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Advances in Zaporizhzhia: Ukrainian forces break through Russian defenses – ISW

Robotyne, Verbove and Mala Tokmachka
Robotyne, Verbove and Mala Tokmachka in the Zaporizhzhia Oblast. Map by Deep State.
Advances in Zaporizhzhia: Ukrainian forces break through Russian defenses – ISW

Recent developments in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast demonstrate significant tactical gains by Ukrainian forces. Reports from both Ukrainian and Russian sources, as Institute for the Study of War reports, indicate Ukrainian advancements through a challenging network of Russian defensive positions. Geolocated footage released on August 25 confirms a 1.5km southward movement northeast of Novoprokopivka, which is situated 13km south of Orikhiv.

US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, commented on August 25 that Ukrainian forces are actively engaging the primary set of Russian defensive preparations along their axis of advance. Reuters’ report on August 26 quoted a Ukrainian commander operating in southern Ukraine, who affirmed that Ukrainian forces have breached what was considered the most formidable line of Russian defenses in the region. This breakthrough is anticipated to expedite further advances, as Ukrainian forces have reportedly encountered only Russian “logistics groups” in the newly accessed areas. The commander expressed optimism regarding forthcoming breakthroughs in these zones, expecting them to be less challenging.

According to the Ukrainian General Staff, Ukraine’s forces are making progress within Zaporizhzhia Oblast. The troops are solidifying their positions and maintaining their counteroffensive efforts in the southeastern part of Ukraine, as detailed in the Armed Forces’ daily front-line report on August 25, 2023. In the past 24 hours, approximately 35 instances of combat occurred involving Ukrainian defenders and Russian forces that have entered Ukraine’s territory, as reported by the Ukrainian General Staff.

A Russian milblogger suggested that Ukrainian forces were pushing towards rear defensive lines near Verbove on August 25, hinting at the proximity of tactical rear areas within the series of Russian defensive positions that are currently being infiltrated. However, ISW adds, it’s crucial to interpret these reports accurately, without presuming that Ukrainian forces have penetrated Russian operational-level rear areas.

Ukrainian forces now find themselves within reach of the subsequent series of prepared Russian defensive positions, ISW reports. Although potentially less formidable than the earlier defenses, these positions still present a significant challenge. The series of defensive positions being navigated by Ukrainian forces consist of minefields and fortifications that demanded considerable Russian resources to maintain.

The upcoming series of Russian defensive positions likely features a more continuous arrangement of anti-tank obstacles, minefields, and fighting positions, resembling the initial line of Russian defense. The extent of minefields in this area remains unclear, yet they might be less densely scattered to enable Russian forces north of these positions to retreat. ISW’s recent assessment suggests that this new series of defensive positions might be less heavily fortified compared to the ones already penetrated by Ukrainian forces to the north, although this remains to be confirmed.

Each of these Russian “lines” represents layered defensive positions with separate forward and rear areas. It’s vital to distinguish between the rear areas of individual Russian defensive positions and the larger defense strategy in southern Ukraine. Additionally, the notion of Russian defensive “lines” acknowledges that these prepared positions aren’t uniform across the front and aren’t consistently manned. Further series of Russian defensive positions exist further south, but their effective deployment depends on available resources for cohesive defensive operations.

What preceded:

  • On August 25, Ukrainian forces continued their progression in the vicinity of Robotyne within Zaporizhzhia Oblast. This was accompanied by expressions of worry from Russian milbloggers concerning the inadequacy of reinforcements and troop rotations in that particular region.
  • As reported by the Ukrainian General Staff, Ukrainian forces achieved undisclosed gains along two fronts: the Novodanylivka-Novopokropivka line, situated 5-13 kilometers south of Orikhiv, and the Mala Tokmachka-Ocheretuvate line, spanning 9-25 kilometers southeast of Orikhiv.
  • Amid assertions of a shift in the battleground to the southern part of Robotyne, which lies 10 kilometers south of Orikhiv, a prominent Russian milblogger has expressed apprehensions about the ability of fatigued Russian forces to effectively counter any potential resurgent Ukrainian offensives in that region. The Institute for the Study of War highlighted this information in its previous daily report.
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