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Frontline report: Ukrainian forces target Russians hiding in water pipes in Donetsk Oblast

Russia’s attempt to use the local water pipe network to covertly amass an attack force near Chasiv Yar backfired spectacularly as Ukrainian drones detected and eliminated soldiers inside the pipes, leading to severe losses that enabled successful Ukrainian counterattacks.
A screenshot from a video Reporting from Ukraine
A screenshot from a video Reporting from Ukraine, 20 June
Frontline report: Ukrainian forces target Russians hiding in water pipes in Donetsk Oblast

Day 848: 20 June

Today, there are a lot of updates from the Bakhmut direction, Donetsk Oblast.

The most interesting news comes from the southern flank of Chasiv Yar. Here, the Russians launched a series of attacks to use the canal crossing to enter the Novyi district. 

However, Ukrainians not only repelled these assaults but also launched a series of counterattacks, successfully pushing Russians off the canal crossing altogether.

Russians attacks on Novyi district

As mentioned in my previous reports, Russian forces reached the canal crossing south of the town to launch an attack on the Novyi district. However, their assault units were quickly surrounded and eliminated, leading the Russian commanders to abandon this plan.

However, recent limited Russian gains in the canal district prompted Russian commanders to attempt another attack on the Novyi district. By capturing high-rise buildings in the eastern part of the canal district, the Russians reduced Ukrainian fire control over the region. 

With Ukrainian fire suppressed, Russian vehicles could deploy more troops to the southern flank via roads instead of relying on foot deployment through the forest. This allowed Russian forces to move into the area more quickly and in greater numbers, and also facilitated more efficient resupply of their forces through newly established ground lines of communication. 

Russian command intensified assaults on the Novyi district, aiming to cut off Ukrainian positions in the high-rise buildings in the western part of the canal district. Advancing in the Novyi district became an appealing option for Russian forces because the area is comprised entirely of residential houses, which are easier to destroy and capture compared to the reinforced high-rise buildings in the canal district. 

Why Russians need Novyi district?

The Russians cannot use glide bombs to suppress Ukrainian positions in the canal district because their own troops are holding positions there as well. This need to avoid friendly fire prevented the Russians from launching further frontal assaults in canal, leading them to focus their efforts on the Novyi district instead.

To advance on Novyi, Russian forces would first need to establish a bridgehead on the western side of the canal and secure positions in the nearby forests. If successful, assaulting Novyi would allow the Russians to target the roads connecting the western and eastern parts of the town, which are separated by the canal. This would disrupt Ukrainian supply lines to the canal district, potentially forcing Ukrainian fighters to withdraw from the area. 

Furthermore, securing positions in Novyi would enable the Russians to launch attacks toward the center of Chasiv Yar. 

Nazar Voloshin, spokesperson for the Ukrainian Khortitsiya Group of Forces, stated that Russian fighters made no gains on the western side of the canal. The Ukrainians have established a line of powerful fortifications along the canal, which are concealed within the forest and consist of dugouts and trenches.

Ukrainian forces eliminate Russians in water pipes

For this reason, the Russians decided to exploit the local network of water pipes to covertly accumulate forces. Their plan was to launch surprise assaults from the pipes with large numbers of troops simultaneously. The goal of this new tactic was to help establish a bridgehead on the western side of the canal, enabling direct assaults on the Novyi district.

Unfortunately for the Russians, the Ukrainians maintained constant surveillance and reconnaissance over the pipes using drones. Combat footage shows the Ukrainians employing thermal cameras on drones to detect Russian troops within the pipes. They then used drone-dropped grenades to target small gaps in the pipes, effectively eliminating the Russian soldiers with precision. 

Additionally, the drones provided accurate coordinates for mortar operators to strike the pipes and create breaches, allowing drone operators to engage the Russians moving inside. 

As a result of the well-coordinated and precise operations by Ukrainian forces, the pipe network became a graveyard for Russian troops, leading to a halt in further assaults. The heavy Russian losses from these failed attempts created an opportunity for the Ukrainians to launch a counterattack.

Ukrainian counterattack

Geolocated footage shows a Ukrainian armored vehicle operating on the Eastern side of the canal crossing. Nearby a network of trenches, abandoned by the Russians, was subsequently taken by Ukrainian infantry who dismounted from their vehicles.

This Ukrainian counterattack aimed to relieve pressure on the canal district by establishing a supply corridor via the canal crossing linking up with Ukrainian forces in the high rises. The footage confirms that Ukrainians secured a portion of the forest to the east of the canal crossing along with the crossing itself.

This success was facilitated by the significantly reduced number of Russian troops holding these positions as many had been killed during their failed attempt to amass an attack force in the water pipes 

Overall, the Ukrainian forces successfully repelled the Russian assaults on the Novyi District utilizing superior tactics and well-coordinated counterattacks. The Russian failure to cross the canal and establish positions on the other side resulted in severe losses allowing the Ukrainians to exploit weaknesses in their defenses.

Furthermore Ukrainian counterattacks can widen the supply corridor to the canal district using the canal crossing to resupply the strongholds in the high rises.

This could lead to a point where Russian assaults against the strongholds lose momentum, setting the stage for further Ukrainian counterattacks to push the Russians back to their starting positions effectively clearing them out of the canal district.

In our daily frontline report, we pair up with the military blogger Reporting from Ukraine to keep you informed about what is happening on the battlefield in the Russo-Ukrainian war.

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