Russo Ukrainian War. Day 237: Russian drone and missile strikes on Ukraine indicate psychological terror strategy

 

Daily review

Article by: Zarina Zabrisky

Russian forces conducted drone and missile strikes against residential areas and critical infrastructure facilities throughout Ukraine. Over the past 24 hours, the Russian troops launched 10 missiles and 58 air strikes, launched up to 60 MLRS attacks, and more than 40 drones at Ukraine, more than 30 drones got shot down. In Kyiv, a residential building was destroyed in Kyiv by a drone, 4 killed. Of the 28 drones launched at Kyiv, only 5 reached their goal. In Odesa Oblast, an infrastructure facility was damaged by the Russian shelling, and six kamikaze drones were destroyed by the Ukrainian air Defense. Russian drone strikes against residential areas are described by the ISW as a strategy of psychological terror. Russian forces conducted ground assaults in Donetsk Oblast. Ukrainian forces continued to strike Russian concentrations of manpower and equipment in Zaporizhzhia Oblast. Russian authorities continued measures to exert full control over the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP). The EU announced the creation of a large-scale military mission for Ukraine. In Russia, explosions were reported in the Belgorod region. A plane crashed in the Russian town of Yeysk, 3 were killed, 21 were injured. Ukraine liberated 108 women from captivity. In the de-occupied Liman, the bodies of 35 military personnel and 152 civilians were exhumed. The EU increases military assistance to Ukraine to 3.1 billion Euros and launches a training mission for the Ukrainian military.

Daily overview — Summary report, October 18

The General Staff’s operational update regarding the Russian invasion as of 06.00 am, October 18, 2022 is in the dropdown menu below

Situation in Ukraine. October 17, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Situation in Ukraine. October 17, 2022. Source: ISW.

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The two hundred-thirty-seventh (237) day of the heroic resistance of the Ukrainian people to a russian military large-scale invasion continues.
The enemy is trying to keep the temporarily captured territories, concentrates efforts on restraining the actions of the Defence Forces in certain directions, at the same time, it does not abandon attempts to conduct offensive actions in the Bakhmut and Avdiivka directions.
Donetsk Battle Map. October 17, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Donetsk Battle Map. October 17, 2022. Source: ISW.

Over the past day, units of the Defence Forces repelled the attacks of the occupiers in the areas of Berestove settlements of the Kharkiv oblast; Bakhmutske, Ivanhrad, Klishchiivka, Pervomayske and Maryinka of the Donetsk oblast.
The enemy is shelling the positions of our troops along the entire contact line, carrying out engineering equipment of defensive positions and lines in separate directions and conducting aerial reconnaissance. Violating the norms of International Humanitarian Law, the laws and customs of war, it strikes critical infrastructure and the homes of the civilian population.
Over the past 24 hours, the enemy launched 10 missile and 58 air strikes, and launched up to 60 MLRS attacks.
Areas of more than 35 settlements were hit by enemy attacks. In particular, Kyiv and Odesa, Mykolaiv oblasts; Bilohorivka, Terny, Krasnohorivka and Maryinka of the Donetsk oblast; Nova Kamianka and Bilohirka, Kherson oblast. For this, the enemy used cruise, aviation and anti-aircraft guided missiles. In addition, 43 Iranian-made Shahed-136 unmanned aerial vehicles were involved, 38 of which were shot down by Ukrainian soldiers.
The situation in the Volyn and Polissya directions has not changed significantly. The threat of missile and airstrikes, as well as the use of “Shahed-136” attack UAVs from the territory of the republic of belarus, remains.
The enemy fired in other directions:
in the Siversky direction – from artillery of various types, in the areas of the settlements of Senkivka of Chernihiv region and Seredyna-Buda and Dmytrivka of Sumy oblast;
Kharkiv Battle Map. October 17, 2022. Situation: ISW. ~

Kharkiv Battle Map. October 17, 2022. Situation: ISW.

in the Slobozhanskyi direction – from tanks, mortars, barrel and rocket artillery, in the areas of the settlements of Khatnye, Starytsa and Strilecha;
in the Kupyansk direction – from mortars, barrel and jet artillery in the areas of Berestove, Hryanikyvka, Dvorichna, Kotlyarivka, Serebryanka and Stelmakhivka settlements;
in the Lyman direction – from artillery of various calibres, in the areas of the settlements of Bilohorivka, Hrekivka, Zarichne, Nadiya, Novoyehorivka and Terny. Here the enemy also used shock UAVs;
Donetsk Battle Map. October 17, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Donetsk Battle Map. October 17, 2022. Source: ISW.

in the Bakhmut and Avdiivka directions, the enemy inflicted fire damage from tanks, mortars, barrel and rocket artillery along the contact line.
On the Novopavlivskyi and Zaporizhzhia directions, the enemy shelled more than 15 settlements. Among them are Bilohirya, Bohyavlenka, Vuhledar, Malynivka, Orihiv and Shevchenko.
Kherson and Mykolaiv Battle Map. October 17, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Kherson and Mykolaiv Battle Map. October 17, 2022. Source: ISW.

In the South Buh direction, the occupiers fired at military and civilian infrastructure. Areas of more than 20 settlements along the contact line were damaged by fire. The enemy made more than 30 UAV sorties to conduct aerial reconnaissance.
Violating all norms of international humanitarian law, laws and customs of warfare, the russian occupiers are building fortifications at the expense of looting the local population. Thus, in the settlement of Blahodatne, Kherson oblast, building materials and metal constructions of estates for the equipment of engineering fortifications are taken from private households of civilians.
Aviation of the Defence Forces carried out 22 strikes during the past day. It was confirmed that 18 areas of concentration of weapons and military equipment, a support point, as well as 3 positions of the enemy’s anti-aircraft missile systems were hit. Air defence units shot down 3 cruise missiles.
Missile troops and artillery hit the control post, the area of ​​concentration of manpower, weapons and military equipment, two air defence and artillery facilities, one ammunition depot and other military targets of the enemy.

Military Updates

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst. ~

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst.

Belarus reserves the right to “take preventive measures of strategic deterrence to prevent an attack,” according to the Ministry of Defense of Belarus. 9,000 of the RF Armed Forces military personnel to be deployed during the “regional grouping of troops.”

The EU announced the creation of a large-scale military mission for Ukraine. The mission will provide individual, collective and specialized training for the Armed Forces of Ukraine, including the Territorial Defense Forces. It will take place on the territory of EU member states. Vice-Admiral Hervé Blejean, director of the Defense Planning and Operations Force, will be the mission commander with an operational headquarters in Brussels. Initially, the mandate of the mission is for two years, and funding for this period will amount to almost 107 million euros.

Russia launched more than 40 drones at Ukraine today, more than 30 drones got shot down. 

Regional Updates

In Khmelnytskyi Oblast, explosions reported.
In Vinnytsia Oblast, the Russian troops hit a critical infrastructure facility.
In Sumy Oblast, the Russian troops shelled a critical infrastructure facility. 1 killed, 2 injured.

In Kyiv Oblast, a residential building destroyed in Kyiv by a drone. 16 families lost their apartments. Residents who lost their apartments are being placed in hotels and provided with temporary housing. Permanent new housing is being considered. 4 killed, including an expecting couple. The woman was 6 months pregnant. 18 rescued from a burning building.

Of the 28 drones launched at Kyiv, only 5 reached their goal.

https://twitter.com/EuromaidanPress/status/1581927613115035648

In Dnipropetrovsk Oblast:

In the Mykoliav Oblast:

In Odesa Oblast, an infrastructure facility damaged by the Russian shelling. The Air Defense Forces destroyed six kamikaze drones, said the head of the Odesa Regional State Administration Maxim Marchenko.
In Russia, explosions reported in the Belgorod region.
In the town of Yeysk, 3 killed, 21 injured, in the crash of the Su-34 plane.

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

  • Since 10 October, Russia has maintained a heightened tempo of long-range strikes against targets across Ukraine. These have been conducted by cruise missiles, air defence missiles in a surface-to-surface role, and Iranian-provided Shahed-136 one way attack uncrewed aerial vehicles.

 

  • It is highly likely that a key objective of this strike campaign is to cause wide-spread damage to Ukraine’s energy distribution network.

 

  • As Russia has suffered battlefield setbacks since August, it has highly likely gained a greater willingness to strike civilian infrastructure in addition to Ukrainian military targets.

Losses of the Russian army 

As of 18 October, the approximate losses of weapons and military equipment of the Russian Armed Forces from the beginning of the war to the present day:

Humanitarian 

️Ukraine liberated 108 women from captivity.
In the de-occupied Liman, the bodies of 35 military and 152 civilians were exhumed. 43 graves identified in the city.

Legal 

Support 

Italy provided a new military aid package for Ukraine.
SpaceX has already withdrawn its request for funding, said Elon Musk, commenting on the Pentagon’s statement about the possible payment for Starlink services in Ukraine. He noted that only 10,630 out of 25,300 terminals are currently being paid for. Musk had previously said that his company could not finance the existing system indefinitely. Failures in the work of Starlink in Ukraine were reported.
The US Embassy called Russian attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure shameful and desperate. American diplomats noted that they admire the strength and resilience of the Ukrainian people. The embassy assured that the US would help Ukraine as much as necessary.
The EU increases military assistance to Ukraine to 3.1 billion Euros and launches a training mission for the Ukrainian military.

New Developments 

Hungary will not help create a military mission for Ukraine, said Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto. Hungary has chosen the option of “constructive stay.” They will not prevent the launch of a training mission, but will not participate in it. The Foreign Ministry also stressed that Hungary will not spend funds on this mission for the Ukrainian military and will not accommodate its participants. According to him, the training mission has the risk of drawing Europe into the war between Ukraine and the Russian Federation. Hungary was the only EU country that did not support the initiative to train the Ukrainian military in Europe.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry officially accused Iran of complicity in Russia’s crimes against Ukraine. “Providing weapons for waging a war of conquest in Ukraine and killing Ukrainian citizens makes Iran an accomplice to the crime of aggression, war crimes, and terrorist acts of Russia against Ukraine. We call on Tehran to immediately stop deliveries of any weapons to Russia. Otherwise, Iran and its leadership will bear the most severe responsibility, including in the framework of international trials for Russia’s crimes against Ukraine,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Assessment 

  1. On the war. 

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of 17 October, 2022:

Russian forces conducted a series of drone and missile strikes against residential areas and critical infrastructure throughout Ukraine on October 17. Russian troops struck Kyiv, Zaporizhzhia City, and areas in Vinnytsia, Sumy, Dnipropetrovsk, and Mykolaiv Oblasts and launched nine missile strikes and 39 air strikes on October 17.[1] Ukrainian Air Force spokesperson Yuriy Ignat noted that Russian forces launched 43 drones from southern Ukraine, 37 of which Ukrainian troops destroyed and the majority of which were Iranian Shahed-136 drones.[2] Five Shahed-136 drones struck infrastructure in the Shevchenkivskyi district of Kyiv, including the UkrEnergo (Ukrainian electricity transmission system operator) building.[3]

The October 17 drone attack on residential infrastructure in Kyiv is consistent with the broader pattern of Russian forces prioritizing creating psychological terror effects on Ukraine over achieving tangible battlefield effects. US military analyst Brett Friedman observed on October 17 that a Shahed-136’s payload is 88 pounds of explosives, whereas a typical 155mm M795 artillery round carries 23.8 pounds of explosives, which means that one Shahed-136 drone carries about three shells worth of explosive material but without the consistent pattern of fragmentation.[4] Friedman suggested that the five Shahed-136s that struck Kyiv had the effect of 15 artillery shells fired at a very large area.[5] Such strikes can do great damage to civilian infrastructure and kill and wound many people without creating meaningful military effects. This analysis suggests that Russian forces are continuing to use Shahed-136 drones to generate the psychological effects associated with targeting civilian areas instead of attempting to generate asymmetric operational effects by striking legitimate military and frontline targets in a concentrated manner.[6]

Russian Federal Subjects Generating Volunteer Units. October 17, 2022. Source: ISW. ~

Russian Federal Subjects Generating Volunteer Units. October 17, 2022. Source: ISW.

A fratricidal altercation between mobilized servicemen at a training ground in Belgorod Oblast on October 15 is likely a consequence of the Kremlin’s continual reliance on ethnic minority communities to bear the burden of mobilization in the Russian Federation. Russian sources reported that the shooting took place after mobilized servicemen from Dagestan, Azerbaijan, and Adyghe complained to their commander that the war in Ukraine is not their war to fight, to which the commander responded that they are fighting a “holy war” and called Allah a “coward,” causing a fight to break out between Muslim and non-Muslim servicemen.[7] Russian sources then claimed that three mobilized Tajik servicemen opened fire at the training ground, killing the commander and both contract and mobilized soldiers.[8] Eyewitnesses claimed that the shooters told Muslim servicemen to stand aside as they opened fire.[9] The Russian information space immediately responded to the incident with racialized rhetoric against Central Asians and called for the introduction of a visa regime in Russia.[10]

Much of the Kremlin’s campaign to avoid general mobilization has fallen along distinct ethnic lines, and ethnic minority enclaves have largely borne the brunt of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s force generation efforts.[11] ISW previously reported on the prevalence of volunteer battalions formed in non-Russian ethnic minority communities, many of which suffered substantial losses upon deployment to Ukraine.[12] This trend continued following Putin’s announcement of partial mobilization, after which authorities continued to deliberately target minority communities to fulfill mobilization orders.[13] ISW also previously noted that the asymmetric distribution of mobilization responsibilities along ethnic lines led to the creation of localized and ethnically based resistance movements, which ISW forecasted could cause domestic ramifications as the war continues.[14] The Belgorod shooting is likely a manifestation of exactly such domestic ramifications. Ethnic minorities that have been targeted and forced into fighting a war defined by Russian imperial goals and shaped by Russian Orthodox nationalism will likely continue to feel alienation, which will create feed-back loops of discontent leading to resistance followed by crackdowns on minority enclaves.

Wagner Group financier Yevheny Prigozhin and Wagner-affiliated social media outlets are increasingly commenting on the ineffectiveness of traditional Russian military institutions and societal issues, which may indirectly undermine the Kremlin’s rule. Prigozhin reiterated that only Wagner troops are operating in the Bakhmut direction, seemingly denying the Donetsk People’s Republic’s (DNR) claims DNR forces are operating in the area.[15] Prigozhin also emphasized that he fully sponsors all of the equipment for his troops when responding to a question about whether the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) assists Wagner with supplies. Wagner-affiliated Telegram channels published footage in which elements of the 126th Separate Guards Coastal Defense Brigade of the Black Sea Fleet thanked Wagner for providing them with military equipment.[16] ISW had previously reported that the 126th Coastal Defense Brigade issued a video appeal regarding its lack of military equipment on the Kherson frontline.[17] Prigozhin additionally offered a realistic portrayal of the situation in Bakhmut, noting that Ukrainians are unwilling to surrender. Wagner-affiliated Telegram channels commented on the Belgorod training ground shooting incident, noting that a “quiet civil war” is currently ongoing in Russia due to the Russian government’s long-term inability to restrict migration presumably from Central Asian countries.[18]

Prigozhin’s narratives have the ingredients to appeal to the Russian President Vladimir Putin’s nationalist constituency that has long called for oligarchs to finance supplies for the armed forces, demanded transparency about what is really going on at the front, and criticized Russian higher military institutions for their failures on the frontlines. While Prigozhin does not directly oppose or criticize Putin, his growing notoriety within the nationalist community may undermine Putin’s “strongman” appeal by comparison. The emerging discussions about a civil war in Russia may further disrupt the Kremlin’s narratives about the national, ethnic, and religious unity within Russia.

Russia is continuing to leverage its relationship with Iran to obtain drones and missiles, likely to compensate for its increasingly attritted missile arsenal. The Washington Post reported on October 16 that Iran will likely supply additional missiles, including the Fateh-110 and Zolfaghar short-range ballistic missiles, to Russia in addition to Shahed-136, Mohajer-6, and Arash-2 drones.[19] Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani, however, claimed on October 17 that Iran has not provided weapons to “either side,” despite ample reporting by Russian, Iranian, Ukrainian, and Western sources to the contrary.[20] A Russian Telegram channel noted that the recent Russian use of Iranian munitions, particularly the Shahed-136s, is likely reflective of the fact that Russia has nearly exhausted most of its domestic stock of operational-tactical weapons.[21] The channel claimed that Shahed-136s fulfil the role of cruise missiles but allow Russia to circumvent sanctions while maintaining its ability to conduct deep operational strikes.[22]

A Russian Su-34 crashed near an apartment building in Yeysk, Krasnodar Krai on October 17. Russian sources claimed that the Su-34 crashed due to an issue with one of its engines.[23] The Su-34 crashed carrying ammunition that detonated on impact causing a fire that engulfed the nearby apartment building.[24] A Russian source claimed that the crash killed one person and seriously injured three others.[25]

Key Takeaways

  • Russian forces conducted drone and missiles strikes against residential areas and critical infrastructure facilities throughout Ukraine on October 17.
  • Russian drone strikes against residential areas in Kyiv on October 17 are indicative of Russian forces prioritizing psychological terror over tangible battlefield gains.
  • Yevgeny Prigozhin and affiliated Telegram channels are increasingly commenting on the ineffectiveness of traditional Russian military institutions, which may be undermining the Kremlin.
  • A fratricidal altercation between mobilized servicemen at a training ground in Belgorod Oblast on October 15 is likely a consequence of the Kremlin’s continual reliance on ethnic minority communities to bear the burden of mobilization in the Russian Federation.
  • Russia is continuing to leverage its relationship with Iran to obtain drones and missiles, likely to compensate for its increasingly attritted missile arsenal.
  • A Russian Su-34 crashed near a residential building in Yeysk, Krasnodar Krai on October 17.
  • Russian sources continued to discuss potential Ukrainian counteroffensive operations northwest of Svatove on October 16 and 17.
  • Russian sources continued to claim that Ukrainian Forces are conducting counteroffensive operations in Kherson Oblast on October 16 and 17.
  • Russian forces conducted ground assaults in Donetsk Oblast on October 16 and 17.
  • Ukrainian forces continued to strike Russian concentrations of manpower and equipment in Zaporizhzhia Oblast on October 16 and 17.
  • Russian authorities continued measures to exert full control over the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP).
  • Moscow City officials announced the completion of partial mobilization in the city on October 17, likely in an effort to subdue criticism among Moscow residents of reports of illegal mobilization in the city.
  • Russian and occupation administration officials continue to promote “vacation” programs to residents of Russian-occupied territories likely as pretext for the deportation of Ukrainian citizens and the resettlement of Russian citizens.

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