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ISW: Ukraine continued advancement near Donetsk’s Bakhmut and Zaporizhzhia’s Robotyne

Based on ISW’s findings, Ukrainian forces, in areas of Bakhmut and Robotyne in the country’s east and south, continue their offensive operations, emphasizing their gains and breaches against Russian defenses.
ISW: Ukraine continued advancement near Donetsk’s Bakhmut and Zaporizhzhia’s Robotyne

The US-based think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW) says that on 16 September, Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations near Bakhmut, Donetsk Oblast, and Robotyne, Zaporizhzhia Oblast, making gains.

Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations in the Bakhmut direction on September 16 and continued to make gains in the area.

Geolocated footage posted on September 15 confirms that Ukrainian forces have advanced south of Rozdolivka (about 13km northeast of Bakhmut) and in northern Klishchiivka (about 6km southwest of Bakhmut).

Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar noted that fighting is ongoing near Klishchiivka and Kurdyumivka (12km southwest of Bakhmut) and stated that Ukrainian forces continue to be successful in the Klishchiivka area.

Ukrainian Ground Forces Commander Colonel General Oleksandr Syrsky posted footage of Ukrainian personnel in Andriivka (8km southwest of Bakhmut) following the Ukrainian liberation of the settlement on September 14.

Ukrainian forces also advanced in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast on September 16 and continued to penetrate the Russian defensive layer that lies ahead of the current extent of Ukrainian advances. 

Geolocated footage published on September 16 indicates that Ukrainian forces advanced along Russian defensive positions to the west of Robotyne (10km south of Orikhiv).

Additional geolocated footage published on September 15 indicates that Ukrainian infantry advanced further along a series of Russian defensive positions immediately west of Verbove (18km southeast of Orikhiv) but likely did not maintain control of these positions.

The Ukrainian presence at these Russian defensive positions indicates that Russian forces do not control these positions either and that Ukrainian forces are continuing to operate past the Russian defensive layer that runs northwest of Verbove to north of Solodka Balka (20km south of Orikhiv).

Ukrainian forces have likely made a significant tactical breach along a section of the current Russian defense layer in the Robotyne area over the past several weeks that they continue to widen. 

Ukrainian forces have continued offensive operations past a section of the Russian defensive layer west of Verbove since penetrating it on September 4 and have widened their breach along a 2.6km section of those Russian defensive positions.

The continued absence of observed Ukrainian heavy equipment and vehicles past this defensive layer continues to indicate that Ukrainian forces have yet to complete a breakthrough of this defensive layer, however.

Ukrainian officials have indicated that the series of Russian defensive positions currently ahead of the Ukrainian advance may be less challenging than the initial Russian defensive layer that Ukrainian forces broke through to the north.

Russian forces had concentrated the majority of their combat power at those forward-most Russian defensive positions to defend against Ukrainian counteroffensive operations, and these Russian forces have likely suffered heavy losses and conducted fighting withdrawals to prepared positions behind the current defensive layer.

ISW has long assessed that Russian forces lack the manpower to man the entire multi-echeloned Russian defensive fortification systems in southern Ukraine, and the Russian forces defending the current layer of defense are likely elements of formations that have been fighting in the area without operational-level unit rotation since the start of the counteroffensive or elements of formations that laterally transferred from elsewhere along the front.

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