntary surrender (from 3 to 10 years) and for looting (up to 15 years). If a serviceman leaves his unit during the wartime and is absent for up to 10 days, he will face up to 5 years in prison; if he leaves his unit for a month, he will then face 7 years in prison, and if he’s been absent there more than a month, he gets 10 years behind the bars.

The amendments emphasise that Russians reservists called up for military training will be criminally liable for non-admittance or desertion, i.e. they will be treated the same way as contract soldiers and conscripts.

The amendments also provide for up to 3 years of imprisonment in a penal colony for a refusal to participate in combat operations; the period increases up to 10 years if such a refusal entailed any grave consequences.

The destruction of military property caused by mishandling during the wartime is punished with up to 5 years in prison.

Additionally, members of the Russian Parliament introduced criminal liability for repeated violation of the terms under the state defence order; that totals 4 to 8 years of imprisonment. The sentence duration increases to 5 to 10 years if the order was not fulfilled, or any damage was dealt that amounted to over 5 million rubles [approximately US$82,640].

In addition, criminal liability was introduced for those who repeatedly refused to fulfil a contract under a state defence order (from 4 to 8 years).

RIA Novosti reports that the Federation Council [of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation] may adopt a package of amendments to the Criminal Code on 21 September.”

  1. Consequences and what to do? 

In Germany, energy price shock triggers fears of an insolvency wave, Reuters reports. “The number of insolvencies like Hakle’s has jumped since August, stirring fears that a wave of bankruptcies could engulf Europe’s largest economy as another consequence of Russia’s energy standoff with Europe. The companies’ plight is heaping more pressure on Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s three-way coalition, which is trying to protect Germans from soaring gas bills, decades-high inflation plus the threats of recession and winter fuel shortages.

The annual energy price increase in Germany in August on average was 139%, latest producer price data showed this week. […] Invoking the English football chant “you’ll never walk alone” as a slogan, Scholz’s government is spending tens of billions of euros on relief measures and has bailed out Germany’s biggest Russian gas importer Uniper. […]

Some 718 German entities became insolvent in August, a 26% jump over the previous year, according to the IWH economic institute. It expects that figure to stay at around 25% in September and climb to 33% in October. […] Germany’s BDI business association has warned of a “massive recession”. In a BDI survey of 593 businesses, more than a third said their existence was threatened by higher energy prices, up from 23% in February.”

Hans Petter Midttun: Today’s assessment will be published as a separate article.

Today, Russia chose to escalate the broader confrontation with the West to make the US and the NATO member states take yet another step backwards.

“I believe that it is necessary to support the implementation of partial mobilisation in order to defend Russia, its sovereignty and integrity,” Putin said.

According to the Russian Minister of Defence, Sergei Shoigu, the mobilization resource in Russia is almost 25 million people, a little more than 1% are subject to partial mobilization. Shoigu said that during the partial mobilization, a total of 300,000 reservists will be called up. He clarified that “those who have served, have a military speciality, combat experience” are subject to partial mobilization. At the same time, “there is no question of any mobilization of students; conscripts are not subject to being sent to a special operation.”

This comes a day after the state Duma introduced concepts of mobilization and wartime in Criminal Code, and the Russian-sponsored militants demanded an immediate referendum to join Russian Federation.

President Putin also stated that Russia would recognize the outcome of the “referenda” on “accession to Russia”, which the leaders of the “LNR/DNR” and local collaborators in the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia oblast decided to hold this month.

The decision to hold the sham referendums in the occupied territories is a sign of fear in the face of Ukrainian advance. It is, however, also an escalation of the broader confrontation between Russia and the West.

For the West, this is a moment of truth. This is the moment to remember the words of Winston Churchill: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.”

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