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Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 549: Ukraine advanced in western Zaporizhia Oblast

Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 549: Ukraine advanced in western Zaporizhia Oblast

Ukrainian forces advanced near Robotyne in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast. Russia redeploys newly formed brigades to Kupiansk sector. Ukraine’s Intel confirms strike at Russian military base in Crimea.

Daily overview — Summary report, August 26

According to information from the General Staff as of 06.00 26.08.2023, supplemented by its [18:00 assessment].

Situation in Ukraine. August 25, 2023. Source ISW.
Day 549 of the russian full-scale military aggression against Ukraine has begun.
During the day of August 25, the enemy launched 2x missile and 62x air strikes, 89x MLRS attacks at the positions of Ukrainian troops and various settlements. The Ukrainian Air Force intercepted 2x Kalibr cruise missiles and 4x Shahed-136/131 combat UAVs. Unfortunately, the russian terrorist attacks have killed and wounded civilians. Residential buildings, schools, and other civilian infrastructure were damaged.
The likelihood of missile and air strikes across Ukraine remains high.
During the day of August 25, there were more than 40x combat engagements.
Volyn and Polissya axes: no significant changes.
Luhansk Battle Map. August 25, 2023. Source ISW.
Sivershchyna and Slobozhanshchyna axes: the adversary launched an air strike in the vicinity of Udy (Kharkiv oblast). The russian forces fired mortars and artillery at more than 20x settlements, including Liskivshchyna, Bohdanove (Chernihiv oblast), Seredyna-Buda, Kucherivka, Khodyne, Stepne, Myropil’s’ke (Sumy oblast), Zybyne, Okhrimivka, Varvarivka, Hrachovka, and Ambarne (Kharkiv oblast).
Kup’yans’k axis: the adversary launched air strikes in the vicinities of Kyslivka and Pishchane (Kharkiv oblast). The settlements of Hryanykivka, Syn’kivka, Kup’yans’k, and Orlyans’ke (Kharkiv oblast) came under artillery and mortar fire of the adversary.
Donetsk Battle Map Draft. August 25, 2023. Source ISW.
Lyman axis: the adversary conducted unsuccessful offensives in the vicinities of Novojehorivka and Bilohorivka (Luhansk oblast). The invaders launched air strikes in the vicinities of Shyikivka, Cherneshchyna, Chervonyi Stav (Kharkiv oblast), Tverdokhlibove, Makiivka, (Luhansk oblast), Yampil’, Spirne, and Vesele (Donetsk oblast). More than 30x settlements, including Nevs’ke, Bilohorivka (Luhansk oblast), Svyato-Pokrovske, Zvanivka, Vyimka, and Rozdolivka (Donetsk oblast), were shelled with artillery.
Bakhmut Battle Map. August 25, 2023. Source ISW.
Bakhmut axis: the adversary attempted offensive operations in the vicinities of Orikhovo-Vasylivka, Ivanivske, and Klishchiivka (Donetsk oblast), to no success. More than 25x settlements, including Kurdyumivka, Bila Hora, Dyliivka, and Oleksandro-Shul’tyne, and Druzhba (Donetsk oblast), suffered from enemy artillery shelling.
Avdiivka axis: the adversary conducted unsuccessful offensives in the vicinity of Pervomais’ke (Donetsk oblast). The settlements of Novokalynove, Stepove, Avdiivka, Sjeverne, Pervomais’ke, and Nevel’s’ke Donetsk oblast) came under artillery fire.
Mar’inka axis: the Ukrainian Defense Forces continue to hold back the russian offensive in the vicinity of Mar’inka (Donetsk oblast). The adversary launched an air strike in the vicinity of Krasnohorivka (Donetsk oblast). The invaders fired artillery at the settlements of Krasnohorivka, Mar’inka, Kurakhove, Novomykhailivka, Kostyantynivka, and Hostre (Donetsk oblast).
Shakhtars’ke axis: the Ukrainian defenders successfully repelled russian troops attacks in the vicinity of Vuhledar (Donetsk oblast). The adversary launched air strikes in the vicinities of Vuhledar, Vremivka, Blahodatne, Staromaiors’ke, and Urozhaine (Donetsk oblast). More than 10x settlements suffered from enemy artillery attacks, including: Vuhledar, Novoukrainka, Urozhaine, Rivnopil’, Blahodatne, Pryvil’ne, and Burlats’ke (Donetsk oblast).
Zaporizhzhia Battle Map. August 25, 2023. Source ISW.
Zaporizhzhia axis: the adversary launched air strikes in the vicinities of Mala Tokmachka Robotyne and Novodanylivka (Zaporizhzhia oblast).
More than 20x settlements suffered from artillery attacks, including: Hulyaipole, Zaliznychne, Huliaipilske, Charivne, Luk’yanivs’ke, and Plavni (Zaporizhzhia oblast).
Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. August 25, 2023. Source ISW.
Kherson axis: the adversary fired artillery at Khreshchenivka, Ol’hivka, Mykil’s’ke, Kherson, Dniprovs’ke, and Kizomys (Kherson oblast).
At the same time, the Ukrainian Defense Forces continue to conduct the offensive operation on Melitopol’ axis, consolidating their positions and conducting counter-battery fire.
The Russian occupiers continue to cynically violate international humanitarian law as they deploy their servicemen in civilian buildings, using civilians as human shields. For example, up to 1,500 servicemen of the russian occupation forces of Buryat nationality were reported to arrive in the settlement of Osypenko (Zaporizhzhia oblast) on August 23. They were illegally quartered in civilian houses together with the locals and on the premises of a local hospital.
During the day of August 25, Ukrainian Air Force launched 12x air strikes on the concentrations of troops and 1x air strike on the anti-aircraft missile system of the adversary.
During the day of August 25, the Ukrainian missile and artillery troops hit 1x anti-aircraft missile system and 3x artillery pieces at the adversary’s firing positions.

Military Updates

Shelling by Russian Troops. Icelandic Data Analyst.

Russia redeploys newly formed brigades to Kupiansk sector, Ukraine’s top general says. Russia redeployed its reserves to mount an offensive towards Kupiansk in the Kharkiv Oblast (eastern Ukraine), Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi, Commander of the Land Forces of the Ukrainian Army, said during his visit to the Kupiansk and Lyman directions of the eastern front. According to Oleksandr Syrskyi, the Russian army continues to shell Kupiansk and its vicinities using artillery and mortars and launches missiles using aviation.

Ukraine’s Intel confirms strike at Russian military base in Crimea today. Ukrainian troops struck the 126th Separate Guards Coastal Defense Brigade of the Russian Black Sea Fleet in the village of Perevalne in occupied Crimea on 25 August, the representative of Ukraine’s intelligence (GUR), Andrii Yusov, told LIGA.net. Ukraine’s intelligence has information about Russian casualties due to the strike, Andrii Yusov said.

Ukraine’s General Staff: Ukrainian troops are advancing in Zaporizhzhia Oblast. Ukrainian troops consolidate their positions and continue counteroffensive operations in the Zaporizhzhia Oblast (southeastern Ukraine), the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces reported in its daily frontline update on 25 August 2023. Over the last day, there were around 35 combat engagements between Ukrainian defenders and invading Russian troops, according to Ukraine’s General Staff.

Milley: Ukrainians break through Russian defense line on southern front. Ukraine’s Armed Forces widened breach of the first line of Russian defense in the south, particularly in the Zaporizhzhia Oblast, US Army General, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark Milley, said in his interview with Al-Mamlaka TV, a Jordanian Public Service News Channel. General Milley spoke of “steady progress” by the Ukrainians, explaining that the pace of the attack was slower than he had planned. He said Ukrainian forces had managed to cross the main first line of defense, which the Russians had spent several months preparing.

Ukraine starts utilizing iron decoy equipment to deceive Russian strike drones. Ukraine’s Metinvest group has begun manufacturing iron decoy equipment identical by its appearance to radar stations and artillery. These decoys mislead the Russian aggressor, forcing it to waste expensive precision munitions or Lancet drones on the fake targets instead of Ukraine’s military equipment. Metinvest has already provided over 250 such decoys to Ukraine’s Armed Forces free of charge.

Russia starts launching cruise missiles from the Azov Sea, looking for a new tactic. Last night, on 25 August 2023, Russia launched cruise missiles from the Sea of Azov to the Ukrainian port city of Odesa. This indicates that Russians are looking for a new tactic so that their missiles can bypass Ukraine’s air defense, said Nataliya Humeniuk, the head of the joint coordination press center of the Defense Forces of South of Ukraine, while speaking on the TV air.

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

British Intelligence Map.
  • The Ukrainian counter-offensive has put Russian forces under pressure in Bakhmut and southern Ukraine. Despite this, Russia’s Western Group of Forces has continued small-scale attacks in the north-east, in the Kupiansk-Lyman sector, and has made some limited local advances.
  • As Ukraine continues to gradually gain ground in the south, Russia’s doctrine suggests that it will attempt to regain the initiative by pivoting back to an operational level offensive. Kupiansk-Lyman is one potential area for this.
  • There is a realistic possibility Russia will increase the intensity of its offensive efforts on the Kupiansk-Lyman axis in the next two months, probably with the objective of advancing west to the Oskil River and creating a buffer zone around Luhansk Oblast.

Losses of the Russian army

Losses of the Russian Army. Source: Euromaidan Press.

Humanitarian

Ukraine has taken “much fewer” POWs than Russia — Intelligence. That is due to the first days of the war when Russia “seized a terrible number of hostages,” including civilians and pensioners from the military. And it is unlikely that Ukraine will “catch up with those numbers,” said the head of Ukraine’s Intelligence, Kyrylo Budanov, in an interview with Radio Free Europe. He also said that only 20% of Russian POWs that Ukraine has taken surrendered voluntarily because they thought, “I’m scared, I don’t want anything,” he said. Others were taken during active battles.

Support

Lithuania sends ammo and anti-drones to Ukraine in new military aid package. Lithuania provided Ukraine with a new military aid package worth 41 million euros, Lithuania’s Defense Minister announced on 25 August. The military aid package contains ammunition, rifles, maritime surveillance radar sets, anti-drones, etc.

Netherlands to hand over all its F-16 fighters to Ukraine, Dutch Defense Minister says. The Netherlands will hand Ukraine all of its F-16 fighter jets, except for a few aircraft that will be used to train Ukrainian pilots, the Defense Minister of the Netherlands, Kajsa Ollongren, said on 24 August in her interview with Yevropeiska Pravda. In total, the Netherlands has 42 F-16 fighters. The Dutch Defense Minister explained that the Netherlands is now switching from F-16s to the newer F-35s, but because of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, it was decided not to sell the old F-16 and hand them to Ukraine’s Air Force.

New Developments

Ukrainian Defense Minister: Prigozhin’s death shows Putin cannot be trusted. The assassination of Wagner mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin proves that Russian President Vladimir Putin should not be negotiated with because he cannot be trusted, Ukraine’s Defense Minister, Oleksii Reznikov, said in an interview with Welt. According to Oleksii Reznikov, the death of Evgeny Prigozhin will not affect the course of the Russo-Ukrainian war because “the Wagner group no longer exists.”

Zelenskyy admits the deficit of ammunition for Soviet-era Ukraine’s air defense systems. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said there is a deficit of ammunition for Ukrainian air defense systems developed and produced in Soviet times. It is necessary to work with countries who still have some ammunition for Soviet air defense in their warehouses, he said during the press conference with Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre in Kyiv on 24 August 2023.

Assessment

  1. On the War

The Institute of Study of War has made the following assessment as of 25 August:

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s August 24 remarks about Wagner financier Yevgeny Prigozhin’s death established the Kremlin-approved narrative on the issue, and Russian government officials, Kremlin affiliates, and the Russian information space continued to toe this line on August 25. Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov lambasted suggestions and claims that Putin was involved in the death of Prigozhin, calling them “an absolute lie.”[1] Peskov stated that there are no official forensic details on Prigozhin’s death yet and claimed that Putin had not met with Prigozhin in the Kremlin in recent days.[2] Chechen Republic Head Ramzan Kadyrov mirrored some of Putin’s language about Wagner and Prigozhin by stating that Prigozhin “undoubtedly made a great contribution” to the Russian war effort in Ukraine.[3] The Russian information space largely followed the Kremlin-approved narrative and continues to refrain from linking the Kremlin to the plane crash.[4]

Some prominent voices in the Russian information space notably deviated from Putin’s established narrative, however. Former Putin bodyguard and current Tula Oblast Governor Alexey Dyumin stated that it is possible to “forgive mistakes and even cowardice, [but] never betrayal,” and claimed that Prigozhin and Wagner Group founder Dmitry Utkin were not “traitors.”[5] Dyumin’s statement implies that the Wagner June 24 rebellion was not actually a rebellion. Some Russian sources floated Dyumin as a possible replacement for Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu after the rebellion, and Putin made a public point that Shoigu retains a dominant position.[6] Russian ”Vostok” Battalion commander Alexander Khodakovsky stated on August 25 that some groups of sources, excluding imprisoned ardent nationalist Igor Girkin, are trying to use Prigozhin’s death to discredit Russian authorities to sow instability and argued that these claimed discreditation campaigns are a sign of instability within Russia.[7] Khodakovsky called for Girkin‘s release following Prigozhin‘s death on August 23 on the grounds that more (presumably good) people were needed to defend Russia.[8] Girkin’s official Telegram account published a statement from him via his lawyer on August 24, wherein Girkin claims that Prigozhin’s plane crash is indicative of deepening unrest within Russia – mirroring Khodakovsky’s complaint.[9] Girkin also claimed that the ”[19]90s are back,” implying that Putin’s broad effort to restore order to Russia following the chaos and gangsterism following the fall of the Soviet Union has failed — a direct attack on a central tenet of Putin’s claimed legitimacy.[10]

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko issued a statement on Prigozhin’s death on August 25 that likely aimed at balancing his relationship with the Kremlin with maintaining domestic control, but that also directly contradicted his previous statements concerning the deal he brokered between the Kremlin and Prigozhin. ISW incorrectly forecasted yesterday that Lukashenko would refrain from publicly speaking about Prigozhin’s death to avoid exacerbating his tenuous position with the Kremlin.[11] Lukashenko’s likely desire to maintain the appearance of being a sovereign leader appears to have outweighed any such concerns. Lukashenko asserted that Wagner would continue to operate within Belarus according to a system that he and Prigozhin had built in recent months and that 10,000 Wagner personnel will be in the country within a few days.[12] The Wagner contingent in Belarus has been reportedly declining in recent weeks, likely due to the Kremlin’s and Russian Ministry of Defense‘s (MoD) apparently successful effort to weaken Wagner.[13] Lukashenko directly responded to satellite imagery showing that up to a third of the tents at the Wagner camp in Tsel, Asipovichy, Belarus had been dismantled in the previous month and claimed that Wagner and Belarusian officials had only dismantled unnecessary tents not needed for the expected number of Wagner fighters.[14] It is extremely unlikely that 10,000 Wagner fighters will arrive in Belarus, nor are that many Wagner personnel needed as advisors and trainers to help Lukashenko build an unspecified Belarusian ”contract army.”[15] Lukashenko has routinely attempted to portray himself as a sovereign leader despite Russia’s current de-facto occupation of the country, and he likely hopes to prevent his domestic audience from viewing Putin’s almost certain assassination of Prigozhin as the Kremlin’s unilateral cancellation of agreements that he had made with Wagner.[16]

Lukashenko also expanded on his role in the negotiations that led to the agreement that ended Wagner’s June 24 rebellion.  Lukashenko stated that over a series of several calls he warned both Prigozhin and Utkin that pressing the rebellion would result in their deaths, portraying himself again as the one who convinced Prigozhin to end the rebellion.[17] Lukashenko likely hoped to underscore the initial deal and Wagner’s arrival in Belarus as examples of his ability to make high-level security decisions outside of the Kremlin’s dictates. Lukashenko endorsed the Kremlin narrative line that Putin had absolutely nothing to do with Prigozhin’s “accident,” dismissed assertions that a missile brought down the plane, and even claimed that he had warned Prigozhin via Putin about an unspecified assassination attempt.[18] Lukashenko notably tried to absolve himself of any responsibility for failing to protect Prigozhin by claiming that safety guarantees were never a part of the conversations he had with Wagner and the Kremlin.[19] Lukashenko had indicated on June 27, however, that Putin “promised” both Lukashenko and Prigozhin that Prigozhin and the Wagner would enjoy unspecified “security guarantees” in Belarus.[20]

The Financial Times reported on the bleak future of the Wagner Group’s operations in Africa following Prigozhin’s death. The Financial Times (FT) cited people familiar with the matter as saying that Prigozhin’s recent trip to Africa may have aimed to prevent the Russian Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) from taking control of Wagner’s operations in Africa.[21] This report is consistent with ISW‘s previous assessment that Prigozhin was likely attempting to counter efforts by the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) and the Kremlin to weaken and destroy Wagner following the rebellion.[22] FT reported that a longtime acquaintance of Prigozhin stated that Wagner’s operations in Africa will likely struggle without Prigozhin’s leadership.[23] An FT source close to the Russian MoD stated that it is unlikely the Russian military would be able to fully replicate Wagner’s operations in Africa under Prigozhin if the Russian MoD did take over Wagner.[24]

Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations near Robotyne in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast on August 25 and reportedly advanced as Russian milbloggers expressed concern over a lack of reinforcements and troop rotations in the area. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces achieved unspecified successes in the directions of the Novodanylivka-Novopokropivka (5-13km south of Orikhiv) line and the Mala Tokmachka-Ocheretuvate (9-25km southeast of Orikhiv) line.[25] A prominent Russian milblogger expressed concern about the ability of battle-weary Russian forces to defend against possible future renewed Ukrainian attacks near Robotyne (10km south of Orikhiv) amid claims that fighting shifted to southern Robotyne.[26] The milblogger claimed that many of the Russian servicemen fighting near Robotyne have been on the frontline since the start of the Ukrainian counteroffensive and that these units struggle with a shortage of frontline reinforcements.[27] This claim supports ISW’s assessment that Russian forces fighting in the western Zaporizhzhia Oblast area have been defending against Ukrainian attacks since the start of the counteroffensive without rotation or significant reinforcement.[28]

Reports of a Russian unit suffering significant losses with inadequate support on an unspecified island in the Dnipro River delta sparked outrage against the Russian military command in some parts of the Russian information space. Russian milbloggers amplified a complaint allegedly from personnel of the Russian 205th Motorized Rifle Brigade (49th Combined Arms Army, Southern Military District) claiming that elements were suffering significant casualties under Ukrainian artillery fire on an island in the Kherson direction and that commanders were ignoring the personnel’s calls for artillery fire.[29] The personnel claimed that a company commander tried to evacuate his unit from the island, but senior commanders stopped the evacuation, sent away the commander, and dismissed two other commanders who supported the withdrawal.[30] Russian milbloggers quickly jumped to criticize the Russian military command for failing to solve systemic issues among Russian forces on the Kherson frontline, including a lack of supplies and frontal assaults against Ukrainian east-bank positions under heavy artillery fire and with no support.[31] Milbloggers heavily criticized Russian commanders for failing to take accountability and for not resolving these issues.[32] The Russian information space previously eviscerated the Russian military command for similar failures combating a limited Ukrainian presence near the Antonivsky Bridge on the Kherson frontline in late June, and some milbloggers claimed that this widespread criticism was the only factor that compelled the Russian military command to fix the issues at the time.[33] The current round of criticism follows recent complaints about the failure to adequately respond to a limited Ukrainian presence on the east bank of the Dnipro River and criticism that Russian authorities never provided promised boats to Russian forces in the area.[34]

Ukrainian drones likely struck a Russian duty station in occupied Crimea on August 25. Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) Representative Andriy Yusov stated that Ukrainian drones targeted the base of the Russian 126th Guards Coastal Defense Brigade (Black Sea Fleet) near Perevalne, Simferopol Raion.[35] Crimean Tatar Resource Center Head Eskander Bariev also stated that residents reported explosions throughout occupied Crimea, particularly near Perevalne.[36] The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that Ukrainian forces launched 42 drones at targets in Crimea but that Russian air defense and electronic warfare (EW) systems downed all 42 Ukrainian drones.[37] A Kremlin-affiliated milblogger claimed that this was the largest Ukrainian drone strike in recent months.[38] GUR Chief Major General Kyrylo Budanov reiterated on August 24 that Ukrainian forces have the ability to strike any part of occupied Crimea.[39]

Russian forces conducted an unsuccessful missile and drone strike against targets in Odesa Oblast overnight on August 24-25. Ukrainian officials reported that Russian forces launched two Kh-59 missiles, two Kalibr missiles, and one Shahed-136/131 drone and that Ukrainian air defenses shot down all five projectiles.[40] The Ukrainian Southern Operational Command reported that the Russian missiles targeted Odesa City and a port in Odesa Oblast.[41]

Key Takeaways:

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin’s August 24 remarks about Wagner financier Yevgeny Prigozhin’s death established the Kremlin-approved narrative on the issue, and Russian government officials, Kremlin affiliates, and the Russian information space continued to toe this line on August 25.
  • Some prominent voices in the Russian information space notably deviated from Putin’s established narrative, however.
  • Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko issued a statement on Prigozhin’s death on August 25 that likely aimed at balancing his relationship with the Kremlin with maintaining domestic control, but that also directly contradicted his previous statements concerning the deal he brokered between the Kremlin and Prigozhin.
  • The Financial Times reported on the bleak future of the Wagner Group’s operations in Africa following Prigozhin’s death.
  • Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations near Robotyne in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast and reportedly advanced on August 25 as Russian milbloggers expressed concern over a lack of reinforcements and troop rotations in the area.
  • Reports of a Russian unit suffering significant losses with inadequate support on an unspecified island in the Dnipro River delta sparked outrage against the Russian military command in some parts of the Russian information space.
  • Ukrainian drones likely struck a Russian duty station in occupied Crimea on August 25.
  • Russian forces conducted offensive operations along the Kupiansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line, and in western Donetsk Oblast on August 25 and advanced.
  • Ukrainian forces conducted offensive operations in at least two sectors of the front on August 25 and reportedly advanced in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast.
  • Russian authorities are likely setting conditions to falsify the results of the September 2023 regional elections in occupied Ukraine.
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