Ukraine Conflict Monitor - 26 August – 1 September 2023
Situational report from the war in Ukraine
Key takeaways from last week’s developments
Although last week saw no operational, let alone strategic, changes, Ukrainians appear to have penetrated the first line of Russian defences in the Orikhix axis; Although the event is not a turning point in this war, it highlights continued and successful attempts to push Russians from their positions in the southern parts of the country;
Russians made no gains in the Kupyansk axis in the Luhansk Direction, and although the intensity of their attacks presumably decreased, Russians did not abandon their efforts to reach Kupyansk;
Ukrainians made small gains south of Svatove, but apart from that, no frontline changes occurred in other parts of the region;
The overall situation in the Donetsk Oblast direction remained unchanged; Frontline changes reportedly occurred near Klishchiivka, where Russians conducted several counterattacks;
In the Southern Direction, following the liberation of Robotyne, Ukrainians “flattened” the frontline by successfully attacking Russian lines west towards Verbove; while no major changes were reported in the Velyka Novosilka sector, Ukrainians reportedly approached Zavitne Bazhannia and Pryyutne;
Ukrainians maintained their presence on Dnipro’s left bank in the Kherson Oblast near Dachi and carried out harassing attacks across the river’s bank in other parts of the region;
Russian use of cruise missiles and kamikaze drones remained limited; Ukrainians claimed to have intercepted 97% of incoming cruise missiles and 94% of kamikaze drones;
Before we move further, we have a housekeeping note. Next week’s update will be different. Instead of analysing weekly events in Ukraine, we will publish an assessment of Ukrainian counteroffensive operations in the June-August timeframe. Although Ukrainian attacks are ongoing, we thought that a three-month mark offers a good opportunity to reflect on what we have seen so far.
Below is a little teaser, which shows frontline changes between JUN-AUG2023.
Ukraine Conflict Monitor is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Undoubtedly, last week’s most important event was the penetration of the first Russian defensive line east of Robotyne in the Orikhiv axis. This development was very publicised within the analyst community and world media alike.
Before we go further, Let’s quickly go back to what we wrote last week: “It also appears that since mid-week, they (Ukrainians) have attempted to push east towards Verbove to level off the frontline and prevent Russians from cutting off Ukrainian forces south of Novodanylivka. It is also east of Robotyne, where Ukrainians are slowly reaching Russian anti-tank fortifications, so their progress could face further difficulties. So far, we continue to see Ukrainians attacking south along one axis, which makes it easier for Russians to concentrate their defences, forces, and artillery and thwart Kyiv’s movement.”
The breaching of the Russian Surovikin line indeed happened west of Verbove (or east of Robotyne) and not south of Robotyne towards Tokmak. In this context, we correctly described last week’s Ukrainian operations, which sought to level the frontline and erase salient Ukrainians found themselves in. Ukrainian attacks, however, are still too narrow (both south- and eastward) to deliver a speedy breakthrough. But what is most interesting is not necessarily what Ukrainians have been doing but what Russians have not yet done.
Namely, during the initial days of the counteroffensive in the Orikhiv axis, Russians drew Ukrainians into a fire sack where the ATGMs, minefields, and artillery thwarted Ukrainian advances.
A similar situation developed last week southeast of Robotyne last week. Ukrainian advances were very narrow. Although a few Ukrainian brigades were located in the area, Russians, in theory at least, had more units deployed in this axis, and the situation favoured a heavy use of aviation and artillery to stall Ukrainians. A counterattack would then push them back. Yet, although some localised Russian attacks did happen, Moscow did not conduct a larger operation to derail Ukrainian advances.
Worse still, early in the week, reports surfaced that Russians deployed elements of the 76th Air Assault Division from the Kreminna to the Orikhiv axis. Although the division was engaged in attacks on Ukrainian positions near Kreminna, the deployment of the 76th Air Assault Division to Orikhiv meant the activation of operational reserves. This, combined with a lack of a coordinated and decisive response to forming a Ukrainian salient, appear to suggest a significant degradation of Russian combat potential in this sector. As a result, Ukrainian further gains are likely.
Despite this, especially given the 76th Division movement, we do not foresee a larger collapse of Russian forces in the Orikhiv axis. Over the 90 days, Ukrainian advances averaged 110 meters a day (we previously stated that Ukrainian progress south of Orikhiv was 14 km. This was a mistake. Ukrainains advances were closer to 10 km. Apologies for this mistake).
Moscow will likely continue to attempt to degrade Ukrainian attacks in-depth and attrit its combat potential, forcing it to fight for every trench to the point when Ukrainians can no longer sustain the current tempo of attacks.