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.
- Ukrainian forces continue to conduct counteroffensive operations along two primary axes of the front.
- Ukrainian forces continue to advance southwards in Western Zaporizhzhia towards Tokmak since liberating the village of Robotyne.
- Ukrainian officials have reported of regaining approximately two square kilometres of territory on the eastern axis, around the southern flank of Bakhmut.
Ukrainian Leopard 2A6 involved in combat. Source: @Osintechnical
- US’s top military leader has issued a warning, indicating that Ukraine has approximately six weeks remaining before adverse weather conditions start to impede its counteroffensive efforts. However, Ukraine’s determination to continue its counteroffensive against Russia remains unwavering, even in the face of worsening weather conditions during the winter months.
- The liberation of the village of Robotyne, reported on 28 August, constituted an important advancement for the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF). It was the first time that Ukrainian forces had reported breaching Russia’s initial defensive line, widely circulated amongst the media as the most difficult to breach. The UAF have since set up bases from which they can launch further attacks south in the direction of Tokmak – an important logistical hub for the Russian military. The liberation of Robotyne has allowed the Ukrainian military to secure the T0408 highway and to ramp up their offensive operations, not just along the highway, but in all directions. The first direction that the UAF conducted offensive activity in, was eastwards to Verbove, situated approximately 8 km east of Robotyne, whilst the second route that Ukrainian forces advanced in was westwards towards the village of Kopani, situated approximately 6 km directly west of Robotyne. The aim of these Ukrainian advancements has been to destroy any remaining fortifications of the first Russian defensive lines in order to extend their established bridgehead and to allow for greater freedom of movement. Reports from 9 September 2023 state that the UAF have captured up to three trench networks in the direction of Kopani as a result of launching attacks directly from the village of Robotyne. Capturing these trench networks has allowed Ukrainian forces to open up additional lines of attack from the north and, as a result, have overwhelmed Russian defensive positions, therefore, successfully gaining more ground. Ukrainian sources have published several videos of combat footage showing how several Leopard 2A6 tanks destroyed Russian defensive positions in the tree lines allowing for an expedited infantry assault. Other reporting also shows the UAF excavating a stuck Russian tank without fear of enemy attacks, indicating that Ukrainian forces have been able to take control of these highly contested regions. However, this has just been the beginning of operations in the Tokmak direction. On 10 September, Ukrainian forces conducted a tank raid on Novoprokopivka, located approximately 3 km south of Robotyne. Further combat footage of the assault illustrates that Ukrainian tanks entered the area directly after Ukrainian artillery successfully destroyed small ammunitions depots and Russian artillery systems. Ukrainian tanks took advantage of the lull in Russian artillery fire, clearing the ground of initial anti-personnel mines, allowing infantry units to conduct further clearing operations and to establish total control over the new positions. Overall, UAF have started to deploy tanks in a much more direct manner which has allowed them to hurry the pace of advancement. The combined effects of Ukrainian counter battery fire followed by tanks assaults also allows for a much more streamlined and effective assault to be carried out by infantry forces. Therefore, as the bridgehead continues to widen and Russian forces continue to lose their defensive positions on high ground, Ukrainians will be able to use their tanks even more extensively, along with their artillery, to push Russian forces further back.
Ukrainian forces destroy Russian main battle tank in the vicinity of Robotyne. Source: @Osinttechnical
- Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley has stated that Ukrainian forces have a window of 30-45 days remaining of favourable weather conditions in their counteroffensive operations. The head of Ukraine’s defence intelligence, Kyrylo Budanov, however, affirmed that combat operations will persist, despite the challenges posed by cold, wet, and muddy conditions. While we anticipate that the initial heavy rains will bring about muddy conditions and that this will inevitably slow ground movements, impacting both Ukrainian and Russian forces. Furthermore, as the Winter season develops so too will the harsher, colder weather generating a winter freeze and hard ground which will provide favourable conditions conducive to mechanised warfare which Ukrainian forces have become increasingly adept at. If true, this preparedness to continue the fight towards and through the winter month is paramount for Ukrainian success in order to maintain momentum and prevent an operational pause which would allow the RFAF to construct additional defences and recuperate beleaguered forces. However, the fear among many analysts currently is that Ukraine will exhaust their current capabilities breaching Russian defences then not have enough in reserve in order to exploit the position and follow up with lateral movement through the occupied territory.
Ukrainian forces destroying and assaulting Russian defensive positions. Source: @NOELreports
Operational / Strategic Military
- The Russian Government reportedly plans to recruit and mobilise a massive number of troops, with estimates ranging from 400,000 to 700,000, for the war in Ukraine – with 290,000 personnel already recruited. However, this extensive conscription effort is having repercussions for Russia’s industrial workforce, causing a shortage of workers, particularly in sectors reliant on a young and skilled labour force – in July 2023, Russia’s industry workforce deficit reached 42 percent, a 7 percent increase from April, only 3 months prior.
- The recent G20 Summit in New Delhi generated concern and attention due to both the absence of Ukraine among its participants but also refraining from condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Since the G20 is an economic cooperation forum, typically focused on addressing global economic and financial issues with broader geopolitical and security concerns, this lack of action has prompted criticism from Ukraine and online commentators. On the contrary, Russian Minister Sergei Lavrov praised the situation as a “step in the right direction”, stating that Russia hadn’t anticipated such a consensus and that it was a significant milestone moving forward.
- Russian authorities have voiced their dissatisfaction to Azerbaijan over comments it made regarding regional elections that took place in Russian occupied territory in Ukraine. They have also criticised Armenia concerning incendiary comments that could be detrimental to any peace settlement concerning the Nagorno-Karabakh region. These comments from Russia signify a substantial deterioration in its relations with the two nations and adds a greater challenge to maintain its position as the prevalent regional power and security advisor.
Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, greets Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov at the G20 summit. Source: @OsintUpdates
- Notable shortages in Russia’s workforce are mostly observed in the IT sector. As a result, Russia has now began taking steps to retain IT professionals with an increased exemption age for military recruitment for IT professionals from 27 to 30. This is highly likely in recognition of the sectors importance in driving economic growth and innovation. However, without stricter border controls for young talent, we will highly likely see the continued departure of IT professionals in Russia as they seek better-paying opportunities abroad – this was previously evidenced by the departure of approximately 100,000 IT workers from Russia in 2022 alone. To address these challenges, we will highly likely see Russia implement long-term strategies to incentivise talent retention.
- The perceivably softer stance on Russia’s role in the Ukraine conflict, in contrast to the previous years’ condemnation, demonstrates the evolving dynamics and shifts in balance, power and influence within the G20. Divergent positions on Russia’s actions in Ukraine within the G20 are likely to persist, particularly amongst those with strong economic ties with Russia. We will highly likely see continued Russian efforts to push narratives beneficial to their strategic aims to end the war. Russian propaganda campaigns aimed at US officials, Western leaders, thought-leaders – especially among those who already have anti-war/anti-establishment/anti-imperialist leanings, typically promote the idea of a “peace deal”, with the likely intent of forcing Ukraine to concede land to the Russians. As Russia continue to sow doubt and cause divisions amongst the international communities, alliances and unions, Ukraine is burdened with uncertainty regarding the level of support they can rely on short and long term. Conversations about de-escalation, conceding ground to the Russian and withdrawing support to Ukraine almost certainly serve Russia’s best interests.
- A one-on-one meeting between North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, and Russian President, Vladimir Putin, is expected to take place in Vladivostok on 13 September 2023, likely to discuss arms negotiations between the two nations.
Footage of North Korean Leader, Kim Jong Un, arriving in Russia. Source: @Global_Mil_Info
- On 12 September 2023, Kim Jong Un arrived in Russia, via his private armoured train, in preparation for an anticipated summit with Vladimir Putin. The meeting carries significant geopolitical implications as it brings together the two dictators, who have become increasingly isolated on the global stage. Russia’s need for fresh munitions supplies for its war in Ukraine, and North Korea’s requirements for humanitarian aid, due to heavy international sanctions, could potentially lead to discussions on arms deals; which the US government has indicated that the two nations are actively pursuing. While North Korea and Russia have denied arms supply deals, Kim Jong Un’s delegation includes figures specialising in defence trade. Notably, experts have emphasised that the presence of Jo Chun Ryong, who has primarily worked within North Korea’s munitions sector, indicates that there will be a focus on arms negotiations. The US has cautioned against any arms transfers from North Korea to Russia, emphasising that it violates Security Council resolutions. However, despite these warnings, Russia has stressed that its national interests will guide its policies. Despite the sanctions placed upon North Korea, they have continued to produce a massive stockpile of artillery shells and ballistic missiles that are compatible with Russian military equipment, however, what is less evident, is the quality of the munitions that are accessible. Yet, despite this, the sheer volume of artillery munitions that North Korea likely has available to send to Russia will greatly assist in replenishing Russia’s supposed dwindling stockpile.
Prevail Partners will continue monitoring the situation developing in the southern Caucasus region between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Historically, Russia has been a mediator between these two countries enveloped in territorial disputes, however Russia is currently preoccupied in Ukraine. The catalyst in future developments in the regions appears to be Iran’s emerging involvement. What initially seemed to be mere posturing has turned into speculations of potential military deployments and the training of Iranian Armenians for service in Yerevan. As Azerbaijan increases its purchases of Israeli weaponry and mobilises further convoys of military equipment in the direction of Armenian territory, and Armenia increasingly functions as a proxy in Iran’s asymmetric warfare strategy against Azerbaijan, the prospect of a regional conflict involving Iran and Russia looms large.
In Ukraine it is likely that Russia will continue to deploy their remaining ‘elite’ forces (such as the VDV and Naval Infantry or Spetznaz units) in reaction to Ukrainian success. These better-equipped, and possibly marginally better trained (although significantly degraded earlier in the conflict) units are likely being used to bolster mobilised regular troops and to attempt to seal off any breaches of the RFAF defensive line. However, these forces are finite in number and cannot be used indefinitely and are not a long-term solution to the ineffectiveness of poorly trained conscripted/mobilised personnel. Once this ‘elite’ operational reserve is depleted, the UAF are likely to have greater freedom of manoeuvre with which to conduct exploitation and break-through operations and disrupt the Russian rear. Russia is also likely to maintain their current tempo of long-range strikes against Ukrainian infrastructure using one-way Uncrewed Aerial Vehicles (such as the Geran/Shahed drones, now domestically produced) whilst they attempt to rebuild stocks of more advanced missiles for use over the winter.