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Russo-Ukrainian War. Day 554: Biggest drone attack on Russia, Crimea

Biggest drone attack on Russia, Crimea. Ukrainian forces destroyed four Russian planes during a drone strike on an airfield in Pskov Oblast. 28 Russian cruise missiles and 15 out of 16 attack UAVs destroyed by Ukrainian air force. 

Daily report day 554 – August 31 2023

Situation in Ukraine. August 30, 2023. Source ISW.

According to information from the General Staff as of 06.00 31.08.2023, supplemented by its [18:00 assessment].

“On August 30, the Russian Federation launched yet another missile and airstrike on the territory of Ukraine, using air-launched missiles and Iranian Shahed-136/131 combat UAVs. The forces and means of the Air Force jointly with the Air Defence of the Defence Forces of Ukraine successfully intercepted 28 cruise missiles and 15 Shahed-136/131 combat UAVs.

On August 30, the enemy launched 31 missile3 and 66 airstrikes, 53 MLRS attacks at the positions of Ukrainian troops and various settlements. Unfortunately, the Russian terrorist attacks have killed and wounded civilians. Residential buildings and other civilian infrastructure were damaged.

The likelihood of missiles and airstrikes across Ukraine remains high.

On August 30, there were more than 40 combat engagements.

  • Volyn and Polissya axes: no significant changes.
Luhansk Battle Map. August 30, 2023. Source ISW.
  • Sivershchyna and Slobozhanshchyna axes: the adversary launched airstrikes in the vicinities of Volfyne (Sumy oblast) and Potykhonove (Kharkiv oblast). The invaders fired mortars and artillery at more than 25 settlements, including Karpovychi, Semenivka (Chernihiv oblast), Stara Huta, Hudove, Obody, Khotin’, Volodymyrivka, Popivka (Sumy oblast), Hatyshche, Vovchans’ki Khutory, Hryhorivka, Odradne, and Dvorichans’ke (Kharkiv oblast).
  • Kupiansk axis: the adversary launched an airstrike in the vicinity of Kyslivka (Kharkiv oblast). The settlements of Masyutivka, Syn’kivka, Kucherivka, Kyslivka, and Berestove (Kharkiv oblast) came under artillery and mortar fire from the adversary.
Donetsk Battle Map. August 30, 2023. Source ISW.
  • Lyman axis: the adversary conducted unsuccessful offensives in the vicinities of Novojehorivka and Bilohorivka. The invaders launched airstrikes in the vicinities of Nadiya, Tverdokhlibove, Novojehorivka, Bilohorivka (Luhansk Oblast), Serebryanka, and Spirne (Donetsk Oblast). The adversary fired artillery and mortars at the settlements of Kreminna (Luhansk Oblast), Kuz’myne, Tors’ke, and Lyman (Donetsk Oblast).
  • Bakhmut axis: the adversary conducted unsuccessful offensives in the vicinities of Klishchiivka and Kurdyumivka. The invaders launched airstrikes in the vicinities of Klishchiivka and Andriivka (Donetsk oblast). More than 20 settlements, including Zaliznyans’ke, Bakhmut, Ivanivske, Bila Hora, Druzhba, and Shcherbynivka (Donetsk oblast), suffered from enemy artillery shelling.
  • Avdiivka axis: the enemy fired artillery and mortar shells at the settlements of Keramik, Orlivka, Avdiivka, Pervomaiske, and Nevel’s’ke (Donetsk oblast).
  • Marinka axis: the Ukrainian Defence Forces continue to hold back the Russian offensive in the vicinity of Marinka (Donetsk oblast). The settlements of Krasnohorivka, Pobjeda, Antonivka, Novomykhailivka, and Vodyane (Donetsk oblast) came under artillery fire.
  • Shakhtarske axis: the Ukrainian defenders successfully repelled Russian troops’ attacks in the vicinity of Staromaiors’ke (Donetsk oblast). The enemy launched airstrikes in the vicinities of Vuhledar and Zolota Nyva (Donetsk oblast). The settlements of Novoukrainka, Shakhtars’ke, Blahodatne, Neskuchne, Urozhaine, and Novopil’ (Donetsk oblast), suffered from enemy artillery shelling.
  • Zaporizhzhia axis: the adversary conducted unsuccessful offensive operations in the vicinity of Verbove (Zaporizhzhia oblast). The invaders launched airstrikes in the vicinities of Novodarivka, Verbove, Mala Tokmachka, and Robotyne (Zaporizhzhia oblast). More than 30 settlements suffered from enemy artillery shelling, including Temyrivka, Chervone, Huliaipilske, Mali Shcherbaky, Kam’yans’ke, and Stepnohirs’k (Zaporizhzhia oblast).
Zaporizhzhia Battle Map. August 30, 2023. Source ISW.
  • Kherson axis: more than 25 settlements suffered from enemy artillery shelling, including Mykhailivka, Novoberyslav, Mykolaivka, Tokarivka, Dniprovs’ke, and Stanislav (Kherson oblast).
Kherson-Mykolaiv Battle Map. August 30, 2023. Source ISW.

At the same time, the Ukrainian Defense Forces continue to conduct the offensive operation on the Melitopol axis, consolidating their positions and conducting counter-battery fire.

On August 30, Ukrainian Air Force launched 10 airstrikes on the concentrations of troops and 4 airstrikes on the anti-aircraft missile systems of the adversary.

On August 30, the Ukrainian missile and artillery troops hit 1 concentration of troops, weapons, and military equipment, 1 command post, and 1 electronic warfare station of the adversary.“

Military Updates

Russians report UAV attack in Bryansk Oblast and missile launch on Crimea, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Russia’s Defence Ministry; Sergei Aksyonov, collaborator and so-called “head” of Crimea; Alexander Bogomaz, Governor of Bryansk Oblast; Oleg Kryuchkov, adviser to the so-called “head” of Crimea, on Telegram. “The Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation has claimed it shot down two Ukrainian drones in Russia’s Bryansk Oblast and one missile over temporarily occupied Crimea on the evening of 30 August. […]

As usual, the Russian official was quick to state that there were no casualties or damage, but at the same time added that operational and emergency services are working at the scene. Telegram channels reported explosions over the city of Feodosia, Crimea. Users claimed to have seen three missiles. A fire was also reported.

The Telegram Mash channel claimed that the Armed Forces of Ukraine tried to attack Kirovske airfield in Feodosia with an “American missile“.”

Biggest drone attack on Russia, Crimea reported, The Kyiv Independent reports. “Russian media reported what appears to be the biggest drone attack on Russian territory and Russian-occupied Crimea overnight on Aug. 30. […] A drone strike was reported in Pskov Oblast, with reports of explosions at Pskov International Airport. Pskov is over 800 kilometres north of Kyiv, near the border with Estonia. Russian state news agency TASS reported that the strike had damaged four Il-76 aircraft at a military airfield. Russian media outlet Meduza said that the 334th military transport regiment, armed with Il-76 aircraft, is deployed at Pskov airport. […]

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin claimed that Russian air defences shot down a drone headed to the city over the Ruza district of Moscow Oblast, west of the capital. No casualties have been reported. According to Russian media, Moscow’s Vnukovo airport shut down the night of Aug. 30, while flights at Domodedovo and Sheremetyevo airports were delayed, after the airspace over Moscow and Tula oblasts was closed.

The Russian Defense Ministry also claimed that drones were shot down over BryanskOryolKaluga, and Ryazan oblasts. TASS claimed that air defense units shot down three drones over Bryansk and one over Oryol. A drone or its debris allegedly hit the Kremniy EL microelectronics factory in Bryansk, causing damage. The Bryansk city administration said that an explosion took place at the headquarters of Russia’s Investigative Committee in the city. Multiple videos of massive explosions in Bryansk were posted on social networks.

In Kaluga Oblast, a drone hit an empty oil product storage facility, Kaluga Oblast Governor Vladislav Shapsha said.

In Russian-occupied Crimea, the Russian-installed governor of Sevastopol alleged that there had been an unsuccessful attack on Sevastopol with sea drones.”

Drone attack on Pskov: Ukraine’s Defence Intelligence confirms destroying 4 Il-76 aircraft and damaging 2 more, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Andrii Yusov, representative of the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine. “The Defence Intelligence of Ukraine has confirmed the destruction of four Russian Il-76 military transport aircraft during a nighttime drone attack on Pskov. Four aircraft were destroyed and cannot be restored. Presumably, two more jets are damaged, the information is being clarified.

The Ukrainska Pravda’s source confirmed that the Defence Intelligence and other units of the Defence Forces are behind the recent drone attack on Pskov. The source pointed out that the intelligence is conducting a range of activities as part of a special operation in occupied Crimea and beyond.”

All 28 cruise missiles and 15 out of 16 attack UAVs were destroyed, the Ukrainian General Staff reports. “[On the night of 30 August], the enemy attacked the territory of Ukraine with cruise missiles and attack UAVs. A total of 44 enemy air targets were recorded: 28 Kh-101/Kh-555/Kh-55 air-launched missiles were fired from 11 Tu-95ms strategic aircraft from the Caspian Sea and the Engels region. 16 attack UAVs of the “Shahed-136/131” type from the southern and northern directions (Prymorsko-Akhtarsk, Kursk).

All 28 cruise missiles and 15 attack UAVs of the “Shahed-136/131” type were destroyed by the forces and means of air defence of the Air Force in cooperation with the Air Defense Forces of the defence Forces of Ukraine within the boundaries of Kyiv, Cherkasy, Odesa and Mykolaiv regions.”

Enemy is bringing in new units from Russian Federation in Kupiansk-Lyman direction, Armed Forces of Ukraine are gradually moving forward in Bakhmut direction, Censor.net reports, citing the Military Media Center and the commander of the Ground Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Oleksandr Syrsky. “Intense fighting continues in the Kupiansk-Lymansk and Bakhmutsk directions.

The situation on the Eastern Front remains difficult. Our units continue to hold back the enemy’s advance in the Kupiansk-Lyman direction. The fiercest battles are taking place in the areas of the settlements of Rayhorodok and Kovalivka, where the enemy, despite losses, is trying to break through the defences of our troops, using assault units on armoured vehicles. At the same time, the enemy is regrouping, establishing new units from the territory of the Russian Federation to increase the number and combat capability of its troops, he said.

Fighting also continues in the direction of Bakhmut. The enemy is trying to regain lost positions at any cost, counterattacking our units several times a day. We are taking all measures to disrupt the enemy’s plans and are gradually moving forward. In particular, intense fighting is taking place in the districts of Bakhmut, Kurdiumivka, Yahidne, Andriivka.”

Russians retreating as their defense lines breached in Zaporizhzhia sector, Ukrinform reported on Tuesday, citing the Head of the Joint Coordinating Press Centre of the Southern Défense Forces Natalia Humeniuk. “Russian invaders are retreating as Ukrainian forces have breached their defense line in the Zaporizhzhia region. Now, as our troops are directly advancing, the enemy no longer has a chance to consolidate the defence that had been breached, so after a while it gains a breakthrough status, Humeniuk told.

In her words, the advance of Ukrainian forces is obvious geographically and shows the enemy troops retreating. According to Humeniuk, each settlement de-occupied by the Defence Forces is important to Ukraine. The very advance of [Ukraine’s] Defence Forces is also very powerful psychological pressure on the enemy, which is also a weapon in the conditions of a hybrid war, Humeniuk added.”

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

  • Overnight on the 29/30 August 2023, Russia experienced up to five separate strikes by one-way attack uncrewed aerial vehicles (OWA-UAVS)- the largest attack on Russia since the start of the conflict. Explosions were recorded in Moscow, Bryansk, and Ryazan, as well as at Pskov airbase close to the Estonian border. The attack on Pskov likely damaged several Russian military transport aircraft. During August 2023 Russia experienced 25 separate drone attacks, almost certainly carried out by OWA-UAVS.
  • Many of these UAVs have reached their targets, which likely means that Russian air defence is having difficulty detecting and destroying them. Russia is likely rethinking its air defence posture in the area between Ukraine and Moscow to better deal with these attacks.
  • Previous strikes against Russian military airbases have led to the dispersal of Russian aircraft to locations across Russia. However, the recent strikes against Soltsy and Pskov have demonstrated that the UAVS have significant reach, making further dispersal more challenging. It is likely that Russia will have to consider the addition of further air defence systems to airfields that it considers to be at risk from UAV attacks.
  • On 25 August 2023, two Russian soldiers were sentenced to serve at least two years in a penal colony by a military court for refusing to obey orders to return to the front in Ukraine. On 18 July 2023 the Mediazona news outlet reported that Russia was convicting close to 100 soldiers a week for refusing to fight. If this trend continues, there will be approximately 5,200 convictions a year for refusing to fight.
  • The high rate of convictions demonstrates the poor state of morale in the Russian Army and the reluctance of some elements to fight. Refusal to fight likely reflects the lack of training, motivation and high stress situations Russian forces face along the entire Ukrainian frontline.
  • Although some soldiers have refused to fight and attrition rates remain high, Russia highly likely mitigates their loss by committing a mass of poorly trained soldiers to the frontline. Since Russia’s September 2022 partial mobilisation, Russia has adapted its approach to warfare by utilising sheer mass for offensive and defensive operations.

Losses of the Russian Army

As of Thursday 31 August, the approximate losses of weapons and military equipment of the Russian Armed Forces from the beginning of the invasion to the present day:

  • Personnel – about 263020 (+610)
  • Tanks – 4436 (+13)
  • Armoured combat vehicles – 8604 (+8)
  • Artillery systems – 5507 (+31)
  • Multiple rocket launchers –MLRS – 734 (+1)
  • Air defence means – 500 (+0)
  • Aircraft – 315 (+0) 
  • Helicopters – 316 (+0)
  • Automotive technology and fuel tanks – 7976 (+23)
  • Vessels/boats – 18 (+0)
  • UAV operational and tactical level – 4417 (+22)
  • Special equipment – 830 (+5)
  • Mobile SRBM system – 4 (+0)
  • Cruise missiles – 1445 (+26)

Ukraine destroys or damages at least 24 aircraft in Russian rear, Crimea and Belarus − Russian media, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Vyorstka [Layout], Russian media outlet, which analysed the reports of the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation, media and OSINT researchers. “Ukrainian secret services and armed forces could have carried out at least nine successful attacks on airbases in Russian regions, temporarily occupied Crimea and Belarus, and destroyed or damaged at least 24 aircraft since the beginning of the full-scale invasion by the Russian Federation.

The media recalls that the first attack took place on the second day of the invasion, 25 February. One transport aircraft burned down at the Millerovo airfield in Rostov Oblast. [….] Ukraine’s largest and most successful strike was on 9 August 2022, against the Saki airfield in Crimea. Then Russia lost four Su-30SM fighters and seven Su-24M bombers.

On 5 December 2022, UAVs attacked the Engels-2 and Dyagilevo airfields in Saratov and Ryazan oblasts. Then three aircraft were damaged: two Tu-95s and a Tu-22m3 strategic bomber. The next attack was on 28 February 2023. The target was a Russian A-50 long-range radar detection aircraft at the Machulishchy military airfield near Minsk, Belarus. They tried to blow up the aircraft with the help of quadcopters, but it was only damaged.

At the beginning of May, Ukrainian drones attacked the airfield in the settlement of Seshcha in Bryansk Oblast. Then they damaged an An-124 transport aircraft. There were three successful attacks in August: on 19, 21, and 30 August, on airfields in Novgorod, Kaluga, and Pskov oblasts of the Russian Federation. As a result, two Tu-22M bombers were destroyed, and four transport IL-76s and another unspecified aircraft were damaged.”

Now there are about 75 “Kinzhals” in Russian Federation, occupiers are changing their attack tactics, Censor.net reports, citing the representative of the Defence Intelligence, Vadym Skibitsky, in an interview with RBC-Ukraine. “As for the Kinzhal, their inventory is currently around 75 units. The Russians value these missiles very much not only because of their relatively small number but also because, according to our calculations, the enemy can produce no more than 6 units per month – at least that is what their plan provides, he explained.

Also, Skibitsky noted, in addition to six Daggers, the Russians planned to produce a total of 30 Iskander-M ballistic missiles, 12 Iskander-K cruise missiles, 20 Kalibers, and about 40 Kh-101 missiles in August. The Russians are also improving Kh-22 cruise missiles, the modified samples have a new index – Kh-32. According to our data, the Russians can supply no more than 10 units of such modernized missiles every month.

Due to the limited supply and production of certain types of missiles, we can see how the tactics of enemy strikes are changing. Firstly, it is about alternating different classes of missiles. Second, the Russians are now more carefully selecting their targets and paying considerable attention to determining the flight paths of cruise missiles and UAVs to overcome our air defence system. Third, they began to make decisions about striking more quickly. […]

Skibitskyi also said that “Iskander” missile brigades are located along the entire border – in the Rostov, Kursk, and Belgorod regions, as well as in the occupied territories, in particular in the Crimea. The enemy is learning, starting to use new approaches and tactics. And most likely, now the Russians are changing the method of selecting targets on our territory, he concluded.”

Expert group: 67% of foreign components in Russian drones originate in China, The Kyiv Independent reports. “The Yermak-McFaul Expert Group on Russian Sanctions examined 174 foreign components from three drone models used by Russia to attack Ukraine — Shahed-136/131, Lancet, and Orlan-10 — discovering that more than 60% had come from China. The study results show that 67% of the components originate in China, with 17% of those coming through Hong Kong, according to Ukraine’s Presidential Office.

The next largest shares come from Türkiye (5%) and the United Arab Emirates (2%). The expert group also reportedly found parts, including processors, microcircuits, and transistors, made in Japan, South Korea, Switzerland, and other countries. Many drone components are available on open platforms, making regulatory control difficult, the group noted, calling on manufacturers to do more to prevent Russia from accessing their products in circumvention of international sanctions.

Russia is extremely active in using drones for massive attacks on infrastructure, civilian and military facilities in Ukraine, so it is very disturbing to see that important components for the production of enemy drones come from other states, in particular Ukraine’s allies. This issue requires our joint immediate response, Presidential Office head Andriy Yermak said. […]

According to the Telegraph’s recent investigation, China has sent tens of thousands of shipments to Russian weapons firms since the beginning of the full-scale invasion. Trade between Moscow and Beijing is on track to reach a record high this year of over $200 billion, the Telegraph wrote. These trade records contradict China’s claims of neutrality and its promises not to provide either Ukrainian or Russian forces with weapons.”

Humanitarian

More than 1,000 schools destroyed in Ukraine since war began-UNICEF, Reuters reports. “More than 1,300 schools have been totally destroyed in government-held areas of Ukraine since Russia’s 2022 invasion and others have been badly damaged, the UN children’s fund UNICEF said on Tuesday. Persistent attacks mean that only about a third of school-age children there are attending classes fully in person and many are forgetting what they have already learned, it said.

Beyond Ukraine, more than half of the children whose families have fled the conflict to seven countries are not enrolled in national education, UNICEF said, citing language barriers and overstretched education systems. Some schools have suffered direct hits and others have closed down as a precaution in 18 months of missile and artillery attacks on residential areas across the country.

Inside Ukraine, attacks on schools have continued unabated, leaving children deeply distressed and without safe spaces to learn, it said. The war followed COVID disruptions, meaning some Ukrainian children were facing a fourth consecutive school year of disruptions as they return to classes this week after the summer break, UNICEF said.

Not only has this left Ukraine’s children struggling to progress in their education, but they are also struggling to retain what they learnt when their schools were fully functioning, said Regina De Dominicis, UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia. Around half of Ukraine’s teachers have reported a deterioration in students’ abilities in language, reading and mathematics, it said, and they have missed out on the sense of safety and friendships school can provide to those enduring war.”

Police receive over 93,000 reports of sexual violence committed by Russians, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Serhii Nizhynskyi, a public adviser to the Office of Olha Stefanishyna, Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration of Ukraine. “During the full-scale invasion, the National Police received more than 93,000 calls from victims of sexual violence by the Russian occupiers. Nizhynskyi said that only some of the cases have been submitted to court.

There are already 203 or 205 cases that the Office of the Prosecutor General has officially verified and submitted to the court. There are 93,000 calls that are verified by the National Police and are transferred to the relevant rescue centres, said Nizhynsky. Nizhynskyi said that there are plans to work on changes to the Criminal Code. The idea is to create a separate article to cover punishment for sexual violence during wartime. 

He also noted that there are currently a number of hubs in Ukraine where victims can turn on a confidential basis. These are 11 centres that have been set up over the past year.”

Draft law equating corruption to treason has been registered in Rada, Censor.net reports. “Draft law No. 9659 is authored by MP Dmytro Razumkov and his group in the Verkhovna Rada, despite the fact that President Zelenskyy had stated that he would submit his own draft law to the parliament to equate corruption with high treason under martial law.

The Smart Politics team has registered draft law No. 9659, which supplements the Criminal Code with Article 111-3 and equates the punishment for corruption with the punishment for high treason during martial law. Corrupt officials will face 15 years behind bars or life imprisonment with confiscation of property, the statement said. According to him, the NABU, SAPO, and the High Anti-Corruption Court will be in charge of the cases. And not the SSU, through which the authorities will be able to put pressure on their political opponents and bury their own corruption cases, for which society demands punishment.

The MP said that the draft law stipulates that every top and mid-level official can be held accountable. In particular, the MP, the prime minister, a government official, the Presidential Office, and the president himself. Everyone should be equal before the law. And I hope that my colleagues from the Parliament will have enough conscience and responsibility to support our draft law, he added.

MP Yaroslav Zhelezniak noted that Razumkov’s bill on this issue was the first to be registered in the Rada, so according to the presidential rules, an alternative bill will be considered only within 14 days after the MPs’ bill.”

European Parliament criticized Zelensky’s idea of equating corruption with treason, Censor.net reports. “The European Parliament criticized the initiative of the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky to equate wartime corruption with treason, which will lead to the transfer of some corruption cases from NABU to the SSU. The discussion of Zelensky’s initiatives took place at a joint meeting of the European Parliament’s foreign affairs and budget committees regarding the European Commission’s proposal for a 50 billion euro support program for Ukraine for recovery, reconstruction and modernization in 2024-2027.

The rapporteur on Ukraine issues in the European Parliament, Michael Galer, complained about the impracticality of transferring the fight against corruption to the SSU by renaming corruption to treason. Fighting corruption in all areas where large sums of public and private money are involved was important before the war, is even more important during the war, and will remain a challenge after it, when a lot of money will be directed to the reconstruction and pre-accession agenda. Therefore, it is in the common interest of the Ukrainian government, parliament, anti-corruption institutions and civil society, as well as international donors, to introduce safeguards for the proper use of financial resources.

I consider it inappropriate to shift the responsibility for fighting corruption from existing institutions, such as NABU and SAPO, to the SSU during the war by renaming corruption to treason. On the other hand, it is good that the complexity of the problem of corruption during war is recognized on the level of treason, but it is up to the existing authorized institutions to overcome this challenge. We must avoid the impression that the purpose of such an initiative is to give the authorities the opportunity to control corruption cases and determine their fate, especially when it comes to cases against high-ranking officials, said Galer.

The vice-chair of the European Parliament delegation to the Parliamentary Committee of the Ukraine-EU Association, Viola von Cramon, also criticized Zelensky’s idea. I am concerned about President Zelensky’s latest initiative to fight corruption. I see it as an attempt to get rid of political opponents. It is not aimed at strengthening existing anti-corruption institutions such as NABU and SAPO, but at granting significant powers to the Security Service of Ukraine. We should carefully monitor the development of events. – stressed the MEP.”

Support

US announces new US$250 million military aid package for Ukraine, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “The United States on Tuesday announced the provision of another package of military aid to Ukraine, worth US$250 million. The new package includes AIM-9M anti-air missiles, HIMARS missiles, 155 mm and 105 mm artillery shells, mine clearance equipment, Javelins and other anti-tank systems and missiles.

Blinken’s statement also mentioned more than three million rounds of ammunition for small arms, ambulance cars, and explosive ordnance for clearing obstacles, as well as spare parts, funding for services, training and transportation. The US Secretary of State does not specify the details, but the new aid package will likely be provided under the Presidential Drawdown Authority mechanism – that is, from the reserves of the US Army, which will speed up its delivery to Ukraine.

The total sum of the US military aid for Ukraine since the beginning of the Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 is approaching US$44 billion.”

Germany hands over Leopard 1 tanks and radar system to Ukraine, Ukrainska Pravda reports. “On Wednesday, the German government reported providing another package of military assistance to Ukraine, particularly Leopard 1A5 tanks and the TRML-4D radar air surveillance system. According to an update to Germany’s list of military aid to Ukraine, 10 Leopard 1A5 main battle tanks were delivered last week, in addition to the 10 previously delivered and another TRML-4D air surveillance radar to complement the two already available.

The first air surveillance radar, TRML-4D, Ukraine received from Germany in May, and the second in June. TRML-4D uses the latest AESA radar technology capable of detecting, tracking and classifying various types of aerial targets, focusing on small, fast and low-flying and/or manoeuvring cruise missiles and aircraft and helicopters hovering in the air. 

Germany also provided Ukraine with 16 vector reconnaissance drones; now their number is 104, four 8×8 hx81 truck tractors and four semi-trailers, more than 13 million rounds of ammunition for firearms and a field hospital.”

The EU will accelerate the supply of weapons to Ukraine, fearing a possible Trump victory in the election, Ukraine Business News reports. “The EU is worried about the possibility of Trump’s return to the White House and is preparing for such a scenario, seeking to provide for uninterrupted arms supplies to Ukraine. The EU seeks to establish bilateral agreements that will maintain these supplies, if necessary, even without the US’ participation, the WSJ reports.

In both the declaration from the G7 countries and among the EU leadership, it is noted that these countries have agreed to help Ukraine within the framework of bilateral commitments. These agreements are intended to provide Ukraine with long-term support in the protection of its sovereignty, territorial integrity, economic restoration, the protection of citizens and the country’s desire to integrate into the Euro-Atlantic community.

Currently, the G7 members are discussing these bilateral treaties with Kyiv, and the governments of many countries are trying to quickly agree on military support to strengthen Ukraine’s security in case of a reduction in US aid under Trump.”

The US is considering transferring cluster munitions to Ukraine, Ukraine Business News reports. “The Biden administration is considering increasing support for Ukraine, writes the WP.

According to the publication, the possibility of supplying Ukraine with cluster ammunition for multiple rocket launcher systems is being considered. There is growing support in Washington for the provision of rocket-propelled cluster munitions that can hit targets further than the artillery versions that the United States began supplying last month, the analytical review said.”

Romania and Netherlands agreed to establish F-16 Pilot Training Center, European Pravda reports. “It is important for the Netherlands to demonstrate unity and support for Ukraine in its fight against Russian aggression. The Netherlands and Romania had signed a Letter of Intent to train Ukrainian pilots and maintain F-16 aircraft at a training center in Romania,” stated Kajsa Ollongren, the Minister of Defence of the Netherlands, before the Ministerial meeting on Defence in Toledo.

The Defence Ministry of Romania announced that the Royal Dutch Air Force would deploy several F-16 aircraft to the 86th Aviation Base Lieutenant Aviator George Mochorniţ for the project. Lockheed Martin Company will also provide the highest-level technical support through flight instructors and technical-engineering personnel. 

Through this center, Romania commits to provide a high-quality training environment, with access to technical resources and state-of-the-art know-how not only for the Romanian pilots, but also for those from the Allied and partner states, stated Romanian Defense Minister Angel Tîlvăr.”

Armed Forces lost 5 out of 71 Leopard 2 tanks during counteroffensive, Censor.net reports, citing TSN. “According to Forbes, during the 13-week counteroffensive in the south and east, the Ukrainian army lost only five of the 71 Leopard 2 tanks provided. According to the publication, all Leopard 2 losses occurred in a square with an area of about 65 square kilometers, between Mala Tokmachka in the north and Robotyn in the south. A few more German-made tanks — at least 10 — were damaged. But Ukrainians repair damaged tanks in Poland and Germany and return them to the front.

More importantly, according to the newspaper, almost every crew member of the five destroyed tanks — 20 people in all — escaped from their vehicle before it caught fire or exploded. Journalists say that the most important thing for the survival of the Leopard 2 crews is that the German tank manufacturers KMW and Rheinmetall built special turret compartments for their 120 mm ammunition, which explodes outward from the crew on impact. […]

Forbes estimates that Ukrainian brigades still have more than 50 operational Leopard 2s out of the original batch of 71. A new batch of 14 Leopard 2A4s due to arrive early next year should make up for these losses. Also on the way, including 31 American M1 Abrams tanks, which have even heavier armour than most Leopard 2s. The Ukrainians will also receive at least 165 German Leopard 1A5s. But they – unlike the Leopard 2, Challenger 2 and M1 Abrams – have minimal armour protection.”

Ukraine using land attack variant of Neptune Anti-Ship Missile, The Drive reports. “The modified Neptune anti-ship missiles give Ukraine its longest-range and hardest-hitting locally made weapon, which has big implications. With restrictions imposed on the use of donated weapons against targets outside its borders, Ukraine is developing its own long-range strike weapons, one of which appears to have already been used on Crimea, which is fair game even for systems provided by foreign donors.

On Aug. 23, Kyiv used a modified Neptune anti-ship cruise missile to hit a Russian S-400 air defense system on the western most part of the occupied peninsula, a Ukrainian defense official told The War Zone. There are plans, the official added, to eventually strike Moscow and other targets inside Russia – precluded for use by donated weapons – with land attack variants of the Neptune.

The attack on the S-400 system near the village of Olenivka on Cape Tarkhankut was 100 percent carried out by a modified Neptune, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss operational issues. The official’s statements came just days after Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, stated that a new Ukrainian missile hit the S-400. Danilov, however, did not specify exactly what weapon was used. 

The claim also followed one made Aug. 24 by Yuriy Butusov (@UButusov) who reported that the S-400 strike used an R-360 Neptune anti-ship missile modified for a land-attack to strike the S-400. […]

The Neptune had previously gained notoriety after two were used to hit the Russian Navy’sProject 1164 Slava class cruiser Moskva in the Black Sea in April 2022. […] Back in April of this year, the Ukrainian official told us that his country was working on converting the Neptune to a land attack weapon, but that it needed a new guidance system which it did not have at the time. Specifically, certain kinds of chips were needed to complete the system, but that the system was close to completion. On Monday, that official said Ukraine had developed a GPS guidance system that takes the missile to a pre-determined location. The missile’s infrared imaging seeker then searches for and locks onto a target based on a pre-loaded image and then makes its terminal attack run on that target. If it cannot match the target, the missile aborts its attack.

This would be a major capability leap as these missiles would not be able to be jammed using electronic warfare and would be very hard to detect. […] While the modified Neptune offers Ukraine its longest strike weapon yet, there are downsides, the Ukrainian defense official said. One is that the subsonic missile can be thwarted by sophisticated Russian air defense systems. The Russian claim that it shot one down is not improbable, the official told us. But a bigger issue may be how few exist. Only a couple of dozen have been produced, the official said. […]

Many questions remain. Primarily, how many of these missiles can Ukraine produce and how quickly can they do it. The type’s efficacy is also very much in question, regardless of a claimed early success. If Ukraine are getting some help from allies, even in terms of basic expertise, it could help in all of these regards. Now, like Russia, we will have to wait and see where the land attack Neptune shows up next.”

G7 countries do not have “common view” on security guarantees for Ukraine, Censor.net reports, citing The Wall Street Journal. “Bilateral agreements on security guarantees from the G7 countries for Ukraine can be reached only in 2024. As noted, currently Ukraine’s allies do not have a “single view” on how detailed such obligations should be. In addition, the partners should also discuss with Ukraine its future military needs. They will need to coordinate bilateral negotiations between Western leaders and ensure that allied defence industries can deliver promised military aid to Ukraine while not neglecting their needs to replenish supplies and expand capabilities.

As WSJ interlocutors specify, without providing reliable support to Ukraine, it is unlikely to force Russia to end the war. According to a French official, France plans to start the first round of negotiations with Ukraine on bilateral security guarantees in the coming weeks. US officials say they hope to hold a second meeting with Ukraine in the coming weeks. Germany has only begun to analyse possible ways of providing support to Ukraine, and it is not yet clear what concrete agreements will be reached with other countries.

The WSJ notes that the lack of bilateral agreements between allies could become a key problem in providing security guarantees for Ukraine. According to journalists, this can also reduce the effectiveness of military aid to Ukraine. The greatest uncertainty on this issue is in Washington, adds the WSJ. According to the publication, European allies are preparing for the fact that the long-term promises of the administration of US President Joe Biden will be weaker than they hoped, or “too vague” to reliably contain Russia.

According to a representative of the Biden administration, one of the proposals is for the US and Ukraine to agree on a memorandum of understanding that does not require congressional approval. It is reported that if Washington significantly reduces its support to Ukraine, Europe is unlikely to be financially or militarily able to close the “gaps“.

WSJ writes that European capitals have expressed fears about Donald Trump’s possible victory in the US presidential elections, as he may try to cut aid to Ukraine. There is also growing concern among European officials that Russian dictator Vladimir Putin will continue the war against Ukraine until the end of the 2024 US presidential election, hoping that a Republican victory will lead to an end to military support for Ukraine.”

New developments

  1. Ukraine will not be able to defeat Russian Federation in war because of numerical superiority of Russian army, Censor.net reports. “Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán believes that Ukraine’s victory in the war against Russia is “a lie and impossible”, as the Russian army is numerically superior to the Ukrainian Defence Forces. He said this in an interview with former Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson. […] He supposedly “deeply sympathizes” with Ukraine. However, he does not believe in her victory. We have to understand that we cannot defeat them (Russians – ed.) with our thinking. They will not kill their leader. They will never surrender. They will keep the country together and protect it, Orban added. The politician also believes that the more money and weapons Western countries send to Ukraine, the more weapons the Russian Federation will produce. According to him, it is necessary to agree on a “new security architecture” with the Kremlin, which will guarantee security and ensure Ukraine’s sovereignty, but not membership in NATO. If any Western country sends its troops, it will mean a direct war between the West and Russia. And we will immediately find ourselves in the Third World War, the Prime Minister of Hungary [claimed].”
  2. MFA Ukraine comments on Orbán’s latest call to legitimize Russian aggression, Ukrinform reports, citing the spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Oleg Nikolenko. “Actually, we have already started to worry that Viktor Orbán took a long pause in calling for an end to arms supply to Ukraine and for legitimization of Russia’s aggression. We even began to doubt the consistent position of the Hungarian prime minister, he said. The spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs emphasized that Ukraine does not trade in either its territories or its sovereignty, and that the rest of the world will not be doing so. Nikolenko added that the Russian leadership, no matter which prominent advocates they hire, will certainly be held accountable for all the evil done to Ukrainians.”
  3. Budget disputes in the EU threaten further aid to Ukraine, Ukraine Business News reports. “EU funding to support Ukraine is being held back by disagreements between member states, while concerns about strained national budgets and rising spending in Brussels threaten the flow of financial aid to Kyiv. According to the FT, Brussels’ request for an additional €86B in funding, aimed at easing the burden on the EU budget and at the same time extending its four-year support of Ukraine, has divided member states and led to calls for reductions in funding and longer approval periods. The debate is a crucial test of the West’s resolve to support Ukraine, as sceptics in Europe and the US have begun to point to the limited success of Kyiv’s summer counteroffensive. Brussels offered to extend the last funding package for Ukraine for four years, partially to protect Kyiv from political instability. On August 29, EU ministers resumed consultations, and support for Ukraine will be the main agenda item at the ministers of defence and foreign affairs meetings. The largest EU countries are discussing the aspects of supplementing the multi-year program for Ukraine to reach a consensus.”

Assessment

  1. On the War

The Institute for the Study of War has made the following assessment as of Wednesday 30 August:

 (quote) Russian forces continued offensive operations along the Kupiansk-Svatove-Kreminna line on August 30 and did not make any confirmed advances. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive operations near Novoyehorivka (16km southwest of Svatove) and Bilohorivka (13km south of Kreminna). Ukrainian Eastern Grouping of Forces Commander Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi stated that the most intense sector of the Kupiansk-Svatove-Kreminna line is near Raihorodka (13km west of Svatove) and Kovalivka (12km southwest of Svatove), where Russian forces are conducting armored assaults. A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces achieved unspecified successes near Novoyehorivka and Petropavlivka (7km east of Kupiansk). A Kremlin-affiliated milblogger also claimed that Russian forces are intensifying their offensive operations from the Yahidne (22km southeast of Kupiansk) direction. A Russian milblogger claimed that elements of the Russian 1st Guards Tank Army (Western Military District) and the 6th Combined Arms Army (Western Military District) continued to advance in the Kupiansk direction.

Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces continued ground attacks along the Kupiansk-Svatove-Kreminna line on August 30 and did not advance. The Russian MoD claimed that Russian forces repelled Ukrainian attacks near Synkivka (8km northeast of Kupiansk) in Kharkiv Oblast; Serhiivka (12km southwest of Svatove), Novoyehorivka, and the Serebryanske forest area (10km southwest of Kreminna) in Luhansk Oblast; and Bilohorivka (33km south of Kreminna) in Donetsk Oblast. Russian Western Grouping of Forces Press Officer Yaroslav Yakimkin claimed that Russian forces repelled two small Ukrainian counterattacks with tank and artillery support in the Kupiansk direction.

Ukrainian military officials reported that Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations on Bakhmut’s southern flank and continued to advance as of August 30. Ukrainian Eastern Grouping of Forces Commander Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi reported that Ukrainian forces are gradually advancing despite Russian counterattacks. Syrskyi added that the most intense engagements are near Bakhmut, Kurdyumivka (12km southwest of Bakhmut), Yahidne (directly north of Bakhmut), and Andriivka (9km southwest of Bakhmut). A Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian assault groups attacked Russian positions near Klishchiivka (6km southwest of Bakhmut) and Andriivka.

Russian sources claimed that Russian forces regained some previously lost positions on Bakhmut’s southern flank on August 30. A Kremlin-affiliated milblogger claimed that Russian forces successfully counterattacked near Kurdyumivka, which allowed Russian forces to expand their area of control in the settlement and push Ukrainian forces to the Siverskyi Donets-Donbas Canal to the west of Kurdyumivka. Another Kremlin-affiliated milblogger claimed that Russian forces regained some positions near Klishchiivka. The Ukrainian General Staff, however, reported that Russian forces carried out unsuccessful offensive operations in Kurdyumivka, Ozaryanivka (14km southwest of Bakhmut), and Bohdanivka (7km northwest of Bakhmut).

Russian forces continued offensive operations on the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line but did not make new territorial gains on August 30. A Kremlin-affiliated milblogger claimed that Russian forces resumed assaults on Marinka (directly west of Donetsk City). The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces continued to repel Russian attacks on Marinka and Novomykhailivka (30km southwest of Donetsk City).

Ukrainian forces conducted offensive operations along the Donetsk-Zaporizhzhia Oblast border and reportedly advanced on August 30. A Kremlin-affiliated milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces advanced in the direction of Volodyne (13km south of Velyka Novosilka), and that Russian forces had to retreat from several heights in the area due to the threat of a tactical encirclement. Other Russian milbloggers and Russian “Vostok” Battalion Commander Alexander Khodakovsky claimed that Ukrainian forces are increasing offensive activity on the Pryyutne-Staromayorske (8-18km south of Velyka Novosilka) line.

Russian forces conducted limited offensive operations along the Donetsk-Zaporizhzhia Oblast border area and near Vuhledar, and reportedly advanced on August 30. A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces advanced during a small arms engagement with Ukrainian forces west of Staromayorske. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled a Russian ground attack near Staromayorske. Khodakovsky claimed that the Russian 155th Naval Infantry Brigade (Pacific Fleet) recaptured several positions near Mykilske (27km southwest of Donetsk City) in western Donetsk Oblast on August 30.

Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast and may have advanced west of Verbove (18km southeast of Orikhiv) on August 30. Geolocated footage published on August 30 shows that Ukrainian infantry advanced to the northwestern outskirts of Verbove, though the extent of these advances and current control over these positions are currently unclear. Ukrainian forces’ ability to advance so close to Verbove indicates degraded Russian control around the settlement, however. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces were successful in the Novodanylivka-Novopokropivka (4-15km south of Orikhiv) and Mala Tokmachka-Verbove (7-18km southeast of Orikhiv) directions. Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces attacked the outskirts of Verbove overnight on August 29 to 30 and on the morning of August 30, but that Russian forces repelled the attacks. One Russian milblogger characterized the Russian situation in Verbove as difficult but claimed that Ukrainian forces have not yet breached the Russian defensive line in the area. Russian sources also claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted armored attacks near Robotyne (10km south of Orikhiv).

Russian forces conducted limited offensive operations in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast on August 30. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive actions near Mala Tokmachka.

Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted further limited raids in east (left) bank Kherson Oblast on August 30. A prominent Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces landed northwest of Pidstepne (17km east of Kherson City) and on an island in the Dnipro River delta. Another milblogger claimed that Russian forces destroyed the Ukrainian boats as they approached the east bank, however.

Russian forces continued efforts to secure the Kerch Strait Bridge against maritime threats. Satellite imagery dated August 29 and 30 shows that Russian forces have sunk barges near the Kerch Strait Bridge presumably to prevent maritime drones from striking boats near the bridge or the bridge itself. One Russian milblogger criticized this attempt and claimed that the few hundred meters between each barge is sufficient for maritime drones to pass through the barrier. […]

Ukrainian forces reportedly destroyed four Russian Il-76 planes during a drone strike on a Russian airfield in Pskov Oblast on the night of August 29 to 30. Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) Representative Andriy Yusov stated that the drone strike destroyed four Russian Il-76 planes and possibly damaged two other planes at the Pskov airfield but did not comment on the nature of the strike or claim responsibility for it. Geolocated footage and Russian sources confirmed the strike and the destruction of at least two Russian Il-76 planes. Russian milbloggers claimed that over 21 Ukrainian drones struck the Pskov airfield. Russian sources, including the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD), claimed that Russian air defenses and electronic warfare (EW) systems also downed Ukrainian drones over Oryol, Tula, Voronezh, Ryazan, Kaluga, Bryansk, and Moscow oblasts. Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin stated that Russian air defenses repelled a massive Ukrainian drone strike on the Central Federal Okrug (a large administrative area including Moscow but not Pskov) and that at least one of the drones was headed toward Moscow, possibly suggesting that Russian authorities may have initially believed that Ukrainian forces intended to strike Moscow or the region around it. Russian forces may have focused their air defenses on covering Moscow and somehow missed the unusually large number of Ukrainian drones that reportedly struck the Pskov airfield. The Ukrainian drones that Russian air defenses downed over the six other oblasts were likely en route to Moscow or Pskov Oblast and likely were not part of a Ukrainian effort to strike targets in the other oblasts.

Russian propagandists and milbloggers criticized Russian forces for their inability to defend Russian territory and military facilities, while simultaneously criticizing recent Russian MoD censorship efforts. A Kremlin-affiliated Russian milblogger claimed that the Ukrainian strike on the Peskov airfield indicates that Russian air defenses have not adapted to defend against repeated Ukrainian drone strikes, in contrast with how Russian air defenses in Crimea have adapted. The milblogger also criticized Russian authorities for not keeping expensive military aircraft in hangars. Another prominent Russian milblogger expressed concern that there will be no safe places in western Russia due to Ukraine’s growing technical capabilities and suggested that Russian forces need to take this into account when securing military and strategic facilities. Still, another milblogger noted that the requirement for Russian authorities to secure and defend Russian airfields is at a “qualitatively different level” from what it had been. Russian sources also challenged the Russian MoD’s recent censorship efforts by noting the need for truth and honesty in reporting about Ukrainian strikes on Russian territory, including one Russian milblogger who criticized official Russian television channels for not reporting the Ukrainian strikes. Prominent Kremlin propagandist Vladimir Solovyov expressed his outrage in response to the drone strike and criticized Russian elites who are calling on the Kremlin to freeze the war in Ukraine and negotiate to save Russia’s economy. […]

Ukrainian light infantry – likely reconnaissance elements – infiltrated east of Russian field fortifications near Verbove as of August 30. Geolocated footage published on August 30 shows Ukrainian infantry on the northwestern outskirts of Verbove, indicating that Russian control over the outskirts of the settlement is degradedThe footage, however, does not indicate that Ukrainian forces established control over the area at this time, and Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces have not yet breached the defensive line around Verbove. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces were successful in the Novodanylivka-Novopokropivka (4-15km south of Orikhiv) and Mala Tokmachka-Verbove (7-18km southeast of Orikhiv) directions. Ukrainian officials reported that Ukrainian forces continue offensive operations south of Bakhmut, and geolocated footage published on August 28 shows that Ukrainian forces marginally advanced south of Klishchiivka (6km southwest of Bakhmut). A Kremlin-affiliated milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces advanced in the direction of Volodyne (13km south of Velyka Novosilka) on the Donetsk-Zaporizhzhia Oblast border and that Russian forces had to retreat from several heights in the area.

The Kremlin has reportedly undertaken several efforts to silence or confuse reports about Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin’s funeral, which likely indicates that the Kremlin remains worried about Prigozhin’s appeal in Russia and among Wagner forces even after his death. Two acting Russian officials told The Moscow Times that the Russian Presidential Administration and Federal Security Service (FSB) deliberately made Prigozhin’s funeral a secret to avoid further making him a martyr. The officials noted that Russian Presidential Administration’s First Deputy Chief of Staff Sergei Kiriyenko, officers from several intelligence agencies, and FSB officials met to develop a plan that would prevent any chance of public outcry or protest and mislead the public about the location of Prigozhin’s burial. The Moscow Times added that there were many conflicting reports about the location of Prigozhin’s funeral on August 29. Some Russian Telegram channels noted that Russian federal channels largely ignored Prigozhin’s funeral, likely also as part of the Kremlin’s planned “coverage” of the funeral. ISW continued to observe some Russian Telegram channels baselessly speculating that Prigozhin survived the crash, which may have also been an information operation to overwhelm the Russian information space with misleading reports and deflect from Prigozhin’s funeral.

Some Russian officials may be probing the views of milbloggers about Prigozhin and his death to identify and censor Russian ultranationalists not clearly connected with Prigozhin or Wagner. A Russian milblogger claimed that he received a visit from “aggressive” Telegram channel advertisers who had asked him to promote several Telegram channels that exaggerated the topic of the Wagner leadership’s death in “almost an abusive manner.” The milblogger noted that this request was strange because the Kremlin and the Russian state media had “already closed this topic” and he refused to promote these channels. The refusal reportedly prompted one advertiser to accuse him of supporting the rebellion and opposing Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian Constitution. The milblogger noted that division within Russian society would not benefit the Russian war effort. The milblogger has been consistently critical of the Russian military leadership and supportive of Russian Airborne Forces Commander Colonel General Mikhail Teplinsky – who had previous links to the Prigozhin but who survived the armed rebellion apparently unscathed and still in power. The incident, at the very least, suggests that prominent milbloggers are self-censoring their discussions about Prigozhin’s death and have modeled their coverage of this subject on the Kremlin. The incident may also support the above outlined hypothesis that certain Russian social media actors may be attempting to overwhelm the Russian information space, or it could indicate that Russian officials are trying to identify other prominent ultranationalist voices who may be promoting insubordination of the regime or the military and tie them in some way to Prigozhin.

Chechen Republic Head Ramzan Kadyrov reiterated his loyalty to Russian President Vladimir Putin on August 30 in continued attempts to distance himself from Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin. Kadyrov posted a picture of himself with Putin and proclaimed that he is “an infantryman of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief” and is “ready to fulfill any order” from Putin. Kadyrov has repeatedly attempted to align himself with Putin and the Russian MoD and away from Prigozhin following Prigozhin’s fall from grace.

Key Takeaways:

  • Ukrainian forces reportedly destroyed four Russian Il-76 planes during a drone strike on a Russian airfield in Pskov Oblast on the night of August 29 to 30.
  • Russian propagandists and milbloggers criticized Russian forces for their inability to defend Russian territory and military facilities, while simultaneously criticizing recent Russian MoD censorship efforts.
  • Russian forces conducted a large-scale missile and drone strike predominantly targeting Kyiv on the night of August 29-30, likely in retaliation for the Ukrainian strikes earlier on Moscow and Pskov oblasts.
  • Ukrainian light infantry – likely reconnaissance elements – infiltrated east of Russian field fortifications near Verbove as of August 30.
  • The Kremlin has reportedly undertaken several efforts to silence or confuse reports about Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin’s funeral, which likely indicates that the Kremlin remains worried about Prigozhin’s appeal in Russia and among Wagner forces even after his death.
  • Some Russian officials may be probing the views of milbloggers about Prigozhin and his death to identify and censor Russian ultranationalists not clearly connected with Prigozhin or Wagner.
  • Chechen Republic Head Ramzan Kadyrov reiterated his loyalty to Russian President Vladimir Putin on August 30 in continued attempts to distance himself from Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin.
  • Russian forces conducted offensive operations along the Kupiansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, on the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line, in the Donetsk-Zaporizhzhia Oblast border area, and in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast on August 30 and reportedly advanced.
  • Ukrainian forces conducted offensive operations along at least two sectors of the front on August 30 and advanced near Bakhmut, in the Donetsk-Zaporizhzhia Oblast border area, and in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast.
  • The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) is reportedly banning Wagner Group soldiers from fighting in Ukraine.
  • The Ukrainian Crimean-based “Atesh” partisan group claimed that its partisans successfully detonated an explosive at the campaign headquarters of the United Russia party in occupied Nova Kakhovka, Kherson Oblast on August 29. (unquote)

Ukrainians exceed expectations again – NATO Secretary General on counter-offensive, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Stoltenberg in an interview with CNN. “NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, assessing the counter-offensive of the Defence Forces, has said that the Ukrainians are exceeding expectations. The Ukrainians are gradually gaining ground, meaning that they are pushing back the Russians and they are able to get through some of these heavily defended territories, not least minefields. And it is even important to support them [the Armed Forces of Ukraine – ed.].

What we have seen is that Ukrainians have exceeded expectations again and again, and we have to remember where the whole thing started last year with the full-fledged invasion by Russia into Ukraine. Then, experts believed that Ukraine will only last for a few days or a few weeks. Now, they have liberated the north, around Kyiv, the east, around Kharkiv, and the territory in the south, Kherson. Now they are making even more gains. Stoltenberg said that “this is fierce fight, it’s a tought fight, and it’s no easy way to victory for the Ukrainians, but they are making achievements and gaining ground.”

Drones attacked Russia and Crimea over 190 times this year, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing ВВС news, citing BBC Verify, which has been tracking reports of drone strikes in Russian media since early 2023. Since the beginning of the year, drones have attacked the territory of Russia and temporarily occupied Crimea more than 190 times. Strikes on the night of 29-30 August in six regions of the Russian Federation became the largest in 2023.

Moscow has repeatedly accused Ukraine of being behind drone strikes in recent months. Ukraine hasn’t claimed responsibility for these, although President Volodymyr Zelensky has previously said that attacks on Russian territory are an inevitable, natural and absolutely fair process.

In 2023, drone attacks were concentrated in Bryansk, Belgorod, and Kursk oblasts of Russia near the western border with Ukraine, as well as in Russian-annexed Crimea. In addition, there were about a dozen attacks by naval drones on Russian targets in the Black Sea this year, including naval bases and the Crimean (Kerch) Bridge, according to BBC Verify.

Drones have reached Moscow Oblast, which is located approximately 450 km from the border with Ukraine, at least several times. These attacks led to the evacuation of people and temporarily stopped the operation of Moscow airports. […]

In 2023, the targets for attacks were the oil facilities, airfields and energy infrastructure of Russians. In particular, journalists found at least nine reports of drone attacks on oil depots. One of them was in Sevastopol (Crimea) on 29 April. Several oil tanks were destroyed as a result of the strike.”

Kremlin prepares new disinformation campaign: Ukraine is “surrendering” Kupiansk and more, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Press service of the Ukraine’s Defence Intelligence. “Ukraine’s Defence Intelligence reports that on 25 August, the Russian Presidential Administration held a meeting to discuss the next stage of the information war in the Ukrainian and global media. […] According to the UDI, the topic of the meeting was the approval of specific narratives that would discredit Ukraine and influence its partners in the world.

Ukrainian intelligence reports that in the near future, Russian propaganda will focus on using such topics and narratives:

  • Mass mobilisation: all Ukrainians without exception, regardless of gender, age or health status, will be subject to mobilisation; mobilisation will apply to minors.
  • Disbelief of Ukrainian partners in the possibility of victory: “agreements” on “peace in exchange for territories”; political deals (fabrication of materials about the “secret agreement” between Kyiv Mayor Vitalii Klitschko and representatives of the US Republican Party to support him in the upcoming presidential election).
  • Ukrainian counter-offensive has no success: increasing the number of burials of Ukrainian soldiers in cemeteries of large cities; lack of success at the front with heavy losses; replicating the theme of the deaths of local defenders in every oblast of Ukraine; the Ukrainian authorities “surrendering” Kupiansk; searching for those responsible for “failures” to discredit Ukrainian military leaders and officials.
  • Ukraine gives up the occupied territories: demonstration of fabricated documents;
  • Total corruption: the state does not fight corruption; the budget is stolen, procurement is not carried out, and there is no punishment for corrupt officials.
  • “Beautiful” life in the occupied territories: high salaries, low prices, provision of everything necessary; infrastructure development and reconstruction of destroyed housing; free elections on a single voting day under the laws of the Russian Federation.”
  1. Consequences and what to do?

European Commission ready to provide proposals for use of frozen Russian assets, Ukrainska Pravda reports, citing Christian Wiegand, Spokesperson for the Rule of Law Justice and Equality for the European Commission. “The European Commission is ready to provide proposals on how to use frozen Russian assets in the interests of Ukraine. […] The official recalled that this issue was discussed by EU leaders at the last European Council meeting in late June.

We are working with the Spanish presidency in exploring a step-wise approach and we are supporting these discussions. We have also sent a paper to that effect to the Spanish Presidency at the end of July, said Wiegand. According to the spokesman, the European Commission is ready to provide a detailed proposal, taking into account the discussions with the member states. Intensive work with partners from the Group of Seven is also underway.

It is also very important for us to coordinate this internationally, he added. The European Commission’s proposal on the use of frozen Russian state assets in the EU for the benefit of Ukraine will not be published until September.

ME: So far in 2023, drones have attacked the territory of Russia and temporarily occupied Crimea more than 190 times. Strikes on the night of 29-30 August in six regions of the Russian Federation became the largest in 2023. The number of attacks is bound to increase as drones are becoming an increasingly more important part of the war.

Relatively cheap drones have proven themselves capable of destroying highly advanced systems worth hundreds of millions at great ranges.

As previously highlighted, the war continues to escalate and evolve. It is already a war of drones. Due to the technological basis for the drones, both Russia and Ukraine are in the position to ramp up the production of what is both a weapon and a sensor irrespective of international sanctions or support. The strikes of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs) have both strategic, operational, and tactical impacts.

Strategically, the Ukrainian strikes continue to undermine the international image of Russia as a Military Power. Ukraine continues to cross Russia’s red lines, striking targets in its deep rear on its territory. It has called the bluff and dressed down its strategy of nuclear blackmail. It helps shape Western deliberations on its strategy for countering the Russian war of aggressions. Equally important, Ukrainian innovation will have an impact on NATO. Its concepts, doctrines and capability developments will reflect Ukraine’s drone war.

The drones help demonstrate the vulnerabilities of Russian heavy weapons and the limitations of its Air Defence network, further eroding the export potential of its defence industry.

The Ukrainian drone strikes against high-value targets on both land and at sea have not least helped shape the battlefield. Despite its own shortcomings in the air and at sea, drones are slowly reducing the Russian Air Force, Land Force and Navy. It helps undermine the morale and motivation of its soldiers.

Operationally, drones have impacted the Russian modus of operandi. The Black Sea Fleet (BSF) has relocated some of its units from Sevastopol to Novorossiysk in mainland Russia. Since the sinking of its flagship in April 2022, the BSF started operating at a greater range from the Ukrainian coast. The introduction of USV has increased the threat against both the BSF and the commercial vessels supporting the Russian military efforts in the Black Sea and beyond.

Ukraine is believed to have carried out at least nine successful attacks on airbases in Russian regions, temporarily occupied Crimea and Belarus, and destroyed or damaged at least 24 aircraft since the start of the full-scale invasion. Strategic bombers have been relocated to less vulnerable airports, increasing the flight time and, consequently, the stress on already old airframes. Equally important, it is losing high-value assets.

Russian defence industry, fuel storages, ammunition depots and logistical hubs are being targeted, reducing the supply of resources crucial for the Russian defensive efforts.

Ukrainian USV has even carried out successful attacks against the crucially important Kerch bridge, limiting Russia’s ability to supply its forces in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia Oblast.

The increasing number of Ukrainian drone attacks, however, might also force Russia to relocate air defence means from the frontline to protect high-value assets in the rear. Recent long-range attacks have demonstrated that Ukraine is capable of attacking targets at great range.

According to UK Defence Intelligence, “previous strikes against Russian military airbases have led to the dispersal of Russian aircraft to locations across Russia. However, the recent strikes against Soltsy and Pskov have demonstrated that the UAVS have significant reach, making further dispersal more challenging. Russia will likely have to consider the addition of further air defence systems to airfields that it considers to be at risk from UAV attacks.”

Tactically, the drones help destroy Russian artillery and MLRS protecting the minefields in front of its defensive network designed to stop the Ukrainian counter-offensive. Since 1 May, Russia has lost nearly 2,600 pieces of artillery (of the 5,507 lost since the start of the full-scale invasion). Many of these have fallen victim to Ukrainian drones.

Equally important, Ukrainian drones (and artillery) are actively hunting for Russian tanks, armoured vehicles, trucks, ammunition depots, command and control nodes and not least, entrenched soldiers. The latter is suffering a continuously decreasing motivation to stay in the first line of defence as they experience being actively targeted by precision strikes they are unable to stop. Presently, Russia is convicting close to 100 soldiers a week for refusing to fight (approximately 5,200 convictions a year if the trend continues).

Frontline commanders are reporting a lack of crucial capabilities, lack of ammunition and high losses, reducing their ability to stop the Ukrainian offensive.

Some of the Ukrainian strikes are primarily meant to create a psychological impact. As already mentioned, they have a huge impact on the frontline soldiers. Since May, Moscow has experienced an increasing number of UAV strikes, few of which have any direct impact on the situation on the battlefield. They are bringing the war home to Russia while lifting the spirit of Ukrainians. The attacks help fuel the popular discontent with the Russian military leadership, demonstrating their inability to defend the “Motherland”.

Realising the strategic impact mentioned above, they are probably also causing increasing concerns among the Russian elite as the West – at one stage – is bound to realise that its direct involvement in Ukraine will not trigger a direct confrontation with Russia, a World War 3 or a nuclear confrontation.

The effect of the Russian blackmail and hybrid war is slowly diminishing as a result of Ukrainian drone attacks in its deep rear, opening for new Western strategic deliberations. I am sure that this – despite their continuous threats and brazen strategic messaging – is causing huge concerns among the Russian strategic leadership.

Russia desperately tries to avoid Western military intervention both Ukraine, the international security architecture, democracy, the global famine, and international trade and economy desperately need.

Hans Petter Midttun, Independent Analyst, Hybrid Warfare, Non-resident Fellow at Centre for Defence Strategies, board member Ukrainian Institute for Security and Law of the Sea, former Defence Attaché of Norway to Ukraine, and Officer (R) of the Norwegian Armed Forces.

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