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ISW: Ukrainian troops approach Russian second line of defense in Zaporizhzhia Oblast

Assessed control of the territories near Pyatykhatky and Robotyne. Credit: ISW
ISW: Ukrainian troops approach Russian second line of defense in Zaporizhzhia Oblast

The Ukrainian advance in the Robotyne area is bringing Ukrainian forces closer to initiating operations against second lines of Russian defense that could potentially be weaker than the initial defensive line in the same vicinity, ISW reported

ISW has not observed any new Russian formations or units arriving in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast, apart from the lateral transfer of elements from the 7th VDV Division and the introduction of elements from the “Akhmat-Yug” Battalion in August.

Elements of the 503rd Motorized Rifle Regiment (part of the 19th Motorized Rifle Division, 58th Combined Arms Army, Southern Military District), previously stationed near Nesteryanka (12km northwest of Robotyne), have reportedly moved to the immediate vicinity of Robotyne. This move is likely aimed at reinforcing the weakening Russian defenses in the area, the Institute for the Study of War said.

According to ISW, Russian forces situated in the broader western Zaporizhzhia Oblast operational sector have been engaged in fending off Ukrainian counteroffensives since the beginning of the counteroffensive. These forces have been in operation without rotation.

Russian forces appear to lack uncommitted regular units within Zaporizhzhia Oblast. All elements of the Russian grouping within the region that were observed by ISW in the months preceding the counteroffensive have been involved in defensive actions either in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast or along the border between Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia Oblasts

Subsequent to the commencement of Ukrainian counteroffensive actions, ISW has observed additional Russian elements that likely had a pre-existing presence in the area. Some unobserved and uncommitted elements may be positioned at secondary lines of defense.

The one most important thing for Ukraine’s counteroffensive

The absence of observed Russian formations and units at secondary lines of defense in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast might indicate that elements of units and formations already engaged in combat might be occupying these positions. Russian tactical reports about counterattacks in the Robotyne area suggest that the 22nd and 45th Spetsnaz Brigades are stationed behind the initial defense line and potentially at the second line as well.

Elements of the 22nd and 45th Spetsnaz Brigades seem to be responsible for launching counterattacks against substantial Ukrainian advancements in the region, implying a likely state of degradation for these units.

Given the probable absence of Russian operational reserves, combined with the limited lateral transfers to western Zaporizhzhia Oblast and the presence of isolated uncommitted units at secondary lines of defense, it is plausible that the second lines of Russian defense might be less robustly fortified, the Institute concluded.

However, the exact Russian formations and units currently situated at these secondary defense lines remain largely unknown, and this assessment from ISW carries a low level of confidence.

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