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Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 551: Ukraine advances in southern and eastern Ukraine

Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 551: Ukraine advances in southern and eastern Ukraine

Ukraine advances in the western Donetsk-eastern Zaporizhzhia Oblast border area and in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast amid Ukrainian counteroffensive operations in southern and eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian drones attack Russian military aircraft in Russia’s Kursk.

Daily overview — Summary report, August 28 2023

Situation in Ukraine. August 27, 2023. Source ISW.

According to information from the General Staff as of 06.00 28.08.2023, supplemented by its [18:00 assessment].

Day 551 of the russian full-scale military aggression against Ukraine has begun.
 
During the day of August 27, the adversary launched yet another missile attack on the territory of Ukraine. The Ukrainian air defense intercepted 4x cruise missiles.
 
During the day of August 27, the enemy launched a total of 11x missile and 48x air strikes, 54x MLRS attacks at the positions of Ukrainian troops and various settlements.
 
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 27, there were 34x combat engagements.
 
Volyn and Polissya axes: no significant changes.
 
Luhansk Battle Map. August 27, 2023. Source ISW.
 
 
Sivershchyna and Slobozhanshchyna axes: the adversary launched air strikes in the vicinities of Volfyne (Sumy oblast) and Okip (Kharkiv oblast). The adversary fired mortars and artillery at more than 30x settlements, including Khrinivka, Klyusy, Liskivshchyna, Hrem’yach, Kamin’ (Chernihiv oblast), Khodyne, Kostyantynivka, Tur’ya, Novodmytrivka, Hrabovs’ke, Velyka Pysarivka (Sumy oblast), Veterynarne, Krasne, Ohirtseve, Budarky, and Kolodyazne (Kharkiv oblast).
 
Kup’yans’k axis: the adversary launched air strikes in the vicinities of Nadiya and Tverdokhlibove (Kharkiv oblast). The settlements of Kam’yanka, Dvorichna, Syn’kivka, Ivanivka, Kyslivka, and Berestove (Kharkiv oblast) came under artillery and mortar fire of the adversary.
 
Donetsk Battle Map. August 27, 2023. Source ISW.
 
Lyman axis: the adversary conducted unsuccessful offensives in the vicinities of Novojehorivka (Luhansk oblast). More than 10x settlements, including Karmazynivka, Nevs’ke, Chervonopopivka, Kreminna, Bilohorivka (Luhansk oblast), Tors’ke, Dibrova, Spirne, and Rozdolivka (Donetsk oblast), were shelled with artillery.
 
Bakhmut Battle Map. August 27, 2023. Source ISW.
 
 
Bakhmut axis: the adversary conducted unsuccessful offensives in the vicinity of Klishchiivka (Donetsk oblast). More than 15x settlements, including Min’kivka, Bakhmut, Chasiv Yar, Mykolaivka, Klishchiivka, and Kurdyumivka (Donetsk oblast), suffered from enemy artillery shelling.
 
Avdiivka axis: the adversary fired artillery at more than 10x settlements, including Ocheretyne, Stepove, Avdiivka, Sjeverne, Pervomais’ke, and Nevel’s’ke (Donetsk oblast).
 
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, Hostre, Mar’inka, Katerynivka, Paraskoviivka, and Novomykhailivka (Donetsk oblast).
 
Shakhtars’ke axis: the enemy launched air strikes in the vicinities of Zolota Nyva and Staromaiors’ke (Donetsk oblast). Bohoyavlenka, Shakhtars’ke, Vremivka, Staromaiors’ke, and Rivnopil’ (Donetsk oblast) suffered from enemy artillery shelling.
 
Zaporizhzhia Battle Map. August 27, 2023. Source ISW.
 
Zaporizhzhia axis: the adversary launched air strikes in the vicinities of Mala Tokmachka, Robotyne, and Novodanylivka (Zaporizhzhia oblast). More than 25x settlements suffered from enemy artillery shelling, including Malynivka, Charivne, Shcherbaky, Stepove, and Luk’yanivs’ke (Zaporizhzhia oblast).
 
Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. August 27, 2023. Source ISW.
 
Kherson axis: the enemy launched air strikes in the vicinities of Mykolaivka, Mykil’s’ke, and Antonivka (Kherson oblast). More than 15x settlements suffered from enemy artillery shelling, including Beryslav, Mykolaivka, L’vove, Molodizhne, Dniprovs’ke, and Berehove (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.
 
During the day of August 27, Ukrainian Air Force launched 10x air strikes on the concentrations of troops and 1x air strike on the anti-aircraft missile systems of the adversary.
 
During the day of August 27, the Ukrainian missile and artillery troops hit 1x ammunition depot, 2x electronic warfare stations, and 4x artillery systems of the adversary at their firing positions.
 

Military Updates

Military: Ukraine advances from Robotyne towards next village in south. Ukraine’s defense forces are advancing south towards the village of Novoprokopivka, next to liberated Robotyne on the southern front. Oleksandr Shtupun, the spokesman for the joint press center of the Tavria defense forces, said on 27 August on the national telethon, according to Liga.

British intel: Naval and aerial forces collide over key gas and oil platforms in Black Sea. Amid heightened tensions, clashes occur between maritime and air forces over valuable gas and oil platforms near Crimea, which can also be used as forward bases, helicopter landing sites, and to position missile systems, the British Defense Ministry says in its intelligence update.

Ukrainian drones attack Russian military aircraft in Russia’s Kursk – media. Overnight into 27 August, a counterintelligence unit of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) attacked the Russian military aircraft and air defense equipment at an airfield near Russia’s city of Kursk, RBC-Ukraine reports referring to its SBU sources. According to RBC-Ukraine, Ukrainian one-way attack drones targeted four Su-30 and one MiG-29 aircraft, radars of the S-300 anti-air complex, and two units of the Pantsir air-defense system. The SBU’s 13th Main Directorate carried out the operation.

Frontline report: Ukrainians outsmart inexperienced Russian troops in Kherson Oblast. Ukrainian forces capitalized on Russian troop unfamiliarity in Kherson Oblast, weakening a battalion by up to 25%. A strategic landing operation breached Russian defenses and even captured a commander. Utilizing drones and HIMARS strikes, Ukrainians countered Russian attempts, forcing an overcommitment. This significant advantage aims to weaken the Russian 205th Brigade and shift regional control.

Four cruise missiles intercepted over Ukraine overnight. On the night of August 27, Russian forces deployed a series of X-101/X-55/X-555 cruise missiles. Ukrainian air forces successfully intercepted and neutralizated four of these projectiles. Preliminary information suggests that the cruise missiles were launched from five strategic aviation aircraft within Russian airspace, specifically in the Engel’s region. During the incident, as many as eight airborne targets were detected in proximity.

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

British Intelligence Map.
  • Russia has highly likely cancelled Exercise ZAPAD (‘West’) 23, its planned ‘joint strategic exercise’ (JSE) and major annual event intended to be the culmination of the military’s training year. The exercise should have taken place in September 2023.
  • From 2010 Russia ran a four-year cycle, rotating JSEs around the country. However, since 2021, Russia has based the JSE in western Russia at least every second year as it prioritises confronting what it perceives as the threat from NATO. This follows ZAPAD 21, the largest Russian exercise since Soviet times.
 
  • The Russian military’s under-performance in Ukraine has highlighted how JSEs have had limited training value and have largely been for show. Russia has likely cancelled ZAPAD 23 because too few troops and equipment are available. There is a realistic possibility that the Russian leadership is also sensitive to domestic criticism liable from running another slickly presented JSE during wartime.

Losses of the Russian army

Losses of the Russian Army. Source: Euromaidan Press.

Humanitarian

Russia shells Kherson city and region, killing two civilians. Over 27 August, the Kherson Oblast Military Administration reported several instances of Russian shelling in the region, which killed at least two and injured three more civilians. At about noon, the Administration reported that the Russian forces carried out an air attack, dropping guided aerial bombs near Kherson, Dariivka, Kozatske, and Odradokamianka. No damage or casualties were reported.

Ukrainian frontline cafe hit in Russian attack. Reports from regional Ukrainian officials indicate that Russian forces have conducted an attack on a cafe situated in a strategically significant area in the northeastern part of Ukraine. The assault resulted in the loss of two civilian lives, with another individual sustaining injuries. The location of this shelling, near the city of Kupiansk, raises concerns that Russia might be attempting to take control of this region, which was retaken by Ukraine during a rapid counteroffensive in September of the previous year, following over half a year of Russian occupation.

Two women injured in Russian shelling attack on Kherson. On the evening of 26 August, the Kherson Oblast Military Administration reported that Russia carried out shelling attacks on central Kherson during the day, injuring two civilian women.

Environmental

Second merchant vessel successfully sailed through temporary corridor amid Russia’s Black Sea blockade. On 27 August, the second merchant vessel successfully navigated through a temporary Ukrainian Black Sea corridor and reached Romanian waters, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reported on Twitter. The vessel is the Liberian-flagged bulk carrier Primus which left the port of Odesa on 26 August through the corridor amid the Russian blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.

Ministry: Environmental damage from Russia’s war nears $55 bln. Ukraine’s Minister of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources, Ruslan Strilets, said that the damage caused by Russians to the environment in Ukraine increased five-fold over the year, reaching UAH 2 trillion or about $55 billion. He reported it on his Facebook page, emphasizing that the amount of damage is growing every day, and this figure is far from being final. 

Children of fallen soldiers find respite at summer camp amid war’s shadow. Organized by “Children of Heroes,” a nationwide charity, camps such as 7 Fields offer solace to around 6,000 Ukrainian children who have lost parents, often fathers, due to the war or are internally displaced as a June study by the International Institute of Sociology in Kyiv found that 78% of Ukrainians have experienced the loss or injury of a close family member.

Zelenskyy wants to equate corruption with high treason during martial law. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an interview that he wants to equate corruption with high treason during martial law.  According to the president, he will propose to the Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian Parliament) to draft a relevant bill in the coming week. Zelenskyy stressed that corruption must be fought with fundamental, systemic solutions, so he suggested that lawmakers develop a draft law equating corruption with high treason for the period of martial law.

Support

Almost 100 Leopard 1s stored in the open in Italy as Switzerland blocked their transfer to Ukraine. A Swiss public broadcaster published the first photos of about 100 Swiss-owned tanks that were to be sold to Germany for the transfer to Ukraine, but Switzerland’s government rejected the sale.

New Developments

Lithuania’s PM: Putin’s prolonged depletion strategy in Ukraine aims to weaken support. Lithuania’s Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė believes that Russian President Vladimir Putin has a goal to exhaust Ukraine, aiming to tire out the countries that are assisting Ukraine in its struggle.

Mayor: Blaze erupts at Russian-controlled Berdiansk industrial facility used to store equipment. Fire has broken out in Russia-occupied city of Berdiansk, where Mayor Ivan Fedorov of Melitopol reports that a workshop is ablaze, which was allegedly used by Russians to store their equipment. Residents of the area have taken to social media to report a fire on the premises of one of the city’s enterprises. However, there have been no reports of explosions.

Foreign Ministry: Five EU countries’ intention to extend Ukraine grain ban unacceptable. The intention of Slovakia, Bulgaria, Poland, Romania, and Hungary to extend the ban on importing Ukrainian grain until the year-end is “categorically unacceptable,” Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry says. “We drew attention to the statement of the Minister of Agriculture of Poland that his country, as well as Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary support the extension of the ban on the import of Ukrainian grain until the end of 2023. We consider it categorically unacceptable to continue trade restrictions on the import of agricultural products of Ukraine after the ban of the European Commission expires on September 15,” reads the statement published on 26 August.

 

Assessment

  1. On the War

The Institute of Study of War has made the following assessment as of 28 August:

Ukrainian forces reportedly advanced in the western Donetsk-eastern Zaporizhzhia Oblast border area and in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast amid Ukrainian counteroffensive operations in southern and eastern Ukraine. Tavriisk Group of Forces Spokesperson Oleksandr Shtupun reported that Ukrainian forces are advancing in the directions of Novoprokopivka (13km south of Orikhiv), Mala Tokmachka (9km southeast of Orikhiv), and Ocheretuvate (25km southeast of Orikhiv) in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast.[1] Shtupun also stated that Ukrainian forces advanced near Urozhaine (9km south of Velyka Novosilka) and Robotyne (10km south of Orikhiv) and achieved unspecified successes near Staromayorske (9km south of Velyka Novosilka) in the Berdiansk direction (western Donetsk-eastern Zaporizhzhia Oblast border area) and in an unspecified location in the Melitopol direction (western Zaporizhzhia Oblast).[2] Ukrainian Eastern Group of Forces Spokesperson Ilya Yevlash stated that Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations in the Bakhmut direction.[3]

A Ukrainian soldier, likely operating in the Robotyne area, offered further tactical details on the prepared Russian defensive positions that Ukrainian forces have penetrated and on those that are currently ahead of them. The Ukrainian soldier stated that, in the Robotyne area, there is a system of interconnected Russian trenches, dugouts, and limited underground tunnels that allow Russian forces to facilitate the movement of personnel, weaponry, and ammunition from different tactical positions along the front.[4] The Ukrainian soldier stated that anti-tank ditches and minefields stretch across fields in front of and in between these interconnected layers of defensive positions.[5] The soldier added that all “unexcavated” areas around these prepared defensive positions are heavily mined and that Russian forces have narrowly designated unmined paths in their defensive layers to allow Russian forces to reach firing positions.[6] The Ukrainian soldier did not indicate whether the Ukrainian forces had passed through the densest minefields but suggested that Ukrainian forces still had to demine areas at a gradual pace before advancing further.[7] ISW previously assessed that areas near the next series of prepared Russian defensive positions may be less heavily mined to give Russian forces operating north of these positions the ability to retreat, although the Ukrainian soldier’s reporting suggests that this may not be the case in the areas where Ukrainian forces are currently approaching the next Russian defensive layer.[8] Ukrainian forces are now within striking distance of the next series of Russian defensive positions, which appears to be comprised of a relatively more contiguous array of anti-tank ditches and dragon’s teeth anti-tank obstacles with Russian fighting positions behind these obstacles similar to the previous layer of Russian defenses.[9] The highly interconnected systems of trenches and dugouts that the Ukrainian soldier described is the result of months of Russian preparation and it is unclear if Russian forces extended that system throughout subsequent series of defensive positions further south.

The composition of Russian defensive positions in southern Ukraine and the ambiguities about how Russian forces are manning and equipping them continues to obscure how the next phase of fighting will transpire. ISW recently assessed that a lack of observed uncommitted Russian forces in the area may suggest that a subsequent series of Russian defensive positions may be less heavily defended than the positions that Ukrainian forces already penetrated to the north, although this remains unclear.[10] Russian forces have reportedly conducted additional lateral transfers to the Robotyne area with elements of the 76th Guards Air Assault (VDV) Division from the Kreminna area in Luhansk Oblast and are also reportedly redeploying unspecified elements from the Kherson direction to the area.[11] Russian forces committed elements of the 7th VDV Division immediately to combat after laterally transferring them to the Robotyne area in early August, although the Russian command could decide to commit these new reinforcements to strengthen the next series of defensive positions south of the current Ukrainian advance.[12] Russian forces committed a considerable amount of materiel, effort, and manpower to hold the series of defensive positions that Ukrainian forces are currently penetrating, and it is unclear if Russian forces will retain the advantages they have held if they cannot commit the same level of resources and personnel to these next layers of defense.[13] The next Russian defensive layer will, nevertheless, very likely pose significant challenges for the Ukrainian advance.

Russian forces conducted missile strikes against targets in Ukraine on the night of August 26 to 27 and reportedly targeted a Ukrainian airfield in Kyiv Oblast. Ukrainian military officials reported that Ukrainian forces intercepted four Russian Kh-101, Kh-55, and Kh-555 cruise missiles out of eight unspecified Russian projectiles launched at Ukraine.[14] The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that Russian missiles struck a Ukrainian military airfield near Pinchuky, Kyiv Oblast.[15]

The Russian MoD appears to have unsuccessfully attempted to silence Russian milbloggers’ concerns over the alleged mistreatment of a Russian brigade operating in occupied Kherson Oblast — sparking further criticism from the ultranationalist community. A Russian state-affiliated war correspondent released a video on August 26 claiming to show five Russian servicemen of the 205th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade (49th Combined Arms Army, Southern Military District) currently operating on the Dnipro River delta islands in a trench.[16] The servicemen asked that Russian milbloggers stop spreading complaints on social media concerning the brigade’s alleged lack of artillery support and accused Russian milbloggers of harming the brigade’s operations in the delta area. The servicemen also called on milbloggers to fight on the frontlines if they wanted to help the Russian war effort. ISW reported on August 25 and August 26 that Russian milbloggers claimed that elements of the 205th Motorized Rifle Brigade 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.[17] Several Russian milbloggers responded to the appeal and claimed that the video was clearly staged to deflect criticism from the brigade’s leadership and the Russian MoD.[18] Russian milbloggers claimed that the servicemen appeared to be wearing new uniforms, which the milbloggers noted is inconsistent with claims that these servicemen are fighting in trenches. The Russian MoD had consistently tried throughout the full-scale invasion to silence criticisms in the Russian information space by accusing Russian milbloggers of violating Russian operational security.[19]

The Russian Investigative Committee announced on August 27 that genetic tests confirm that Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin was among 10 people killed in a plane crash on August 23.[20] Wagner commanders and representatives have refrained from commenting on the announcement and called on Russians to stop spreading rumors and fake news.[21] Wagner’s official Telegram channels were likely referring to Telegram channels that claim to be affiliated with Wagner and are baselessly speculating that Prigozhin is still alive.[22]

Russian milbloggers claimed that the Russian MoD had been actively setting conditions to halt Wagner Group’s operations in the Middle East and Africa prior to Prigozhin’s death on August 23. A Kremlin-affiliated milblogger amplified reports that Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yunus-Bek Yevkurov visited Syria and Libya to coerce local officials into severing their cooperation with Wagner forces.[23] Yevkurov reportedly told Syrian officials to block Wagner’s logistics to the Central African Republic (CAR) that originated in Syria and prompted Syrian Defense Minister Ali Mahmoud Abbas to deliver Wagner an ultimatum demanding that Wagner hand over weapons and leave Syria by September 20.[24] The reports noted that Yevkurov will likely be meeting with African officials to set similar ultimatums for Wagner personnel in other countries. Yevkurov also reportedly told Wagner representatives in Syria that there have been no decisions regarding who will oversee the Wagner contingent after Prigozhin’s assassination and urged them to enlist in the Russian MoD-affiliated “Redut” private military company (PMC) as well as preparing to disarm soon. The Kremlin-affiliated milblogger claimed that the Russian MoD is trying to fully reassign Wagner personnel to either a “volunteer corps” based out of “Patriot” Park in Moscow Oblast or to the “Redut” PMC.[25] The milblogger added that the Russian MoD negotiators are afraid of directly pressuring Wagner personnel and are instead pressuring Middle Eastern and African officials to sever their ties with Wagner – leaving the Wagner personnel without a choice. The milblogger observed that Wagner cannot independently exist following the Russian MoD’s June 1 announcement that volunteer formations cannot be independent of the Russian MoD.

The Russian MoD may be more intensely focused on disbanding the Wagner Group than Russian President Vladimir Putin. Former BBC Russian Service investigative journalist Andrey Zakharov, citing unnamed sources, reported that Putin allowed Prigozhin to continue Wagner operations in the Middle East and Africa but instructed him to not intervene in Ukraine or Russia during one of their two meetings after Prigozhin’s armed rebellion on June 24.[26] Zakharov added that the Russian MoD, on the other hand, intensified efforts to “strangle” Wagner in Syria and Africa, and Prigozhin together with Wagner’s leadership flew to Moscow to attempt to resolve this issue before his assassination. Zakharov added that currently, the fate of “Prigozhin’s empire” — inclusive of his military contracts and contracts for the extraction of oil, gas, and gold — in the Middle East and Africa is unclear. The Kremlin-affiliated milblogger noted that a third party, possibly another Russian force structure, should adopt Wagner’s foreign assets rather than having the Russian MoD do so to prevent tension and the destruction of these assets. A Russian source also claimed that the Russian MoD may have been rushing to disband Wagner because the Kremlin had yet to decide on Wagner’s fate and because the MoD wanted to be the first organization to assume control over Wagner’s leftovers.[27]

ISW cannot independently confirm the validity of these reports, but if these accounts are true, they may indicate that Putin is not micromanaging the dissolution of the Wagner PMC but rather has passed this responsibility to the Russian MoD. The surge of these accounts across Russian milblogger and opposition communities, however, may also be an attempt to separate Putin from Prigozhin’s assassination and the prospective dissolution of Wagner.

Key Takeaways:

  • Ukrainian forces reportedly advanced in the western Donetsk-eastern Zaporizhzhia Oblast border area and in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast amid Ukrainian counteroffensive operations in southern and eastern Ukraine.
  • A Ukrainian soldier likely operating in the Robotyne area offered further tactical details on the prepared Russian defensive positions that Ukrainian forces have penetrated and on those that are currently ahead of them.
  • The composition of Russian defensive positions in southern Ukraine and the ambiguities about how Russian forces are manning and equipping them continues to obscure how the next phase of fighting will transpire.
  • Russian forces conducted missile strikes against targets in Ukraine on the night of August 26 to 27 and reportedly targeted a Ukrainian airfield in Kyiv Oblast.
  • The Russian Investigative Committee announced on August 27 that genetic tests confirm that Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin was among 10 people killed in a plane crash on August 23.
  • Russian milbloggers claimed that the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) had been actively setting conditions to halt Wagner Group’s operations in the Middle East and Africa prior to Prigozhin’s death on August 23.
  • The Russian MoD may be more intensely focused on disbanding the Wagner Group than Russian President Vladimir Putin.
  • Russian forces conducted offensive operations along the Kupiansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line, in western Donetsk Oblast, and in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast but did not make confirmed advances.
  • Russian authorities continue efforts to coerce migrants and foreigners living in Russia to fight in the war in Ukraine in exchange for Russian citizenship.

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