The Prevail Partners Newsroom is supporting the Ukrainian Armed Forces media campaign asking for silence regarding the counteroffensive. In the spirit of this, whilst tactical and operational military updates will be given for both Ukraine and Russia, no predictive assessment will be published on upcoming Ukrainian counteroffensive activity.   

Tactical Military

  • Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) counteroffensive operations have continued along at least three axes of the front during the reporting period but have been notably muted in intensity.
    • The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces conducted operations in the Berdyansk (western Donetsk-eastern Zaporizhzhia Oblast border region) and Melitopol (western Zaporizhzhia Oblast) directions.
    • Ukrainian forces conducted failed offensive operations around the flanks of Bakhmut, particularly in the northern flanks towards the Berkhivka reservoir.
    • Ukrainian troops landed on the Russian-occupied side of the Dnipro River in Kherson, likely in an attempt to set up a bridgehead.

Ukrainian forces eliminating Russian tanks in the vicinity of Bakhmut. Source: @NOELreports

So What?

  • Counteroffensive operations have reduced in apparent intensity along the entirety of the front line over the past week, including around the flanks of Bakhmut where Ukrainian forces were experiencing significant territorial gains. The notable gains made by the UAF around the north and south of Bakhmut have managed to draw additional Russian forces into the area which was likely a main objective of the Ukrainian forces. The Russian military have redeployed forces of their VDV to support defensive operations around Bakhmut which is almost certainly slowing Ukrainian territorial gains. The deployment of these units to the Bakhmut region signifies a significant allocation of military strength that Russian forces might have otherwise employed to either back offensive actions in the Luhansk and Kharkiv Oblasts, or to strengthen defensive operations in southern Ukraine.
  • The Ukrainian forces’ counteroffensive operations also continued in the southern regions of Ukraine in the areas of Mala Tokmachka (10km southeast of Orikhiv) and Robotnye (15km south of Orikhiv). It is along these sectors of the front that Ukrainian forces have achieved tactical successes and have now solidified their positions along the achieved front lines. Ukrainian forces have penetrated through the first line of pre-prepared Russian defences in the south of Ukraine and have advanced to an intermediate line. The UAF now face manoeuvring through concrete fortifications, including dragon’s teeth – a reinforced concrete, anti-tank barrier – which have substantially impeded Ukrainian offensive operations. Furthermore, there have been reports that on 8 August, Ukrainian forces conducted raids across the Dnipro River and landed on the east bank of Kherson Oblast, likely attempting to establish a bridgehead. This recent river crossing is likely part of ongoing Ukrainian efforts to exploit the redeployment of experienced Russian troops to other areas of the battlefield, thereby reducing Russian defensive capabilities. Prominent Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces effectively employed tactical surprise by landing approximately seven boats, each carrying up to seven personnel, on the east bank of the Dnipro. Ukrainian forces were reportedly able to advance approximately 800m, penetrating Russian defensive positions and liberating the village of Kozachi Laheri. However, recent geolocated footage indicates that Russian forces have maintained their positions both in and to the northwest of the village, but video footage shows Ukrainian artillery strikes against the Russian forces’ locations indicating that these positions are unsafe and could pave a way for further limited Ukrainian raids across the Dnipro in efforts to continue stretching the Russian defensive line.

Ukrainian artillery strikes against Russian positions near Kozachi Laheri, Kherson Oblast. Source: @Osinttechnical

Operational / Strategic Military

  • On 4 August, a maritime drone recently hit one of Russia’s largest oil tankers, marking the latest move in a Ukrainian military strategy that is further employing the use of unmanned vehicles to strike distant Russian logistics supplies.

Video footage of the naval drone attack of the Russian oil tanker. Source: @NOELreports

  • On 6 August, Ukrainian military targeted and damaged two crucial road bridges that serve as vital Russian ground lines of communication linking occupied Crimea and occupied Kherson Oblast.
  • Uncorroborated reports are circulating of Russian forces’ use of chemical weapons in southern Ukraine. Ukrainian military commander, Oleksandr Tarnavskyi, claimed Russian troops fired two artillery barrages with munitions containing a chemical material, likely Chloropicrin.

So What?

  • Shortly before midnight of 5 August, a Russian-flagged oil tanker was struck by a naval drone in a strike carried out by the Ukrainian Security Services (SBU) and the Ukrainian Navy. The oil tanker, which is currently under US sanctions for supplying Russian forces with jet fuel in Syria, was hit by a drone reportedly laden with 450 kilograms of TNT. Russian milbloggers stated that the drone strike was deliberately aimed at the vessel’s engine room on the starboard side, so as to minimise the risk of an oil spill and focus on targeting the most expensive and hard-to-repair equipment. Kyiv has warned that six Russian Black Sea ports will now be considered a “war risk area”, indicating that Ukrainian strikes against Russian naval vessels (and merchantmen supporting military activity) and facilities is likely to continue. Kyiv’s continued intent to target Russian naval assets is also underscored by the fact that the strike on the oil tanker was the second such naval attack within a 24-hour period, after Ukrainian forces conducted a successful strike on a Russian Ropucha-class landing ship. The recent developments highlight both an increased willingness and appetite to strike Russian targets far from unoccupied Ukrainian territory as well as an expansion of Ukrainian efforts to include naval targets when previous interdiction efforts have mainly focused on Russian military land targets. The attacks will likely equally be interpreted as efforts to bring the conflict to Russia, as President Zelenskyy has recently warned, and to diminish the Kremlin’s logistical capabilities. In response to these Ukrainian strikes, the deputy chairman of Russia’s security council, Dmitry Medvedev, indicated that Russian forces might carry out further attacks on Ukrainian ports and warned of potentially causing an environmental disaster in the Black Sea for Ukraine. Medvedev has a history of incendiary rhetoric, and his comments are again likely an attempt to stop Ukrainian strike activity against Russian infrastructure.

Footage showing the damage inflicted upon the Russian oil tanker by Ukrainian naval drone strikes. Source: @sentdefender

  • On 6 August, Ukrainian military targeted and damaged two crucial road bridges that serve as vital Russian ground lines of communication linking occupied Crimea and occupied Kherson Oblast. The strikes resulted in Russian forces having to redirect road traffic from shorter eastern routes to longer western alternative routes - The rerouting of traffic will likely pose significant disruptions to Russian logistics. According to Russian authorities, Ukrainian forces fired a total of 12 missiles at a road bridge spanning the Henichesk Raion to the Arabat Spit. Russian air defences reportedly intercepted 9 of the missiles. Russian sources released images highlighting substantial bridge damage and asserted that the Ukrainian strikes caused a partial collapse of a bridge segment. Additionally, footage shared by other Russian sources showed Ukrainian forces striking the Chonhar road bridge, which was previously struck 29 July, and is responsible for connecting occupied Crimea to the occupied Kherson Oblast. This attack resulted in minor damage on both sides of the bridge. The Ukrainian strikes on bridges along critical Russian ground lines of communication, and in conjunction with drone attacks against Russian naval vessels, are likely part of the Ukrainian interdiction campaign to degrade Russian logistics and defensive capabilities in order to set favourable conditions for future Ukrainian counteroffensive activity.

A large plume of smoke billows from the Ukrainian strike on the Chonhar bridge. Source: @NOELreports

  • On 6 August 2023, Russian troops reportedly fired rockets containing a chemical agent in the region of Novodanylivka, Zaporizhzhia Oblast. The use of chemical agents by Russia during its war with Ukraine has been reported before this most recent event. Reports indicated that Russian forces have previously used drones to drop K-51 grenades containing cheryomukha (a non-lethal incapacitating agent, similar to CS gas used for riot control) onto Ukrainian positions. However, firing chemical agents from a heavy Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) would be a considerable escalation in Russian tactics. Explaining why Russia might risk the severe consequences of a large chemical attack, even with a non-lethal agent, without gaining any tactical advantage is challenging. The authority to use special munitions rests at Division level and requires further clearance from the National Command Authority (The Kremlin). Initially, the use of chemical weapons is likely to be subject to the same level of decision making as nuclear weapons, but they are likely to be used more freely once the initial authority has been given. It can be speculated that Russia might be gauging reactions as to whether there would be international condemnation for breaking Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), but if they truly intended to use chemical warfare, they would likely employ a lethal agent on a larger scale for greater impact before facing any significant response. Chemical weapons offer a unique value within Russian military operations. These weapons are designed to have a broad impact, aiming to decrease enemy combat capabilities by causing casualties and incapacitating personnel, as well as contaminating equipment and surroundings. Additionally, coordinating a chemical warfare attack with widespread distribution of functional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), which hasn’t been observed, poses further questions. Broadly speaking, chemical warfare proves most impactful when individuals lack means to shield themselves from exposure. Modern militaries possess defensive training and protective gear, nullifying potential advantages of deploying non-lethal chemical agents. Employing such agents would compel both parties to wear Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) protective gear, hampering tactical operations. However, a potential scenario where chemical weapons might hold relevance involves using a persistent agent for area denial, especially to impede a Ukrainian advance. This approach could serve as an alternative when conventional methods aren’t feasible – aligning with Soviet military doctrine, which is likely similar to current Russian doctrine. The utilisation of chemical weapons in Ukraine seems to offer Russia limited advantages, however on the other hand, there aren’t substantial drawbacks from a Russian viewpoint either. Public sentiment doesn’t appear to trouble Kremlin officials, and the employment of chemical weapons isn’t likely to dissuade backers of Moscow’s Ukrainian invasion, as supporters of Putin’s war already ignore accusations of Russian forces violating international law. However, in this latest instance, deploying chemical warfare in civilian areas, even with non-persistent agents, holds no military benefit and is likely disingenuous Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) disinformation, which undermines their legitimate requests for assistance.


  • On 5 and 6 August, senior officials from 40 countries including the US, China and India held peace talks in Saudi Arabia in hopes that it will lead to an agreement on the key principles for a peaceful end to Russia’s war on Ukraine.

So What?

  • The two-day meeting was part of a diplomatic push by Ukraine to build support beyond its core Western backers by reaching out to Global South countries that have been reluctant to take sides in a conflict that has hit the global economy. Chinese diplomats reportedly reintroduced China’s 12-point peace plan from February 2023, prompting European delegations to respond that an unconditional ceasefire would create a frozen conflict and allow Russia to consolidate its control over occupied Ukrainian territories. Most countries, including China, attending the meeting agreed to further talks in the future. The presence of China at the meeting, and its willingness to attend future meetings, has been portrayed as a big win for Ukraine. China’s President Xi Jinping and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin have presented their bond as an abiding alliance, built upon the joint aspiration of these authoritarian leaders to bolster their control and diminish the global dominance of the US. However, following the turmoil stemming from the Wagner mercenaries’ rebellion against the Kremlin, this alliance has faced trials, prompting significant uncertainties regarding Xi’s previously unwavering solidarity with Putin. By supporting Putin’s actions in the Ukraine conflict, Xi has opened up China to the possibility of significant economic and diplomatic harm. This could occur if Ukraine’s European partners opt to sever their economic connections with China, or if turmoil within Russia jeopardises China’s traded links with the country. Additionally, following China’s involvement in the peace talks in Saudi Arabia, discussions between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, indicate an increasing divergence between the two countries regarding proposed resolutions to end the ongoing conflict. Disparities emerged in how the Russian and Chinese foreign ministries portrayed their conversation. The Russian Foreign Ministry’s account mentioned Lavrov and Wang discussing various pressing regional matters, including the Ukrainian crisis. On the other hand, the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s portrayal of the talks could indicate that the Kremlin is growing discontented with China’s ongoing efforts to promote its peace plan on the global stage. Despite this, little is likely to be said, or done, by either party as they have too much to lose by severing their relationship.

What Next?

At a tactical level, it is highly unlikely that there will be any significant territorial changes over the next week – with Ukraine unlikely to possess sufficient engineering mobility equipment to rapidly clear minefields and breach emplaced obstacle belts and support rapid manoeuvre. Russia is likely to continue to apply pressure to the UAF on the northern flank in Kharkiv Oblast in order to force a re-orientation of UAF units away from areas in the south where they have been more successful.

It is highly likely that the RFAF will continue to react to UAF operations by repositioning more effective troops, such as the VDV and Naval Infantry, to areas which are at the greatest risk of being penetrated. This is likely to continue to exhaust Russia’s most capable combat soldiers and units, degrading them whilst the UAF maintains the initiative and seeks to maintain the momentum of the offensive.

It is highly unlikely that the RFAF will conduct major offensive chemical weapon strikes in order to deny the UAF territory or in response to possible breakthroughs – the risk of losing support from their already limited international partners such as China and increasing western support to the Ukrainian government and armed forces.

The UAF are likely to continue to conduct attacks using drones both against Russian infrastructure at home (in order to highlight the risk to the Russian population writ-large, and also disrupt manufacturing, military, and logistical activity) as well as conducting asymmetric attacks with maritime drones against the Black Sea Fleet and other Russian-flagged vessels supporting military activity. In response, Russia is highly likely to maintain their tempo of strikes against Ukrainian petroleum, oil and lubricant storage areas, as well as transport infrastructure and power transmission/generation facilities.