Russo Ukrainian War. Day 222: Ukrainian counteroffensive continues

 

Daily review

Article by: Hans Petter Midttun

Ukrainian forces continued to liberate settlements east and northeast of Lyman and have liberated Torske in Donetsk Oblast. Russian sources claimed that Russian forces withdrew from their positions northeast of Lyman, likely to positions around Kreminna and along the R66 Svatove-Kreminna highway. Ukrainian forces continued to advance on settlements east of Kupyansk and have liberated Kisharivka in Kharkiv Oblast. Russian forces continued to launch unsuccessful assaults in the Donetsk Oblast. Ukrainian forces resumed counteroffensives in northern Kherson Oblast. Russian forces continued to target Kryvyi Rih and Mykolaiv Oblast with Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones. IAEA head seeks release of Ukrainian nuclear plant head. Germany, Denmark, and Norway to deliver 16 howitzers to Ukraine.

Daily overview — Summary report, October 3

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 06.00 am, October 3, 2022 is in the dropdown menu below

Situation in Ukraine. October 2, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Situation in Ukraine. October 2, 2022. Source: ISW.

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The two hundred-twenty-second (222) day of the heroic resistance of the Ukrainian people to a russian military large-scale invasion continues.
The enemy continues to focus its efforts on attempts to occupy the Donetsk oblast, hold the captured territories, as well as disrupt the active actions of the Defence Forces in certain directions. The enemy is shelling the positions of our troops along the contact line, conducting aerial reconnaissance. Attacks civilian infrastructure and civilian homes, violating international humanitarian law, laws and customs of war. There remains the threat of the enemy launching air and missile strikes on the entire territory of Ukraine.
Donetsk Battle Map. October 2, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Donetsk Battle Map. October 2, 2022. Source: ISW.

Over the past day, the occupiers have launched 11 missile and 10 air strikes, carried out more than 65 MLRS shellings.
More than 35 settlements were affected by enemy strikes. Among them are Ridkodub, Sloviansk, Kramatorsk, Bilohorivka, Bakhmut, Netaylovye, Vodyane, Maryinka, Vremivka, Kryvyi Rih, Zaporizhzhia, Zaliznychne, and Mykolayiv.
In the Volyn and Polissya directions, the situation remains without significant changes.
In other directions, the enemy fired from tanks and artillery of various types:
in the Siverskyi direction – in the areas of Ukrainske settlements of Chernihiv oblast and Basivka, Pysarivka and Kyyanytsia of Sumy oblast;
in the Kramatorsk direction – in the areas of Novosadove, Terny, Yampil, Siversk, Verkhnokamianske and Spirne settlements;
in the Bakhmut direction – in the areas of the settlements of Fedorivka, Rozdolivka, Vesele, Bilohorivka, Yakovlivka, Soledar, Bakhmutske, Bakhmut, Odradivka, Zaitseve, Toretsk, Mayorsk, Nelipivka and Yuryivka;
in the Avdiyivka oblast – Avdiyivka, Pervomaiske, Vodyane, Karlivka, Krasnohorivka, Maryinka and Novomykhailivka.
In the Novopavlivskyi and Zaporizhzhia directions, the enemy shelled the areas of Vremivka, Velyka Novosilka, Neskuchne, Novoukrainka, Prechystivka, Vuhledar, Pavlivka, Mykilske, Rivnopillia, Olhivske, Zaliznychne, and Mala Tokmachka settlements with mortars, tanks, and rocket artillery.
More than 45 settlements along the contact line were shelled in the South Buh direction.
Kherson and Mykolaiv Battle Map. October 2, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Kherson and Mykolaiv Battle Map. October 2, 2022. Source: ISW.

According to the updated information, it was confirmed that enemy personnel and military equipment were damaged in the Zaporizhzhia region in the previous days. This is one personnel concentration area, three warehouses with ammunition, more than twenty pieces of weapons and military equipment, one S-300 anti-aircraft missile complex. In total, more than two hundred and fifty occupiers were injured. Information about liquidated ones is being clarified.
Over the past day, units of the Defence Forces of Ukraine repelled enemy attacks in the areas of Zaitseve, Bakhmutske, Bakhmut, Odradivka, Vyimka, Spirne, Nevelske and Pervomaiske settlements.
Aviation of the Defense Forces carried out seven strikes during the past 24 hours. It was confirmed that the command post, five locations of weapons and military equipment, as well as the enemy’s anti-aircraft missile complex were hit. In addition, our air defense units shot down one Ka-52 helicopter, one Su-25 attack aircraft and eight unmanned aerial vehicles.
Over the past day, missile forces and artillery, in particular, hit two command posts, fourteen areas of concentration of manpower, weapons and military equipment, three warehouses with ammunition and fuel and oil, as well as eight other important enemy facilities.

Military Updates

Russian shelling. Icelandic Data Analyst. ~

Russian shelling. Icelandic Data Analyst.

Zelenskyy confirms the liberation of Arkhanhelske and Myroliubivka, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has officially confirmed the liberation of two settlements in Kherson Oblast – Arkhanhelske and Myroliubivka. Russian propagandists started panicking and reporting the success of a Ukrainian counteroffensive in Kherson Oblast on social media on 2 October.

Specifically, the liberation of the village of Khreshchenivka in Kherson Oblast was reported on social media on 2 October. The Armed Forces of Ukraine have not officially confirmed this information yet.”

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1576533638883160064

Ukraine’s Armed Forces liberate Torske and strike occupiers in Kreminna, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “Ukrainian soldiers have liberated the village of Torske near Lyman in Donetsk Oblast. The village is located on the road to the town of Kreminna. They are also firing at Russian troops in Kreminna.

While commenting on the liberation of Lyman, where thousands of occupiers were encircled, Cherevatyi said that “part of them has been killed, part has been captured, and part has succeeded to retreat in small convoys or groups. Now, some part of them is trying to defend Kreminna.”

The spokesman for the Eastern grouping of Ukrainian forces has pointed out that the Armed Forces of Ukraine were capturing the remaining occupiers in the woods near Lyman, and they were clearing mines as the place is heavily mined.”

Russian forces flee from Lyman to Shchastia – regional administration chief, Ukrinform reports, citing the Head of the Luhansk Regional Military Administration, Serhii Haidai. “Russian troops who survived the liberation of Lyman by the Ukrainian Armed Forces have fled to the temporarily occupied Shchastya, Luhansk region.”

Ukrainian forces destroy two Russian Ka-52 helicopters on the eastern front, Ukrinform reports. “The press service of the Joint Forces Task Force published a video showing the destruction of the helicopters on Facebook. Air defence units in eastern Ukraine destroyed two Ka-52 helicopters, three Orlan-10 UAVs and a Shahed 136 suicide drone over the past 24 hours, the report said.”

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

  • On 29 September 2022, President Putin addressed his National Security Council on the ‘partial mobilisation’ he had announced on 21 September. He said, ‘a lot of questions are being raised during this mobilisation campaign, and we must promptly correct our mistakes and not repeat them.’
  • Putin’s unusually rapid acknowledgment of problems highlights the dysfunction of the mobilisation over its first week. Local officials are likely unclear on the exact scope and legal rationale of the campaign. They have almost certainly drafted some personnel who are outside the definitions claimed by Putin and the Ministry of Defence
  • As drafted reservists continue to assemble at tented transit camps, Russian officials are likely struggling to provide training and in finding officers to lead new units.
  • On 1 October 2022, the Russian force in the Donetsk Oblast town of Lyman withdrew in the face of Ukrainian advances. Lyman was likely being defended by undermanned elements of Russia’s Western and Central Military Districts as well as contingents of voluntarily mobilised reservists. The force probably experienced heavy casualties as it withdrew along the only road out of the town still in Russian hands.
  • Operationally, Lyman is important because it commands a key road crossing over the Siversky Donets River, behind which Russia has been attempting to consolidate its defences. Russia’s withdrawal from Lyman also represents a significant political setback given that it is located within Donetsk Oblast, a region Russia supposedly aimed to ‘liberate’ and has attempted to illegally annex.
  • The withdrawal has led to a further wave of public criticism of Russia’s military leadership by senior officials. Further losses of territory in illegally occupied territories will almost certainly lead to an intensification of this public criticism and increase the pressure on senior commanders.

Losses of the Russian army 

As of 3 October, 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 60430 (+320),
  • Tanks – 2380 (+3),
  • Armoured combat vehicles – 4991 (+16),
  • Artillery systems – 1405 (+0),
  • Multiple rocket launchers –MLRS – 338 (+1),
  • Air defence means – 176 (+0),
  • Aircraft – 265 (+1),
  • Helicopters – 228 (+1),
  • Automotive technology and fuel tanks – 3811 (+15),
  • Vessels/boats – 15 (+0),
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 1026 (+11),
  • Special equipment – 131 (+0),
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (+0),
  • Cruise missiles – 246 (+0)

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

Humanitarian 

Big PoW exchange: Negotiations complicated by rivalry between Russia’s defence and security agencies, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing the Head of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine (DIU) in charge of prisoner exchanges: “There is a degree of rivalry and tension between Russia’s [security and defence] agencies. The fewer of them [involved in negotiations], the easier it was. The FSB had already launched an investigation regarding Ukraine’s military commanders, so this aspect of the negotiations was the hardest.

Budanov noted that the negotiations could have lasted even longer if soldiers from the Azov Regiment had been put on trial in Russia. Under those circumstances, the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation would have become another party to the negotiations. Ukrainian commanders, such as Denys Prokopenko, Serhii Volynskyi, Sviatoslav Palomar, Denys Shleha and Oleh Khomenko, were all held in different detention centres in Moscow. In contrast to other prisoners of war, it was the FSB that was in charge of them, and not the intelligence officers from the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Russian Ministry of Defence.

808 people were released from Russian captivity as part of 24 prisoner swaps, Ukrinform reports, citing Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar. “As of October 2, Ukraine returned 808 people from Russian captivity as part of 24 exchanges of prisoners and hostages. As of today [October 2], 24 exchanges of prisoners were carried out, and 808 people were released from captivity, said Maliar.

She recalled that at the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion, the Cabinet of Ministers decided to establish the Coordination Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War, which operates on the basis of the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense and unites more than ten state institutions and organizations. In this context, Maliar emphasized that Ukraine complies with all norms of the Geneva Conventions regarding the treatment of prisoners of war.”

Environmental 

IAEA head seeks release of Ukrainian nuclear plant head, Reuters reports. “The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog called for the release of the director-general of Ukraine’s Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, saying his detention posed a threat to safety and security.

A Russian patrol detained Ihor Murashov on Friday, the state-owned company in charge of the plant said on Saturday, and the International Atomic Energy Agency said Russia had confirmed the move.

“IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi expressed the hope that Mr Murashov will return to his family safely and promptly and will be able to resume his important functions at the plant,” the agency tweeted late on Saturday.

The IAEA has been in contact with relevant authorities seeking clarifications on his temporary detention, which it said had a “very significant impact” on him and nuclear safety and security standards.”

Legal 

416 children were killed, 784 children injured, 7,894 deported by foe forces, and 239 reported missing – the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine reports as of October 3. 2,562 educational establishments are damaged as a result of shelling and bombings, 295 of them are destroyed fully. As of October 2, 37,706 crimes of aggression and war crimes and 16,779 crimes against national security were registered.

Support 

Joint statement of Presidents of Central and Eastern European NATO Member States on Russian attempts to illegally annex Ukrainian territories. “We Presidents of Central and Eastern Europe, countries whose leaders have visited Kyiv during the war and witnessed with their own eyes the effects of Russian aggression, cannot stay silent in the face of the blatant violation of international law by the Russian Federation, and therefore are issuing the following statement:

We reiterate our support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. We do not recognize and will never recognize Russian attempts to annex any Ukrainian territory. We firmly stand behind the 2008 Bucharest NATO Summit decision concerning Ukraine’s future membership.

We support Ukraine in its defence against Russia’s invasion, demand Russia to immediately withdraw from all the occupied territories and encourage all Allies to substantially increase their military aid to Ukraine. All those who commit crimes of aggression must be held accountable and brought to justice.

President of the Czech Republic, President of the Republic of Estonia, President of the Republic of Latvia, President of the Republic of Lithuania, President of the Republic of North Macedonia, President of Montenegro, President of the Republic of Poland, President of Romania, and President of the Slovak Republic

President’s Office: New package of EU sanctions against Russia should be much stronger, Ukrinform reports, citing Ihor Zhovkva, Deputy Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine. “He agreed with the assessment of the new package by Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Dmytro Kuleba who stated that the sanctions did not correspond to the level of the threat currently posed by new Russian attempts to annex Ukrainian territories and the ongoing aggression against the EU.

The President also discusses this with the leaders. As of this moment, after what happened on Friday in the Russian Federation and what may happen next week – recognition [of the annexation of Ukrainian territories] in the [Russian] parliament and ultimatums which may follow – certainly, such a package, or rather, the proposals for this package look weak, Zhovkva believes.”

Germany, Denmark, and Norway to deliver 16 howitzers to Ukraine, AP News reports. “German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht on Sunday announced the delivery of 16 wheeled armoured howitzers produced in Slovakia to Ukraine next year. The Zuzana systems would be produced in Slovakia and financed jointly with Denmark, Norway and Germany […].

The Zuzana howitzer is the flagship product of the Slovak defence industry and the only heavy weapon system produced in the country, DPA reported. According to the manufacturer, it can fire all types of NATO 155-millimeter calibre ammunition. The German ministry put the total value of the procurement at 92 million euros ($90 million), with the three countries financing it equally.”

The first corvette built for Ukraine’s Navy launched in Turkey, Ukrinform reports. “In Istanbul, a solemn ceremony of launching the Ada-class corvette built in Turkey for Ukraine’s Navy took place with the participation of First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska and Commander of the Navy of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Oleksiy Neyizhpapa. As reported, the construction of the Ada-class corvette for the Navy of the Armed Forces of Ukraine began in April 2021.”

Latest US Military Package for Ukraine Suggests Shift in Focus to Long, Open-Ended War, The New York Times reports. “The Pentagon said on Wednesday it would send an additional $1.1 billion in long-term military aid to Ukraine, including 18 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System launchers, or HIMARS, one of the most vaunted weapons of the seven-month war with Russia. But unlike the 16 HIMARS the military rushed to Ukraine from its existing stockpiles over the summer, these new weapons will be ordered from the manufacturer, Lockheed Martin, and will take “a few years” to deliver, a senior Defense Department official told reporters. […]

Privately, American commanders have also voiced concern that if the United States sends more HIMARS vehicles immediately, the Ukrainians will burn through the rocket ammunition provided by the Pentagon too quickly, potentially jeopardizing American military readiness in the coming months.

The promise of new military aid comes at a critical time in the war, when Ukraine has the momentum on the battlefield, and has retaken vast stretches of land in the east and is pressing entrenched Russian forces in the south. The Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, is mobilizing up to 300,000 reservists in an attempt to shore up his forces, and Ukrainian commanders are pushing to try to take back as much territory as they can before the winter freeze forces both sides to slow their operations and dig in.

The HIMARs systems have proven effective at cutting Russian supply lines, destroying ammunition depots, bridges, rail links, and troop concentrations far beyond the lines. […] Pentagon officials have said for weeks that with the American HIMARS and 10 similar rocket systems already delivered to the battlefield — 26 rocket-launchers in all — Ukraine has enough of the weapons to attack the Russian targets it wants. Indeed, the satellite-guided rockets fired by HIMARS have struck more than 400 Russian ammunition depots, command posts and radars.

The new shipment announced on Wednesday also includes 150 Humvees, 150 vehicles for towing artillery, radars, counter-drone systems and body armour, which the senior Pentagon official said would be delivered from manufacturers in the next six to 24 months. That brings to $16.2 billion in total military aid that the United States has committed to Ukraine since the war started in February.

The $1.1 billion in new equipment will be paid for by the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, a congressionally approved fund that allows Ukrainian leaders to purchase military goods directly from the defence industry.

US ready to send $1.5B in aid to Ukraine until the war ends – media, Ukrinform reports, citing Bloomberg. “The US is willing to support Ukraine’s finances with $1.5 billion a month in aid throughout the war against Russia and is pushing its European allies to commit to similar amounts, the report reads, citing people familiar with the matter.

US Congress during the approval of assistance packages to Ukraine will be insisting that the obligations be distributed between allies more fairly. With the EU haggling internally over the delivery of previous pledges, allies have been discussing a more regular mechanism to help keep Ukraine’s economy afloat, the report adds.

New Developments 

  1. Office of President of Ukraine announces conditions under which negotiations with Russia may resume, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Ukraine’s President’s Office. “Russia does not want to negotiate – it only launches ultimatums. If the Russian army leaves the entire territory of Ukraine, including Crimea, the negotiations could resume“.
  2. Borders of Russian-annexed occupied territories are announced, Ukrainska PravdaAccording to the agreements submitted to the State Duma of the Russian Federation, the borders of the so-called DPR and LPR [Donetsk and Luhansk “People’s Republics”] and Zaporizhzhia and Kherson Oblasts, which the Russian Federation has supposedly taken over, will be defined as the borders that existed on the day of their formation and admission as part of Russia“.
  3. Russian parliament to consider legal steps to absorb Ukrainian regions, ReutersRussia’s parliament will consider on Monday bills and ratification treaties to absorb four Ukrainian regions, RIA Novosti news agency cited the speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament, Vyacheslav Volodin, as saying on Sunday.”
  4. Russia’s Constitutional Court approves annexation of Ukraine’s oblasts, calls “parliamentary elections“, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing TASS. “The Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation has approved a package of documents on the “admission” of the occupied “DPR”, “LPR”, as well as Kherson and Zaporizhzhia oblasts in Russia. The Russian authoritative body even scheduled “elections” to “parliaments” for 2023. According to the decree issued by the Constitutional Court, “DPR” and “LPR” became part of Russia as “republics”, with Russian as the official language. Zaporizhzhia and Kherson oblasts are considered “accepted” in the Russian Federation as “separate [federal] subjects with their current names [preserved]”.
  5. Pope begs Putin to end ‘spiral of violence and death’, fears nuclear war, ReutersPope Francis for the first time directly begged Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop the “spiral of violence and death” in Ukraine, saying on Sunday that the crisis was risking a nuclear escalation with uncontrollable global consequences. In an address […] Francis also condemned Putin’s latest annexation of parts of Ukraine as being against international law. He urged Putin to think of his own people in the event of an escalation.”

Assessment 

  1. On the war. 

map source: https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-july-18

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of 2 October, 2022:

The Russian defeat in Kharkiv Oblast and Lyman, combined with the Kremlin’s failure to conduct partial mobilization effectively and fairly are fundamentally changing the Russian information space. Kremlin-sponsored media and Russian milbloggers – a prominent Telegram community composed of Russian war correspondents, former proxy officials, and nationalists – are grieving the loss of Lyman while simultaneously criticizing the bureaucratic failures of the partial mobilization. Kremlin sources and milbloggers are attributing the defeat around Lyman and Kharkiv Oblast to Russian military failures to properly supply and reinforce Russian forces in northern Donbas and complaining about the lack of transparency regarding the progress of war.

Some guests on heavily-edited Kremlin television shows that aired on October 1 even criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to annex four Ukrainian oblasts before securing their administrative borders or even the frontline, expressing doubts about Russia’s ability ever to occupy the entirety of these territories. Kremlin propagandists no longer conceal their disappointment in the conduct of the partial mobilization, frequently discussing the illegal mobilization of some men and noting issues such as alcoholism among newly mobilized forces. Some speaking on live television have expressed the concern that mobilization will not generate the force necessary to regain the initiative on the battlefield, given the poor quality of Russian reserves.

The Russian information space has significantly deviated from the narratives preferred by the Kremlin and the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) that things are generally under control. The current onslaught of criticism and reporting of operational military details by the Kremlin’s propagandists has come to resemble the milblogger discourse over this past week. The Kremlin narrative had focused on general statements of progress and avoided detailed discussions of current military operations. The Kremlin had never openly recognized a major failure in the war prior to its devastating loss in Kharkiv Oblast, which prompted the partial reserve mobilization.

The Russian MoD has consistently focused on exaggerating Russian success in Ukraine with vague optimistic statements while omitting presentations of specific details of the military campaign. […]

The Russian MoD has sought to impose this kind of narrative on the milbloggers as well. Advisor to the Russian Defense Minister Andrey Ilnitsky called on Russian journalists and milbloggers on May 26 to refrain from presenting detailed coverage of the war and to avoid publishing negative information that could help the West infiltrate the Russian information space and win the “hybrid war.”

The milbloggers largely disregarded the MoD’s directives, and Putin seemed to support them in this disobedience, rewarding them with a lengthy personal meeting on June 17. Most milbloggers have continued to report Russian battlefield setbacks and to criticize failures in the partial mobilization, often in strident tones. Putin has not apparently punished any major milbloggers for their outspokenness or allowed others to punish them. He has, however, kept their critiques off of the mainstream Russian airwaves. Kremlin mouthpieces on federally-owned TV channels had continued to puppet the MoD and Kremlin lines for the most part—until the partial mobilization.

The Kremlin’s declaration of partial mobilization exposed the general Russian public to the consequences of the defeat around Kharkiv and then at Lyman, shattering the Kremlin’s efforts to portray the war as limited and generally successful. The Russian defeat around Lyman has generated even more confusion and negative reporting in the mainstream Russian information space than had the Russian withdrawals from Kyiv, Zmiinyi (Snake) Island, or even Kharkiv. The impact of Lyman is likely greater because Russians now fear being mobilized to fix problems at the battlefield. An independent Russian polling organization, the Levada Center, found that more than half of respondents said that they were afraid that the war in Ukraine could lead to general mobilization, whereas the majority of respondents had not voiced such concerns in February 2022. Russians also likely see that the Kremlin is executing the current partial mobilization – which was supposed to be a limited call up of qualified reservists – in an illegal and deceptive manner, which places more men at the risk of being mobilized to reinforce collapsing frontlines.

Putin relies on controlling the information space in Russia to safeguard his regime much more than on the kind of massive oppression apparatus the Soviet Union used, making disorder in the information space potentially even more dangerous to Putin than it was to the Soviets. Putin has never rebuilt the internal repression apparatus the Soviets had in the KGB, Interior Ministry forces, and Red Army to the scale required to crush domestic opposition by force. Putin has not until recently even imposed the kinds of extreme censorship that characterized the Soviet state. Russians have long had nearly free access to the internet, social media, and virtual private networks (VPNs), and Putin has notably refrained from blocking Telegram even though the platform refused his demands to censor its content and even as he has disrupted his people’s access to other platforms. The Russian information space has instead relied on journalists and TV talk-show guests to enforce coerced self-censorship, especially after the Kremlin adopted a law that threatens Russians with up to 15 years in jail for “discrediting the army.” The criticism on Russian federal TV channels of military failings and failings of the partial mobilization effort, especially following the defeat at Lyman, is thus daring and highly unusual for the Kremlin’s propaganda shows. It has brought the tone and tenor of some of the milblogger critiques of Russia’s performance in the war into the homes of average Russians through official Kremlin channels for the first time.

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and Wagner Private Military Company financier Evgeniy Prigozhin have further damaged the Kremlin’s vulnerable narratives during and after the fall of Lyman. Kadyrov published a hyperbolic rant on October 1 in which he accused the Russian military command of failing to promptly respond to the deteriorating situation around Lyman and stated that Russia needs to liberate the annexed four oblasts with all available means including low-yield nuclear weapons. Prigozhin reiterated Kadyrov’s critiques of the Russian military leadership. The West‘s focus on Kadyrov’s nuclear threat obscured the true importance of these statements. 

Kadyrov and Prigozhin are bona fide members of the small group of leaders Russians call siloviki—people with meaningful power bases and either membership in or direct access to Putin’s inner circle. Kadyrov has a history of irresponsible statements and boasts that do not always grab headlines or shape narratives in Russia. Prigozhin is not a normally dominant voice either, although his prominence has grown in recent weeks. But their statements on October 1 have had a profound effect on the Russian information space. Together they broke the Kremlin’s narrative that attempted to soften the blow of the defeat around Lyman. Federal outlets had largely expressed hopeful attitudes that newly mobilized men and deployed reinforcements could either hold the line or conduct counter-attacks in the near future, prior to Kadyrov’s statement. But talk shows on federally-controlled channels picked up immediately on the Kadyrov-Prigozhin statements, prompting commentators on live television to add to the criticism of the higher military command. The Kremlin’s propagandists even had to disrupt the presentation of the former Russian Southern Military District (SMD) Deputy Commander Andrey Gurulyov when he started to blame the higher military command for the defeat in Lyman during a live broadcast.

Kadyrov and Prigozhin’s statement likely publicly undermined Putin’s leadership, possibly inadvertently. Kadyrov specifically targeted the commander of the Central Military District (CMD), Colonel General Alexander Lapin, and accused Chief of the General Staff Army General Valery Gerasimov of covering up Lapin’s failures in Lyman. Putin had publicly expressed his trust in Lapin when the Russian MoD announced Lapin’s victory around Lysychansk on June 24. Western military officials have also reported that Putin has been making operational military decisions in Ukraine and micromanaging his military command. Putin is thus likely responsible for the decisions not only not to reinforce Lyman but also to attempt to hold it […] Kadyrov’s direct attack on Lapin is thus an indirect attack on Putin, whether Kadyrov realizes it or not. […]

Putin likely recognizes the dangerous path Kadyrov and Prigozhin had begun to walk, prompting push-back by Kremlin-controlled voices and milbloggers against the direct critiques of military commanders. Federal television channels characterized Kadyrov’s statements against Lapin as rather “harsh,” while milbloggers argued that the Russian MoD is more responsible for the defeat claiming that Lapin was not in command of the Lyman garrison.

Putin has not previously censored nationalist milblogger figures, Kadyrov, war correspondents, and former proxy officials, likely because he has seen them as voices pushing for his preferred policies that Russians willing to support him are more likely to trust. ISW has previously assessed that Putin is likely attempting to keep the milbloggers on his side and to use them to establish new scapegoats for his failures in Ukraine. Putin may also have obtained a more unvarnished view of what is occurring on the frontlines than he was getting from the chain of command, which may be one of the reasons he met with the milbloggers in mid-June. Milbloggers likely have a reputation with their audiences of being more accurate sources than the Russian MoD because they report setbacks and mistakes, while advancing pro-war and patriotic views. […]

The milblogger community may begin to undermine Putin’s narratives to his core audience amidst the defeats and failures of the Russian war in Ukraine, however, especially as their narratives spread to mainstream Kremlin-controlled outlets. Milbloggers are increasingly appearing on Russian state television and in Kremlin-affiliated outlets following the collapse of the Kharkiv frontline and are boldly pointing out failures in the Russian military campaign, while exaggerating the need for Russia to win the war and the price Russians should be prepared to pay. […] Mibloggers are fueling impossible expectations and making demands that Putin and the Russian government cannot possibly meet. They insist that Putin seize all of Ukraine, when Russian forces are only capable of making incremental territorial gains around Bakhmut and Avdiivka. They are calling on Russian military recruitment centers and the Russian MoD to fix the generational bureaucratic issues plaguing partial mobilization. They are likely adding to the domestic problems Putin will face in the coming months, however much it may seem to Putin that they are helping him through a hard time.

Putin may be experiencing an odd variant of the problems Mikhail Gorbachev encountered resulting from his glasnost’ (openness) policy. Gorbachev partially opened the Soviet information space in the mid-1980s in the hopes that Soviet citizens would give him insight into the causes of bureaucratic dysfunction within the Soviet state that he could not identify from above. But Soviet citizens did not stop where Gorbachev wanted or expected them to and instead began attacking the entire Soviet system. The reforms (perestroika) he initiated after a period of glasnost’ ended up destroying the Soviet Union rather than strengthening it.

Putin is no doubt fully aware of this pattern and surely has no intention of repeating it.  […] It remains to be seen how much Putin will tolerate and what will happen if and when he attempts to shut down the milbloggers and their critiques, increasingly of his own decisions, that he has allowed for the moment to circulate in Russia.

Key inflexions in ongoing military operations on October 2:

  • Ukrainian forces continued to liberate settlements east and northeast of Lyman and have liberated Torske in Donetsk Oblast. Russian sources claimed that Russian forces withdrew from their positions northeast of Lyman, likely to positions around Kreminna and along the R66 Svatove-Kreminna highway.
  • Ukrainian forces continued to advance on settlements east of Kupyansk and have liberated Kisharivka in Kharkiv Oblast.[25]
  • Russian forces continued to launch unsuccessful assaults around Bakhmut, Vyimka, and Avdiivka.
  • Ukrainian forces resumed counteroffensives in northern Kherson Oblast and have secured positions in Zolota Balka and Khreshchenivka. Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces also liberated Shevchekivka and Lyubymivka, pushing Russian forces to new defensive positions around Mykailivka.
  • Russian forces continued to target Kryvyi Rih and Mykolaiv Oblast with Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones.
  • Russian State Duma MPs withdrew a law that would have given mobilized men a one-time payment of 300,000 rubles (about $4,980) and other benefits, without providing a reason for their decision. 

Ukrainian military officials stated that Russian forces are forming a motorized rifle division with mobilized men from Crimea, Krasnodar Krai, and the Republic of Adygea.

Latvia’s foreign minister: Russia’s tactical nuclear weapons threat “blackmail,” not “base option”, Ukrinform reports. “The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia, Edgars Rinkēvičs, believes that the use of tactical nuclear weapons by Russia cannot be ruled out, however, the Kremlin realizes that this will become a “point of no return” for them, so this is primarily blackmail, not a “base option” for further Russian operations.

We do not rule out the possibility of Russia using tactical nuclear weapons. (There is also another option: the use of chemical weapons). However, people in the Kremlin understand that such a precedent would mark a point of no return for them. Therefore, I don’t think that the Kremlin is currently looking into this as a base option for their further operations, Rinkēvičs said.

At the same time, such blackmail is dangerous anyway because the Russian army will keep suffering defeats, losing face, in front of both the international community and its own population. Another negative indicator is that this topic is regularly brought up on Russian television, so there are fears that this way Moscow can psychologically prepare their population for such developments.

In the end, Rinkēvičs noted that the world must be prepared for various turns of events. In the West, the issue of response to Russia’s nuclear threats is now being discussed. But at this stage, I can’t dwell into any details because this issue is still being discussed at a level that’s not yet public, the head of the Latvian MFA emphasized.”

Ukraine Forces Retake Lyman, a Strategic City, as Russians Retreat, The New York Times reports. “Russian forces retreated from the strategic eastern Ukrainian city of Lyman on Saturday, a humbling setback for President Vladimir V. Putin just one day after he illegally declared the surrounding region to be part of Russia. The Ukrainians’ assault on Lyman, a rail hub leading into the mineral-rich Donbas region, underscored their resolve to attack in territory Mr. Putin now claims sovereignty over — raising the stakes in a war in which a nuclear-armed Russia has declared it would use “all available means” to defend land it considers its own.

The Russian retreat quickly spawned withering criticism among powerful allies of Mr. Putin, who blamed Russia’s military leaders for the recent losses, calling them incompetent. It was a striking display of internal dissent after Mr. Putin made a show of force in Moscow on Friday, delivering a menacing speech in which he announced the annexation of the swaths of Ukrainian territory, and positioned the war as an existential battle between Russia and Western elites.  […]

Lyman sits on the banks of the meandering Siversky Donets River, which has served as a natural division between Russian and Ukrainian front lines since Russian forces captured the city in May. Retaking it offers Ukrainian forces a strategic foothold for further advances into the Donbas region that has long been the focus of Mr. Putin’s aims. Lyman’s capture also puts additional pressure on the Kremlin, which has been facing blowback at home over the conscription of hundreds of thousands of men to fight in Ukraine.

The battle for Lyman was fought over weeks, but the fall came suddenly as Russians feared they would be encircled and left. The Ukrainians sent airborne troops in and announced their victory to the world with a video of two grinning soldiers unfurling their country’s blue-and-yellow flag, and then taping it to a sign marking the city limits. […] Hours later, Russia’s Ministry of Defense announced it was withdrawing its troops from the city. […]

The Pentagon’s top official on Saturday praised the Ukrainian military’s breakthrough in Lyman as a major success. Absolutely, it’s significant, said Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III. We’re very encouraged by what we’re seeing right now. Lyman sits astride the supply lines of the Russians, and they’ve used those routes to push men and materiel down to the south and to the west.

The fury over the retreat from powerful allies of Mr. Putin added to the chorus of pro-war Russian bloggers criticizing the government’s military leadership. Ramzan Kadyrov, the strongman leader of the southern Russian republic of Chechnya, wrote on the Telegram messaging app that Russia’s top military brass had “covered for” an “incompetent” general who should now be “sent to the front to wash his shame off with blood.” Mr. Kadyrov said he had told Gen. Valery Gerasimov, the head of the Russian General Staff, that the forces on the Lyman front had been left without sufficient communications and ammunition supplies.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, a business magnate close to Mr. Putin who leads the Wagner Group — an army of mercenaries fighting for Russia in the war — issued a statement an hour later agreeing with Mr. Kadyrov. […]  The open criticism by these influential figures in Russia’s war effort suggested that Mr. Putin would now face even more pressure from the hawks in his inner circle to escalate the war. […]

Ukraine’s recapture of Lyman put the battle for the Donbas region into a new phase, leaving Russia’s control of the area uncertain as the Ukrainians are now positioned to claw back territory before winter sets in. The Ukrainian advance was a continuation of the army’s northeastern offensive, which routed Russian forces from dozens of villages and recaptured more than a thousand square miles in the Kharkiv region last month. In recent days and weeks, Ukrainian forces also closed in from the south and west.

The next target, if the Ukrainian military continues its advance, would likely be Svatove, a city northeast of Lyman where Russians have retrenched after their defeat in the northeast, according to analysts.

Russia’s military in the Donbas, depleted and losing ground, could be faced with two options: shuttling resources from other parts of the front to slow Ukraine’s advance, or continuing to slowly lose chunks of the region.

Ukraine’s slow-moving offensive in the south, toward the port city of Kherson, has largely been overshadowed by events in the east. But fighting there remains fierce, as better-trained Russian forces have put up staunch resistance against advancing Ukrainian troops.”

Ukrainians change battlefield dynamics – Pentagon chief, Ukrinform reports. “Ukraine is ‘making progress’ in their advances, changing battlefield dynamics and creating an opportunity to maneuver. That’s according to US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who spoke in an interview with CNN. What we’re seeing now is a kind of change in the battlefield dynamics, Austin said. They’ve done very, very well in the Kharkiv area and moved to take advantage of opportunities. The fight in the Kherson region’s going a bit slower, but they’re making progress.

He explained Ukraine’s gains by quality training and practical experience of Ukrainian troops, as well as the effective use of western weapons, supplied by the US and other allies. The defense chief specifically noted the use of the high mobility air rocket systems, or HIMARS, which was able to take away “significant capability” from the Russians. Austin said Ukrainian forces have used “technology like HIMARS” and employed it in the “right way” to “conduct attacks on things like logistical stores and command and control.” In doing so, the Ukraine Army has “created an opportunity for the Ukrainians to maneuver,” he added.

Austin said what will happen in Ukraine is hard to predict, but he said the US will continue to provide security assistance to the Ukrainians for as long as it takes.”

Ukraine’s advance in Lyman shows it can push back Russian forces, NATO chief says, Reuters reports. “Ukraine’s capture of a city within territory of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s declared annexation demonstrates that Ukrainians are making progress and able to push back against Russian forces, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Sunday.

We have seen that they have been able to take a new town, Lyman, and that demonstrates that the Ukrainians are making progress, and are able to push back the Russian forces because of their courage, their bravery, their skills, but of course also because of the advanced weapons that the United States and other allies are providing,” Stoltenberg said in an interview with NBC’s “Meet the Press.” The best way to counter Russia’s proclaimed annexation of parts of Ukraine is to continue supporting the government in Kyiv, Stoltenberg said.

Asked about Ukraine’s application for accelerated membership in the Western defence alliance, Stoltenberg said any decision on membership has to be taken by consensus all 30 allies have to agree to make such a decision.”

Facts on the ground matter more than rants at the Kremlin, the Editorial Board of The Washington Post argued on 30 September. “Russian President Vladimir Putin has ratcheted up his aggressiveness to a disturbing and dangerous degree over the past few days, both rhetorically and in terms of policy. Perhaps the only thing more brazen than his illegal annexation of four Ukrainian regions, based on a sham referendum in the territories, was the speech he gave on Friday to justify it.

Mr. Putin rambled widely and tendentiously through world history to depict the West as a sinister force bent — for centuries — on the subjugation of Russia and motivated, today, by “outright Satanism.” He warned the internationally recognized government in Kyiv, and its supporters in the United States and elsewhere, that the people of the purportedly annexed regions are Russian citizens “forever.” Then he alluded to the “precedent” set by US use of atomic weaponry in World War II. Plainly, Mr. Putin, having failed to defeat Ukraine militarily, is attempting to bully both that country and its friends into accepting Russian sovereignty over the 15 percent or so of Ukrainian territory that it has managed to occupy, with Russian nuclear weapons use as the implied “or else.”

Scary stuff — but an appropriate response begins with remembering that facts on the ground matter more than rants at the Kremlin. Indeed, Mr. Putin’s language is escalating precisely because his strategic position is deteriorating. Russia does not even control all of the territory it supposedly annexed and, in fact, Ukrainian forces have recently retaken Russian-held areas equal to more than 3,500 square miles. The “partial” mobilization of some 300,000 reservists Mr. Putin ordered in response to those setbacks is off to a troubled start, with thousands of men crossing Russia’s borders to escape military service; some 100 protests, including 20 or so attacks against recruiting offices, have occurred, according to the Economist. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s military was poised on Friday to seize a key transportation hub, Lyman, in Donetsk, which is one of the four regions Mr. Putin claimed to annex. If the town’s Russian garrison falls, it could lead to additional Russian retreats from this supposedly Russian territory, as well as from the neighboring Luhansk region. [Hans Petter Midttun: Lyman did fall, and Russia will continue to retreat.]

The best thing President Biden and his fellow NATO leaders can do is keep up sanctions and arms shipments that weaken Russia’s military and empower Ukraine to fight back. Mr. Biden indicated on Friday he would do so, with another $1.1 billion weapons package in the works. Symbolically and psychologically important as it was for President Volodymyr Zelensky to announce, in response to Mr. Putin’s threats, that Ukraine will seek immediate NATO membership, there is no need for Western leaders to act on that complicated question. Instead, they should finalize and implement their plan for a price cap on Russian crude exports and accelerate preparations to keep European homes and businesses supplied with energy through the winter.

Also on the agenda should be diplomatic outreach to — or pressure on — India, China and Turkey, all of which seem increasingly weary of Mr. Putin’s war and might help persuade him to abandon it. Mr. Putin’s latest escalations, dangerous as they are, show that he senses the endgame approaching — and fears losing it.”

 

  1. Consequences and what to do? 

Hans Petter Midttun: The only rational response to the audacity of the Russian Federation is even more support for Ukraine, President Zelenskyy argued on 27 September. I fear Ukraine will experience the opposite, not for lack of will or support, but lack of ability.

I have long argued that the West is running out of weapons or ammunition it can supply Ukraine without extensive training. The defence industries are still years away from being able to ramp up their production. The flow of new international support for Ukraine is drying up, and more countries are becoming reluctant to supply weapons and ammunition.

The flow of new international support for Ukraine started drying up in July already. According to The Kiel Institute for the World Economy, no large EU country like Germany, France or Italy, has made any significant new pledges. That does not mean support is not forthcoming. It means that there are no significant deliveries in the pipeline.

Recently, we have seen more and more defence support pledges being linked to future production and deliveries directly from the defence industries.

“The Pentagon announced Wednesday it will contract with industry for $1.1 billion in military aid to Ukraine, including 18 High-Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems and other arms to counter drones Russia has been using against Ukrainian troops. The new weapons and equipment, being provided under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, are aimed at meeting Kyiv’s mid- and long-term needs and could take six to 24 months to arrive.”

The US Army awarded a not-to-exceed letter contract for $182 million on August 26 to Raytheon Missiles and Defense for the future delivery of two NASAMS batteries, training and logistical support to Ukraine.

German pledge to supply Iris-T air defence systems and the joint German, Danish and Norwegian declaration of delivery of 16 Slovakian Zuzana howitzers to Ukraine are two more examples of the same.

In my report on 25 September, I addressed the lack of ammunition stockpiles across Europe. 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. Many countries are reporting concerns over dwindling stockpiles.

I have also repeatedly highlighted the problems the defence industries in the West are facing while struggling to cope with the extraordinary demands. These ares consequences of decades of downsizing and streamlining, lack of critical components, the need to change production lines after years of supporting the fight against terrorism (which require a very different set of tools) and, not least, lack of strategic thinking. NATO members started rebuilding their stockpiles only 8 years after Russia started its war against Ukraine and the West.

The reduced inflow contradicts the requirements triggered by the Russian escalation of the war, the momentum created by the Ukrainian counter-offensive and the increasing artillery imbalance in favour of Russia.

According to Volodymyr Dacenko, an analyst, and a columnist at Forbes Ukraine, Russia still has a total advantage in terms of the number of armoured vehicles and the number of artillery. Russia has significant reserves. Additionally, Ukraine is losing more artillery systems than it is gaining. Of the 1,500 Soviet artillery systems that Ukraine had at the beginning of the war, more than half were lost. First of all, due to the lack of Soviet-caliber projectiles and extensive wear and tear of old systems. The defence aid from Ukraine’s international partners has only compensated for 25-30% of the losses.

This imbalance was reflected on the battlefield until HIMARS were introduced. This enabled Ukraine to target Russian logistical supply lines, including ammunition depots, ground lines of supplies, train junctures and concentrations of weapons. Ukrainian HIMARS has allegedly struck more than 400 Russian ammunition depots, command posts and radars so far. As a result, Russia has been unable to supply its artillery with ammunition. The reduced ability to deliver fire is, however, not for lack of ammunition or artillery, but logistic problems only.

Recent trends – from the reduced inflow of weapons to supplying weapons directly from the production lines (in competition with defence procurements the NATO members have initiated to rebuild their own armed forces) – paint a picture of a war that might continue for years.

The assessment is supported by the lack of supplies of long-range strike capabilities like combat aircraft, cruise missiles and ATACMS missiles (for HIMARS). It is further reinforced by NATO’s unwillingness to uphold international Freedom of Navigation and break the maritime embargo in the Black Sea. The latter is slowly strangling the Ukrainian economy, undermining the economic viability of the state.

The indication of a protracted war is further backed by the recommendation to establish a new and new permanent US Headquarters in Germany to streamline training and assistance to Ukraine.

A protracted war means, unfortunately, that the “tsunami of ripple effects” from the war will also continue to increase in scope and severity. The covid pandemic had huge global repercussions in 2020-21. This year, the Russian unjust and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and the escalation of its confrontation with the West further aggravated the situation. The world is experiencing a rise in famine, poverty and costs of living, and both a decline in food and energy security as well as an erosion of Euro-Atlantic security.

As both Russia and NATO have chosen a strategy that ensures a protracted war, I fear for 2023.

With the present strategy, we will see a growing level of frustration in populations, and consequently, the risk of demonstrations, riots, increasing extremism and potentially, the fall of governments. The political landscape in both Europe and the USA is likely to change at the cost of democracy.

Please bear in mind that Marine Le Pen was competing for the post of president of France while exploiting the protest potential of the population as a consequence of the rising costs of living. The Sweden Democrats – a far-right political party – recently did their best election ever. The far-right “Brothers of Italy party” claimed victory in Italy’s election only days ago.

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