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ISW: Ukraine might breach the main Russian defensive line in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast

Ukrainian forces make gains in southern Zaporizhzhia Oblast, penetrating the Russian tri-layer defense, which is the first observed instance of Ukrainian forces operating armored vehicles.
Assessed control of terrain around Robotyne as of 21 September.
ISW: Ukraine might breach the main Russian defensive line in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast

Geolocated footage posted on 21 September shows that Ukrainian armored vehicles advanced south of the anti-tank ditches, breaching a Russian tri-layered defense and engaged in limited combat west of Verbove, southern Zaporizhzhia Oblast, ISW reports.

The US-based think tank, Institute for the Study of War (ISW), said it cannot fully assess that Ukrainian forces have broken through this Russian defensive layer. However, “this is the first observed instance of Ukrainian forces operating armored vehicles beyond the Russian tri-layer defense.”

The presence of Ukrainian armored vehicles beyond the final line of the current Russian defensive layer indicates that the Ukrainians have secured their breach of the first two lines of this layer. It was enough to operate vehicles through the breach.

“The Ukrainian ability to bring armored vehicles to and through the most formidable Russian defenses intended to stop them and to operate these vehicles near prepared Russian defensive positions are important signs of progress in the Ukrainian counteroffensive,” ISW concluded.

Additional geolocated footage published on September 20 and 21 indicates that Ukrainian forces also advanced west and southwest of Verbove.

Assessed control of terrain around Zaporizhzhia as of 20 September.

Ukrainian forces have breached the main Russian defensive line in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast with armored vehicles, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on 21 September.

Other key takeaways from the report:

  • Russian forces currently defending in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast have been unable to prevent Ukrainian forces from making gradual but steady advances since mid-August.
  • Ukrainian forces conducted a series of drone and missile strikes targeting the Russian airfield near occupied Saky, Crimea, and may have damaged Russian aircraft.
  • Satellite imagery confirms that Ukrainian forces also struck the 744th Communications Center of the Command of the Black Sea Fleet in occupied Crimea on September 20 as part of an apparent Ukrainian effort to target Black Sea Fleet facilities.
  • The Kremlin continues to seek to intensify divisions between Ukraine and its Central European partners following Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative

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