Russo Ukrainian War. Day 214: Russia announces the nuclear doctrine will apply to “new” territories

 

Daily review

Article by: Hans Petter Midttun

Russia’s nuclear doctrine will apply to “new” territories, said the Russian foreign affairs minister. Enemy kamikaze drones attack Odesa center. Ukrainian forces strike the Russian Guard base in Kherson. Putin signs law stipulating ten years behind bars for desertion and surrender. Zelenskyy has stated that Ukraine guarantees captured Russian soldiers civilized treatment, confidentiality with regard to the circumstances of their surrender, and the opportunity not to return to Russia. Russians launch a massive missile attack on Zaporizhzhia. Russian passports and mobilization notices are issued during the pseudo-referendum in the Luhansk region.

Daily overview — Summary report, September 25

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 06.00 am, September 25, 2022 is in the dropdown menu below.

Situation in Ukraine. September 24, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Situation in Ukraine. September 24, 2022. Source: ISW.

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According to information from the General Staff as of 06.00 25.09.2022, supplemented by its [18:00 assessment].

Donetsk Battle Map. September 24, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Donetsk Battle Map. September 24, 2022. Source: ISW.

“Russian forces continue to focus their efforts on attempts to fully occupy the Donetsk oblast and hold the captured territories, as well as disrupt the active actions of the Defense Forces in certain areas. Fires at the positions of our troops along the contact line, conducts aerial reconnaissance and tries to restore lost positions in certain directions.

Russian forces continue to cynically attack civilian infrastructure and civilian homes. There remains the threat of Russian forces launching air and missile strikes on the entire territory of Ukraine.

Over the past 24 hours, the Russian invaders have launched 7 missile strikes, 22 airstrikes and more than 67 anti-aircraft missiles at military and civilian targets on the territory of Ukraine, violating the norms of international humanitarian law, the laws and customs of warfare.

More than 35 settlements were affected by enemy strikes. Among them are Zaporizhzhia, Ochakiv, Mykolayiv, Myrolyubivka, New York, Bilohorivka, Krasnohorivka, Pavlivka, and Mayorsk.

The situation in the Volyn and Polissya directions has not changed significantly.

In other directions, Russian forces continue shelling from tanks, mortars and barrel artillery, namely:

  • in the Siversky direction – in the areas of the settlements of Huta-Studenetska of the Chernihiv oblast and Bachivsk of the Sumy oblast;
Kharkiv Battle Map. September 24, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Kharkiv Battle Map. September 24, 2022. Source: ISW.

  • in the Slobozhanskyi direction – in the areas of the settlements of Strilecha, Huryiv Kozachok, Dvorichne, Kupyansk and Kucherivka;
  • in the Kramatorsk direction – Sloviansk, Koroviy Yar, Bohorodychne, Yarova and Ozerne;
  • in the Bakhmut direction – Soledar, Bakhmut, Bakhmutske, Opytne, Yakovlivka, Nelipovka, Yuryivka, Bilohorivka, Rozdolivka;
  • in the Avdiyivka direction – Avdiyivka, Vodyane, Maryinka and Paraskoviyvka.
  • More than 20 settlements came under shelling from tanks, mortars and barrel artillery in the Novopavloisk and Zaporizhzhia directions. In particular, Mykilske, Vuhledar, Kurdyumivka, Prechistivka, Shevchenko, Bilohirya, Temyrivka, Vremivka and Olhivske.

Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 214: Russia announces the nuclear doctrine will apply to “new” territories ~~

Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. September 24, 2022. Source: ISW.

  • More than 25 settlements along the contact line were damaged by fire in the Pivdenny Buh direction. In order to carry out reconnaissance, adjust fire and launch strikes on civilian infrastructure objects, Russian forces made more than 30 flights of UAVs.

During the day, units of the Defense Forces of Ukraine repelled enemy attacks in the areas of the settlements of Soledar, Vyimka, Kurdyumivka, Zaitseve, Novomykhailivka, and Pervomaiske. [Yesterday, units of the Defense Forces repelled the attacks of the occupiers in the areas of Petropavlivka, Vyimka, Bakhmutske, Zaitseve, Opytne, Odradivka, Nevelske and Novomykhailivka.]

Aviation of the Defense Forces carried out 26 strikes – it was confirmed that 20 areas of concentration of manpower and military equipment of Russian forces and 6 positions of anti-aircraft missile systems were hit.

[In addition, our air defence units destroyed 4 aircraft (Su-25, two Su-30 and one Su-34), 5 UAVs and a cruise missile of the invaders.]

Missile troops and artillery hit, in particular, 5 control points, 13 areas of concentration of enemy manpower and equipment, 3 positions of anti-aircraft missile complexes, 3 systems of missile troops and artillery, among them “Uragan”, and 2 warehouses with ammunition. Losses are being clarified.

In connection with the partial mobilization announced by the military-political leadership, the Russian command in the temporarily occupied territories is trying to limit the rights of servicemen of the armed forces of the Russian Federation who have signed short-term contracts. In the units of the occupiers in the Zaporizhzhia direction, it was announced that the term of the contract does not matter, and the time of stay in the combat zone from now on depends on the decision of the command. In addition, partial mobilization is called the reason for the delay of vacations and cash payments, which already leads to a significant deterioration of the moral and psychological state of Russian units.

[Partial mobilization measures are ongoing on the territory of the Russian Federation. In connection with the low motivation and readiness of Russian citizens to participate in hostilities on the territory of Ukraine, representatives of the military commissariats began door-to-door rounds with immediate delivery of summonses to men of conscription age in populated areas of the Krasnodar Territory from the first hours of the announced mobilization. Police checkpoints are set up on the main roads to control the movement of the male population. Mobilized personnel, after a short training in training centres, are planned to be sent to replenish military units that suffered numerous losses during the war on the territory of Ukraine.]”

Military Updates

Enemy kamikaze drones attack Odesa center, Ukrinform reports. Russian kamikaze drones struck the city of Odesa again, citing the Odesa City Council. “The enemy struck an administrative building in the centre of the city three times. The rescue and fire extinguishing operations are ongoing, the report reads.”

Ukrainian forces strike the Russian Guard base in Kherson, Ukrinform reports, citing the Operational Command South. “Over the past day, the Russian forces launched four airstrikes on Ukrainian positions along the contact line. In response, our aviation launched five strikes on two enemy air defence systems in the Kherson and Kakhovka districts, on three areas of concentration of weapons and equipment in the Beryslav area. Rocket and artillery units performed 266 fire missions, including by strengthening fire control in the area of ​​the Kakhovka HPP, where the occupiers are trying to build crossings, and by weakening the enemy army at three unit headquarters along the front line. The location of the Russian National Guard in Kherson was struck, and one of the enemy unit headquarters was suppressed in the area of ​​Davydiv Brid, the operational command said.

According to confirmed data, the enemy losses include 57 military personnel and 30 units of equipment, including two Msta-B howitzers, Gvozdika and Akatsia self-propelled howitzers, one Grad MLRS and two staff vehicles and 19 units of other armoured vehicles.

The enemy continues aerial reconnaissance and attempted drone attacks. Two Orlan-10 drones were destroyed in the Beryslav district of the Kherson region and the Bashtanka district of the Mykolaiv region. A Shahed-136 kamikaze drone was downed in the nearby Mykolaiv district. In addition, three enemy ammunition depots were destroyed in the Bashtanka district of Mykolaiv region and the Kherson and Beryslav districts of Kherson region.”

Sabotage and recon groups are highly likely to arrive from Belarus, Ukrinform reports. “The sabotage and reconnaissance groups are highly likely to arrive from Belarus and operate in the territories of Volyn, Rivne, Zhytomyr, and Kyiv regions. Why do they need this? To accuse Ukraine of artificially destabilizing the situation and creating favourable ground for mobilization among Belarusian supporters of Putin, Colonel Anatoliy Shtefan, an officer of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, posted on Telegram.

According to him, about 130 mercenaries of the Wagner/Liga PMC arrived in Minsk for this purpose and started training with the GuardService Belarusian security company. Moreover, a batch of uniforms resembling those of the Armed Forces of Ukraine was delivered to the above-mentioned company. Why do the guards need the uniforms of the Armed Forces of Ukraine? Obviously, not for a parade, Shtefan noted.

As reported, Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko said that mobilization would not be held in his country.”

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

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

  • On 21 September 2022, high-profile Russian nationalist Duma member Aleksandr Khinstein called for the partial mobilisation of Russia’s military to be extended to the Russian National Guard (Rosgvardia).
  • Rosgvardia units have played an important role in both combat and rear-area security in Ukraine and are currently facilitating accession referendums in occupied areas. The force is intended for use in domestic security roles, to ensure the continuity of Putin’s regime. It was particularly ill-prepared for the intense fighting it has experienced in Ukraine.
  • With a requirement to quell growing domestic dissent in Russia, as well as operational taskings in Ukraine, Rosgvardia is highly likely under particular strain. There is a realistic possibility that mobilisation will be used to reinforce Rosgvardia units with additional manpower.
  • On 21 and 22 September 2022, Russia struck the Pechenihy dam on the Siverskyy Donets River using short-range ballistic missiles or similar weapons. This follows a strike on the Karachunivske Dam near Krivyy Rih in central Ukraine on 15 September 2022.
  • Ukrainian forces are advancing further downstream along both rivers. As Russian commanders become increasingly concerned about their operational setbacks, they are probably attempting to strike the sluice gates of dams, in order to flood Ukrainian military crossing points.
  • The attacks are unlikely to have caused significant disruption to Ukrainian operations due to the distance between the damaged dams and the combat zones.

Losses of the Russian army 

As of Sunday 25 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 56700 (+400),
  • Tanks – 2275 (+13),
  • Armoured combat vehicles – 4832 (+25),
  • Artillery systems – 1368 (+7),
  • Multiple rocket launchers –MLRS – 328 (+1),
  • Air defence means – 171 (+1),
  • Aircraft – 259 (+4),
  • Helicopters – 220 (+0),
  • Automotive technology and fuel tanks – 3701 (+20),
  • Vessels/boats – 15 (+0),
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 966 (+10),
  • Special equipment – 130 (+4),
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (+0),
  • Cruise missiles – 241 (+1)

Russian enemy suffered the greatest losses (of the last day) in the Kramatorsk and Donetsk directions.

Humanitarian 

Zelenskyy makes three promises to Russian soldiers who surrender, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has stated that Ukraine guarantees captured Russian soldiers civilised treatment, confidentiality with regard to the circumstances of their surrender, and the opportunity not to return to Russia. […] Zelenskyy addressed the Russian people in Russian.

He emphasised that Russian commanders do not care about the lives of Russians – they just need to fill the empty spaces left by the dead, wounded, those who fled or those who were captured. And those spaces can be filled with “either young IT specialists who have not served [in the army] at all, or pensioners who served only in the Soviet army.

So, now is the key moment for all of you: right now it is being decided whether your life will end or not. It is better not to take a conscription letter than to die in a foreign land as a war criminal. It is better to run away from criminal mobilisation than to be crippled and then bear responsibility in court for participating in the war of aggression. It is better to surrender to Ukrainian captivity than to be killed by the strikes of our weapons, absolutely fair strikes, as Ukraine defends itself in this war, the president emphasised.”

Russians launch a massive missile attack on Zaporizhzhia, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Oleksandr Starukh, Head of the Zaporizhzhia Oblast Military Administration. “The regional centre has become Russian forces’ target once again. The occupiers have launched a massive missile attack. Early reports indicate that there were approximately ten strikes.”

Environmental 

500 Russian fighters and military equipment are currently stationed at ZNPP, Ukrinform reports. “Russia seized this [Zaporizhzhia] nuclear power plant. Ukrainian technical staff are there now but they are like hostages because there are 500 [Russian] fighters and equipment [stationed at ZNPP]. This has already been confirmed by the IAEA, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky told French media in an interview.

The Head of State noted that the ZNPP is currently disconnected from the power grid and the staff struggle to turn on at least one unit out of six. He emphasized that Russia was not interested in the operation of the plant. According to the President, the Russians want the ZNPP not to supply electricity primarily to Ukrainian regions, as well as to Europe.

Zelensky also emphasized the risk of a nuclear explosion at the plant due to the actions of the Russians, recalling that one unit exploded at the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant, while the ZNPP has six units in total.”

The condition of Ukrainian cultural sites amid Russian aggression, Ukrinform reports. “Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska took part in the discussion “Preservation of Ukrainian culture during the war” at the Ukrainian Museum in New York City and talked about the condition of Ukrainian cultural sites in the conditions of Russian aggression.

For half a year, we have had more than 500 damaged or destroyed cultural heritage sites. These are museums, historical buildings, and temples. Everything that was built and created by generations of Ukrainians. For me, as the First Lady of my country and a citizen of Ukraine, the answer is clear: this is a war against our identity. The Russian invaders recognized our state, history, and culture as their enemies. This is a war against Ukrainian culture – past, present, and future. So, this war also has a cultural front. And I ask you, dear colleagues, to stand with us at it, just as the free world now stands with us at the military front,” Zelenska said, the press service of the Head of State informs.”

Legal 

The sham referendum in Luhansk Oblast: Occupiers claim 50% turnout in destroyed cities, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “In Luhansk Oblast, Russian occupiers are claiming that the turnout in the sham referendum has reached 50% in the cities that have been razed to the ground, such as Lysychansk, Sievierodonetsk and Rubizhne.”

Vote or lose your job and salary: Conditions of pseudo-referendum in Mariupol, Ukrinform reports. “The so-called referendum on joining Russia, which is held these days, particularly in occupied Mariupol, has an extremely low turnout. Organizers have to resort to certain conditions.

“Mariupol. Current situation. ‘Referendum’. Yesterday evening, the occupation administration got scolded for the extremely low turnout. Therefore, the morning began with forced voting. ‘Mobile brigades’ were waiting for workers at their workplaces with a simple condition: vote or lose your job and salary,” Petro Andriushchenko, adviser to Mariupol mayor, posted on Telegram. […]

Meanwhile, the results of a sociological survey conducted by Active Group in August 2022 show that the vast majority of respondents in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine are sure that their region should be an integral part of Ukraine, and their well-being and security have significantly deteriorated since the occupation.”

Russian passports and mobilization notices are issued during the pseudo-referendum in the Luhansk region, Ukrinform reports, citing Serhiy Haidai, the head of the Luhansk Regional Military Administration. “Russian passports are issued to people, as well as mobilization notices to men during the sham referendum in Luhansk region.

“It is more like some kind of social survey, although the survey is conducted at gunpoint. Because when some people break into your apartment, and if you don’t open it, they threaten to break down the door. You open it, they come in and give you a cardboard box: ‘You hide behind it and put a checkmark.’ And there are armed men. If you put ‘against’, they put your name in some kind of notebook. If you tick ‘for’ – ‘Congratulations!’ You will also be issued a passport. And if you are a man, the passport is issued together with a mobilization notice. This is some kind of sur,” Haidai said.

He added that the pseudo-voting is more aimed at mobilization, there are no prepared polling stations, and there are simply no observers. In addition, the cities were closed for entry and exit. The budget officials were immediately informed: if you don’t come to the ‘referendum’ or don’t participate, you’ll be sacked, and then maybe something worse, Haidai noted.”

391 children were killed, 773 children injured, 7,820 deported by foe forces, and 235 reported missing – the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine reports as of September 25. 2,500 educational establishments are damaged as a result of shelling and bombings, 289 of them are destroyed fully. 36,161 crimes of aggression and war crimes and 16,288 crimes against national security were registered.

Support 

ATACMS and twice as many HIMARS: President’s Office expects the world to respond to mobilization in Russia, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “Mykhailo Podoliak, the advisor to the Head of the President’s Office, supposes that Ukraine’s partners should provide our state with twice as many HIMARS artillery systems and munitions, as well as tactical missile systems ATACMS with a range of 300 kilometres, in response to the announcement of partial mobilisation in Russia. What should be the allies’ response to the mobilisation in Russia?

  1. Intensification of Ramstein [meetings – ed.].
  2. Twice as many HIMARS and munitions.
  3. ATACMS.
  4. Immediate lift of “taboo” on tanks/armoured combat vehicles.
  5. Training centres for soldiers.”

Podoliak has also pointed out that Ukraine is defending not only itself but the borders of Europe as well. Is it still not clear for the partners? he wondered.

Ukraine war: How to repair the Ukrainian army’s modern weapons, DW reports. “Bundeswehr General Christian Freuding, the leader of the Special Task Force on Ukraine for the German Defense Ministry, was in Kyiv for talks with Ukrainian military leaders in early September. He reported that the Panzerhaubitze 2000 self-propelled howitzers that Germany had delivered to Ukraine were suffering from wear and tear.

They have been used in battle since May. And now, of course, they have some restrictions on their operational readiness, he said. A special task force is working to ensure that we achieve continuity and very quickly return to a high level of operational readiness, for the artillery systems. In these weeks before the approaching winter, there is a focus on repairing worn-out Western weapons. Following the successful counteroffensive by the Ukrainians in the northeast of their country, Germany gave the army four additional Panzerhaubitze 2000 howitzers.

Logistics must be strengthened, said security expert Wolfgang Richter from the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, which advises the federal government in Berlin. And that is exactly what is happening, he added — also in view of the discussion within Germany about whether to deliver Leopard-2 battle tanks, which Chancellor Olaf Scholz has refused to do, at least for now.

Intensive fighting means weapons are worn out. Spare parts for various Western weapons systems need to be kept at the ready as close to the Ukrainian border as possible, Richter told DW. Secondly, you need trained personnel who are capable of repairing Western weapons systems.

It is a difficult endeavour because so many different weapons have been delivered to Ukraine. I think about the different artillery systems as well as the necessary peripheral equipment — of French, Italian, British, US, and German design, said Richter. The military equipment from many countries needs completely different spare parts — and in large quantities.

Looking to the coming months, Michael Kofman, the director of Russia Studies at the US Center for Naval Analyses, said the war in Ukraine will be defined by attrition and reconstitution.”

To keep arming Ukraine, Norway may drop munitions stocks below required levels, Breaking Defence reports. “We are more looking at how we can increase the stocks from previous levels. But we are looking into if you can take even more from our stocks in the short term to support Ukraine. And to then to refill it, Norway’s defence minister said this week. Norway is considering letting stocks of key munitions drop below their required levels, accepting greater vulnerability in the short term as the price the northern European nation is willing to pay to keep up the flow of weaponry to Ukraine.

The move would coincide with a longer-term push to raise the required baseline for munitions stockpiles to new, higher levels down the road. In other words, Norway is prepared to take on short-term risk to keep Russia tied up in Ukraine while looking to expand stockpiles in the future when munition production is more readily available.

The idea was still conceptual and would need the approval of Norway’s parliament. But Norwegian defence minister Bjørn Arild Gram, speaking to a small group of reporters while in Washington this week, said that getting the balance right between present and future planning is going to be a major focus over the coming months. […]

There is a growing concern on both sides of the Atlantic about munition stocks and how quickly the industry can replace the weapons being donated to Ukraine. In July, the defence minister from The Netherlands described the situation as everyone “standing in line at the ammunition factories” and called for more coordination among industry. The Pentagon plans to host a meeting of European armaments leaders to figure out how best to coordinate such efforts, even as US firms struggle to keep up with demand for some of the highest-profile weapons being used by Kyiv.

Ukraine to Request Long List of Weapons From US, Including 2,000 Missiles, Daily Beast reports. “Ukraine is set to put in another order for US weapons it says it needs to continue an offensive against the Russian invasion into 2023, including a long-range missile system the US has been reluctant to provide in the past. According to a list shared with US lawmakers and obtained by The Wall Street Journal, Ukraine wants an Army Tactical Missile System, or ATACMS, which fires missiles from nearly 190 miles. The US had denied initial requests for the system, fearing Ukraine may use it to strike Russian territory, which may escalate the conflict even further. Ukraine’s defence minister previously said it was needed to keep up with Russia’s longer-range multiple rocket launch systems. Also on Ukraine’s laundry list were 29 types of weapon systems and ammunition, including tanks, drones, more Harpoon anti-ship missiles, and 2,000 missiles for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System.”

Zelenskyy: I’m shocked because Israel gave us nothing, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing an interview with President Zelenskyy in Ouest-France, quoted by Suspilne. “I am shocked, and I do not understand [this]. Israel gave us nothing, nothing, zero…I understand that they have to defend their land, but I have received information that Israel is exporting its weapons to other countries.

These are straight facts: there were discussions with the Israeli government, but they have not helped Ukraine. Why wouldn’t they give us air defence [equipment]? Zelenskyy stressed that he was not blaming the Israeli leaders but was simply stating the facts. He also explained that Russia still had an ability to influence Israel. We can see Russia’s influence over Israel. [Though] I do consider Israel to be an independent state, he added.”

New Developments 

  1. Russia’s nuclear doctrine will apply to “new” territories – Lavrov, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Interfax. “Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has stated that all Russian laws and doctrines, including the nuclear doctrine, will apply to the territories of Ukraine that are to join Russia through sham referendums if they are enshrined in the Constitution of Russia.”
  2. Kremlin considers introducing martial law and banning men from leaving the country, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Meduza, quoting the Russian media outlet Verstka. “The Kremlin is discussing the possibility of introducing martial law and banning men from leaving the country.
  3. Putin signs law stipulating ten years behind bars for desertion and surrender, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Interfax and the official legal information portalof the Russian Federation. “Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law amending the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation to specify harsher penalties for desertion, looting and surrender.”
  4. Russian Foreign Ministry states it will be more difficult for Ukraine to negotiate with Kremlin, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing RIA Novosti. “Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, said that Russia would not take the first steps in a dialogue with the West and that the longer Kyiv refuses to negotiate, the harder it will be to do so.”
  5. G7 will never recognize sham referenda in Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine – statement, UkrinformThe countries of the Group of Seven (G7) will never recognize the legitimacy of the sham referenda initiated by Russia in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine, and call on all countries of the world to resolutely oppose these attempts by the Kremlin to justify its own international crimes. This is said a statement of the G7 leaders, the full text of which was published on the website of the European Council. We will never recognise these referenda which appear to be a step toward Russian annexation and we will never recognise a purported annexation if it occurs,” the document reads. They also condemned deliberate Russian escalatory steps, including the partial mobilisation of reservists and irresponsible nuclear rhetoric.”
  6. No country can remain neutral to Russia’s war against Ukraine, UkrinformFaced with this Russian aggression and war crimes, the UN is challenged to fulfil its calling. Everyone in this room, every single country, will be asked one day: What did you do to stop this? What did you do to protect the people of Ukraine? Did you look away, or did you act? In this conflict, there is no room for neutrality. […]To win this peace, we must place the principles of the UN Charter at the forefront again – the principles of territorial integrity and national sovereignty,” Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said in his speech from the rostrum of the UN General Assembly. He noted that today the world is less stable and less secure. This is the result of the “sheer scandal” that one of the founding members of this United Nations has trampled on these principles and unleashed a war that reminds us of Europe’s darkest hours.”
  7. Anti-mobilization protests in Russia: hundreds of protesters detained, some beaten by security forces, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing OVD-Info, an independent media project focusing on human rights and political persecutions in Russia. “According to OVD-Info, as of 19:03 on 24 September, more than 730 people have been detained in 32 cities across Russia. 345 people are known to have been detained in Moscow and 129 in St Petersburg.”

Assessment 

  1. On the war. 

map source: https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-september-24*

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of 24 September, 2022:

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

Eastern Ukraine: (Vovchansk-Kupyansk-Izium-Lyman Line). Ukrainian forces likely continued to make localized gains along the Kharkiv-Luhansk Oblast border on September 24. A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian assault detachments occupied the settlements of Hrianykivka and Horobivka in northeastern Kharkiv Oblast (about 70km east of Chuhuiv). Russian sources additionally indicated that Ukrainian forces are continuing positional battles further south along the Oskil River near Kupyansk. These Russian claims are consistent with a statement made by the Ukrainian General Staff that Ukrainian troops repelled a Russian attack on Petropavlivka, 7km east of Kupyansk, which indicates that Ukrainian forces have made further gains east of Kupyansk. Geolocated combat footage {…] supports this assessment.  

Voice of America reported that recent rainfall has slowed Ukrainian attempts to advance further east of positions along the Oskil River because muddy cross-country terrain makes it difficult to effectively transport heavy weapons and equipment. The recent weather patterns in northeastern Kharkiv Oblast may explain why recent Ukrainian advances near the Kharkiv-Luhansk Oblast border have largely been along existing roadways to the east, which allows Ukrainian troops to threaten Russian positions without having to risk traversing muddy terrain under Russian artillery fire. To the extent that Ukrainian advances are confined to roadways, however, the limited effective Russian forces in the area are more able to concentrate to slow their advances. The fact that Ukrainian forces continue to make gains nevertheless suggests that Russian troops on this axis are weak and vulnerable.

Ukrainian troops also likely continued offensive operations around Lyman on September 24. A Russian source claimed that Ukrainian troops took control of Nove (18km due north of Lyman) and are continuing to push south of Lyman from the Ridkodub-Nove line. Several Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian troops also took control of half of Novoselivka, 10km northwest of Lyman. […]

Southern Ukraine: (Kherson Oblast). Ukrainian military officials maintained operational silence regarding Ukrainian ground maneuvers in Kherson Oblast on September 24 but reiterated that the current Ukrainian interdiction campaign in southern Ukraine is continuing to have tangible impacts on Russian capabilities on this axis. Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command noted that Russian units are attempting to rotate units and conduct limited ground maneuvers in unspecified areas and are setting up new defensive lines that are further removed from the current frontline. These statements suggest that Russian forces are trying to restore and preserve current combat capabilities by rotating likely exhausted units and moving further back into rear areas in the face of continued Ukrainian strikes on Russian concentration areas. Unit rotation suggests that the Russians will be unable to add additional forces to this axis since it implies removing exhausted units likely on a one-for-one basis with relatively fresher units.

Social media footage provides visual evidence that corroborates both Ukrainian and Russian claims of strikes comprising the continued Ukrainian interdiction campaign in Kherson Oblast. Residents of Nova Kakhovka (60km east of Kherson City) reported explosions on September 23 to 24, which corroborates Russian and Ukrainian claims that Ukrainian strikes hit Nova Kakhovka and the nearby Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant and Bersylav district. Footage from Kherson City shows damage to the Antonivskyi Bridge following consistent Ukrainian strikes on the bridge and other Russian transportation assets and concentration areas in the Kherson City area. A Russian source claimed that Ukrainian forces struck Russian positions south of the Dnipro River in the Henichesk area (about 170km southeast of Kherson City and 40 km north of Crimea), which is consistent with a statement made by Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command […].

Russian sources identified three locations where Ukrainian troops conducted active ground operations in Kherson Oblast on September 23 and 24—northern Kherson Oblast, western Kherson Oblast near the Inhulets River, and northwest of Kherson City near the Kherson-Mykolaiv Oblast border. Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian troops are preparing to push south of Novovoznesenske (about 16km south of the Dnipropetrovsk-Kherson Oblast border) and are pulling forces to Osokorivka (25km northeast of Novovoznesenske) to continue efforts to push southwards. Russian sources additionally claimed that Ukrainian troops are continuing to fight in northern Kherson Oblast near Olhyne and Arkhanhelske. Russian sources additionally claimed that Ukrainian troops are fighting in western Kherson near the Inhulets River and continuing positional battles near Sukhyi Stavok. Russian milbloggers additionally indicated that Ukrainian troops are continuing ground maneuvers and positional battles northwest of Kherson City in the Posad-Pokrovske area and pulling reserves from Mykolaiv City to reinforce positions along the Mykolaiv-Kherson Oblast border.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s declarations about which categories of Russian males will be exempted from partial mobilization may not reflect Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions or orders. A Russian media insider claimed on September 24 that officials of the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) reprimanded military commissars in person for negligence in carrying out mobilization and sending out summonses in “excess,” and contrary to the explicit MoD guidance regarding exemptions for age, disability, or other limiting factors. Another Russian source claimed that certain heads of federal subjects acknowledged that they have mobilized citizens who are technically ineligible.

Responsibility for the partial mobilization appears to be divided and complex, possibly contributing to confusion, disorganization, and violations of Shoigu’s commitments regarding exemptions. The mobilization decree specifies that Russian federal subjects are responsible for executing the mobilization while the MoD sets quotas and deadlines for filling them. A Russian milblogger, in fact, criticized the governor of Russia’s Belgorod Oblast for not being an active participant in the mobilization process and noted that the mobilization decree places the onus of carrying out mobilization orders on the heads of federal subjects and not on military commissars. Military commissars likely work for the heads of federal subjects, however, rather than directly for the MoD, making both responsible for mobilization and creating a possible gap between them and the Defense Ministry.

The military commissars are generally acting as if they had received orders to prioritize getting bodies to training centers over adhering to Shoigu’s guidelines, and the seemingly confused chains of responsibility for executing the mobilization decree may be responsible for the divergence between Shoigu’s statements and commissars’ actions. Shoigu emphatically reiterated on September 21 that mobilization is partial and will only rely on those already in the reserve and with combat experience and military experience, but military commissars failed to adhere to Shoigu’s guidance, practically from the onset of the mobilization order. Continued reports of military commissars conducting chaotic distribution of mobilization summonses indicate that they feel significant pressure to carry out mobilization as quickly as possible. Ukrainian sources reported that Russian authorities are immediately mobilizing individuals in occupied areas of Ukraine after “rewarding” them with Russian passports for participating in sham referenda rather than waiting until annexation makes the mobilization of eligible males in Russian-occupied areas legal under Russian law.  This haste suggests that military commissars feel pressure to expedite mobilization which is not reflected in Shoigu’s statements. The MoD is evidently not in full control of mobilization, raising questions about which Russian males actually will be mobilized and how effective the mobilized force will be.

Positions held by senior Russian military leadership are continuing to change hands, suggesting that Russian President Vladimir Putin is continuing to see systemic problems as the result of the personal failings of senior subordinates. The Russian MoD reported on September 24 that Colonel-General Mikhail Mizintsev has been appointed Deputy Defense Minister and will oversee logistics for the Russian Armed Forces, replacing Army General Dmitry Bulgakov. Mizintsev previously acted as head of the Russian National Defense Control Center and served during Russian operations in Syria, notably commanding troops on the operational-tactical level during the encirclement of Ukrainian forces in Mariupol. The replacement of individual senior leaders is very unlikely to fix fundamental structural problems in the Russian military. It reflects Putin’s personality-driven approach to leadership and relative disdain for system-building—both factors that contributed to the overall failures of the Russian military in this war.

Key Takeaways

  • Local military commissars are carrying out mobilization orders in a way that suggests a possible disconnect between Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu’s guidelines for partial mobilization and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s demands for haste.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin is likely continuing to address systemic issues in Russian senior command by replacing individual senior subordinates.
  • Russia may be preparing to forcibly mobilize Ukrainian prisoners of war in what may constitute a violation of the Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War.
  • Ukrainian forces likely continued to make gains along the Kharkiv-Luhansk Oblast border and northwest of Lyman.
  • Ukrainian military officials indicated that the continued Ukrainian interdiction campaign in southern Ukraine is degrading Russian combat capabilities.
  • Russian sources identified three locations where Ukrainian troops conducted ground operations in Kherson Oblast– northern Kherson Oblast, western Kherson Oblast near the Inhulets River, and northwest of Kherson City near the Mykolaiv-Kherson Oblast border.
  • Russian forces conducted ground attacks around Bakhmut, Donetsk City, and in western Donetsk Oblast.

Russian authorities continue to coerce residents of occupied Ukrainian territory into voting in sham referenda.

As Russian Losses Mount in Ukraine, Putin Gets More Involved in War Strategy, The New York Times reports. The Russian president has rejected requests from commanders in the field that they be allowed to retreat from Kherson, a vital city in Ukraine’s south. President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has thrust himself more directly into strategic planning for the war in Ukraine in recent weeks, American officials said, including rejecting requests from his commanders on the ground that they be allowed to retreat from the vital southern city of Kherson.

A withdrawal from Kherson would allow the Russian military to pull back across the Dnipro River in an orderly way, preserving its equipment and saving the lives of soldiers. But such a retreat would be another humiliating public acknowledgment of Mr. Putin’s failure in the war and would hand a second major victory to Ukraine in one month. Kherson was the first major city to fall to the Russians in the initial invasion and remains the only regional capital under Moscow’s control. […]

American officials briefed on highly sensitive intelligence said that behind the scenes Mr. Putin is taking on an even deeper role in the war, including telling commanders that strategic decisions in the field are his to make. Although Mr. Putin has accepted some recommendations from military commanders, including the mobilization of civilians, his involvement has created tensions, American officials said.

The officials said that Mr. Putin’s rejection of a military pullback from Kherson has also led to a decrease in morale among Russian troops who have been mostly cut off from their supply lines, and who appear to believe they could be left stranded against Ukrainian forces. […]

Some American officials said they saw trouble ahead for the Russian military in the southern theater. A senior US official said this week that Ukraine was well on its way to repeating in the south the gains its forces had managed during a lightning offensive in the northeast earlier this month. If Ukraine pushes Russian forces back farther, Mr. Putin’s hard-fought-for land bridge to Crimea, the territory it captured from Ukraine and annexed in 2014, could eventually be threatened, American officials said.

The divisions over Kherson are only the latest disagreements between Mr. Putin and his top commanders. Senior Russian officers repeatedly questioned the early plans for the war, American officials said, particularly an initial stage that envisioned a quick strike on Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital. The Russian officers believed Mr. Putin was going to war with insufficient troops and weaponry, American officials said.

The Russian officers’ concerns proved correct, and after the defeat of the Russian army outside Kyiv, Mr. Putin eased up his control of military planning. He allowed senior generals to create a new strategy focused on massive artillery barrages, American officials said. The new strategy was effectively a grinding war of attrition that played to the Russian military’s strength and succeeded in pushing the army forward in eastern Ukraine. […]

Pulling back past the Dnipro River would likely allow Russian commanders to hold the line in the south with fewer troops. That would give them more latitude to redeploy forces from Kherson to other areas, either pushing back against the Kharkiv counteroffensive in the northeast, solidifying defensive lines in the eastern Donbas region or opening up a new front in the south. […]

“In this war there has been a consistent mismatch between Putin’s political objectives and the military means to attain them,” said Michael Kofman, director of Russia studies at CNA, a defense research institute in Arlington, Va. “At important decision points Putin has procrastinated, refusing to recognize the reality, until the options turned from bad to worse.” […]

In addition to blocking a retreat from Kherson, Mr. Putin has raised doubts about Russian efforts to consolidate their position in the northeast near the Oskil River, which the Ukrainian counteroffensive reached this month. Mr. Putin, an American official said, has opposed pulling back there as well, because he is reluctant to hand anything to Mr. Zelensky that looks like a win. […]

Kremlin wants to introduce martial law and ban men from leaving the country, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Meduza, quoting the Russian media outlet Verstka. “The Kremlin is discussing the possibility of introducing martial law and banning men from leaving the country. According to information from Verstka’s sources in the Russian parliament, Putin’s address to the Federal Assembly will be delivered on 30 September by analogy with 2014, when Russia unlawfully annexed Crimea.

This means that members of parliament and senators will probably assemble in the Kremlin’s St George Hall, where Putin will inform them of the results of the sham referendums held in the occupied territories. This will be followed by the signing of an “agreement” on the “accession” of those territories. Alternatively, Putin may go to the State Duma [the lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia – ed.].

The possibility of introducing martial law is also being discussed in the Kremlin currently. According to Verstka’s sources, this could happen if Ukraine continues to attack the so-called accessed territories, that is, the Russian-occupied Ukrainian territories where sham referendums on joining Russia are to be fabricated. Two sources close to the Kremlin called the plan to introduce martial law “undesirable, but possible”.”

Kremlin considers mobilising Abkhazia and South Ossetia residents. Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Meduza. “The Kremlin is considering a possibility to mobilise not only Russians, but also citizens of self-proclaimed Republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia to join Russia’s war with Ukraine. 

Most civilised countries consider Abkhazia and South Ossetia to be territories of Georgia. Russia officially recognised their independence after the war with Georgia in 2008. Administrations of those Republics are controlled by the Kremlin.»

Complaints about Russia’s chaotic mobilization grow, Reuters reports. “The strongly pro-Kremlin editor of Russia’s state-run RT news channel expressed anger on Saturday that enlistment officers were sending call-up papers to the wrong men, as frustration about a military mobilisation grew. Wednesday’s announcement of Russia’s first public mobilisation since World War Two, to shore up its faltering Ukraine war, has triggered a rush for the border, the arrests of over 1,000 protesters, and unease in the wider population.

It is also attracting criticism from the Kremlin’s own official supporters, something almost unheard of in Russia since the invasion began. It has been announced that privates can be recruited up to the age of 35. Summonses are going to 40-year-olds, the RT editor-in-chief, Margarita Simonyan, railed on her Telegram channel. They’re infuriating people, as if on purpose, as if out of spite. As if they’d been sent by Kyiv.

In another rare sign of turmoil, the defence ministry said that the deputy minister in charge of logistics, General Dmitry Bulgakov, had been replaced “for transfer to another role” with Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev, a long-time army official. […]

Reports have surfaced of men with no military experience or past draft age receiving call-up papers, adding to outrage that has revived dormant – and banned – anti-war demonstrations. More than 1,300 protesters were arrested in 38 towns on Wednesday, and on Saturday evening more than 740 were detained in over 30 towns and cities from St. Petersburg to Siberia, according to the independent monitoring group OVD-Info. […]

Earlier, the head of the Kremlin’s Human Rights Council, Valery Fadeyev, announced he had written to Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu with a request to “urgently resolve” problems. His Telegram posting criticised the way exemptions were being applied and listed cases of inappropriate enlistment including nurses and midwives with no military experience. […] Since Wednesday, people have queued for hours to cross into Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Finland or Georgia, scared Russia might close its borders, although the Kremlin says reports of an exodus are exaggerated.”

General Staff of Armed Forces of Ukraine reveals where Russia could send new conscripts, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Brigadier General Oleksii Hromov, Deputy Head of Main Operational Directive of the General Staff of Ukraine. “According to Russia’s mobilisation plans, approximately 300,000 people will be subject to conscription. Based on the preliminary evaluations, this military call-up will have at least two stages, or more.

During the first stage, which will take place probably in a month or a month and a half, Russian forces is going to supplement its formations and military units that are engaged in conducting military actions on the territory of Ukraine to the point where the staff is 100% complete. It is also possible that some of these forces will be sent to supplement the Border Service of the Federal Security Service of Russia, in order to free military personnel of the units of their Armed Forces that are involved in covering the border with our country.”

According to Hromov, the biggest part of those subject to conscription are going to be sergeants, privates, as well as low-rank officers. This is the category [of servicemen] that has suffered the most significant losses on Russian forces’s side, he explained.

It is possible that Russian forces will keep conducting its mobilisation measures during the second stage, and create an appropriate number of combined army formations of operational and tactical levels, and an appropriate set of rocket and artillery units. At the same time, we understand that Russian forces does not have professionals of certain specialties at the moment. And training them will take some time. Therefore, first of all, Russian forces focused on forming combined army units, rocket and artillery units, the representative of the General Staff said.

Hromov also pointed out that, according to Ukrainian intelligence, the Kremlin’s haste in announcing the partial mobilisation is due to increased internal and external threats to Putin’s regime. First and foremost, it is [due to] the inability of the current Russian government to reach the announced goals of “a special military operation”, an increasing support of Ukraine by Western countries, and our state’s continued course towards NATO membership. It is also due to aggravation of social and economic problems in Russia, as well as strengthening of sanction pressure on the Russian Federation, Hromov stated.

He also added that the Armed Forces of Ukraine were ready for any development of events. 300,000 [men] or whatever – Ukraine is going to win, he stressed.”

Kremlin hints at the use of nuclear weapons if Ukraine liberates its territories after “referendums“, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing RIA Novosti. “Dmitry Peskov, the Russian president’s press secretary, has said that in the event that Ukraine attacks the occupied Ukrainian territories where the so-called “referendums” are taking place, “the constitution of Russia will come into force.”

Of course. The Constitution of the Russian Federation will immediately come into force with regard to these territories. And everything is extremely clear in this respect. According to Peskov, Russia will consider Ukraine’s attempts to regain occupied territories after a so-called “referendum” as an attack on the territory of the Russian Federation.”

 

  1. Consequences and what to do? 

Zelenskyy’s “formula of peace”: 5 steps to stabilise international relations, Ukrainska Pravda reports. President Zelenskyy “said that Ukraine had proposed a “formula of peace, its way to the stabilisation of international relations” at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly. Different countries shared a willingness to hear the specifics [of Ukraine’s pathway to peace]. Specifics on how to restore peace, how to end this war. Ukraine presented its vision. Clear, logical, fair, and realistic. Zelenskyy said that Ukraine’s “formula of peace” contains five points:

  • First: punishment for the aggressor.
  • Second: protection of life, that is, ensuring Ukraine gets all the defence assistance that it needs.
  • Third: restoration of security and territorial integrity.
  • Fourth: Security guarantees.
  • Fifth: the world’s determination to achieve these goals together with Ukraine.

Zelenskyy added that Russia, in turn, has offered nothing but lame excuses, complaints and constant lies and propaganda, which the world got tired of long ago, but Russian representatives are still continuing to repeat.”

 

Hans Petter Midttun: The US and European Defence Industry still need to make the transition from peacetime to “wartime” production. It has historically taken the US defence industrial base 18 months to 3 years to get ready for conflicts. That is equally relevant for the European Defence Industry.

I have previously questioned NATO’s ability to deliver what is needed. Not necessarily for the lack of will, but for the lack of equipment and ammunition. I have also reported on the defence industries facing supply chain problems, labour constraints and inflationary pressures that could hold back their efforts to scale up production.

To keep arming Ukraine, Norway may drop munitions stocks below required levels. Britain runs low on ammo as Ukraine bombards Kremlin forces. “Arms industry yet to ramp up production despite Ukraine’s need for weapons”. The US has provided Ukraine with so many weapons and ammunition to counter Russia’s unprovoked invasion that Pentagon stockpiles for some munitions are “uncomfortably low. The US Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Colin Kahl recently said that it would take one, two or even three years to deliver some of the weapons promised to Ukraine.

The Lithuanian Defense Minister has stressed that it is practically impossible to replace the equipment provided to Ukraine with a new one anytime soon. Why? Because of international competition for the limited production capability available. Estonia is reportedly taking very heavy risks of itis own national security as it is tapping into its reserves to supply Ukraine. More allies are doing the same.

Germany says that its weapons stocks are depleted amid support for Ukraine. In July, the defence minister from The Netherlands described the situation as everyone “standing in line at the ammunition factories” and called for more coordination among the industry.

According to Financial Time, “the Ukraine war has exposed the skimpiness of western defence stockpiles — especially of unglamorous but crucial supplies such as artillery shells that have been the mainstay of fighting. Lack of production capacity, labour shortages and supply chain snafus — especially computer chips — mean long lead times to replenish them.

The shortages, defence officials and analysts say, reveal the west’s complacency about potential threats since the end of the cold war, now shown up by the desire to shore up Ukraine with military support. Fetishes for high-tech weaponry and lean manufacturing have obscured the importance of maintaining stockpiles of basic kit, they add. […]

Total annual US production of 155mm artillery shells, for example, would last less than two weeks of combat in Ukraine, according to Alex Vershinin, a US procurement expert who says the conflict marks the return of industrial warfare”.

According to Breaking Defense, “there is a growing concern on both sides of the Atlantic about munition stocks and how quickly the industry can replace the weapons being donated to Ukraine. The Pentagon plans to host a meeting of European armaments leaders to figure out how best to coordinate such efforts, even as US firms struggle to keep up with demand for some of the highest-profile weapons being used by Kyiv.”

More importantly, as Russia is mobilising and planning to equip its new and old formations with older weapons, it fully recognises the Western shortcomings. While Russia is facing problems ramping up its own production of ammunition because of the Western sanctions, it is not suffering from the same limitations in stockpiles as NATO members. While Europe has been in deep peace since the 90s, Russia has after all been in a state of constant conflict since early 2000.

8 years and 7 months into the war, the West has failed to ramp up the defence industries’ production capacity. Failing to understand the scope of the Russian aggressive foreign policy – failing to respond forcefully to its many transgressions of international law since 2007 – failing to strengthen their defence budgets and re-build the armed forces – and still continuing to maintain that NATO is not engaged in a broader conflict with Russia is no less a strategic blunder than the President Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine.

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