Tactical Military

  • Ukrainian Armed Forces continue to make tactically significant gains on the southern axis of the front as well as continuing offensive activity, along the eastern front, around the flanks of Bakhmut.
    • A spokesman for the Ukrainian Army General Staff stated that the UAF had liberated the strategically important village of Robotyne, western Zaporizhzhia oblast, as well as making advancements in the direction of Verbove (18km south of Orikhiv).
    • Ukrainian forces have reportedly established a bridgehead on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River, in the Kherson region. 

So What?

  • The deployment of Ukraine’s 82nd Air Assault Brigade to the southern front, working alongside the 47th Separate Mechanised Brigade, has started to pay dividends in Ukraine’s counteroffensive operations. The 47th Brigade, bolstered by the 82nd with its western-supplied equipment, have pushed into the village of Robotyne. The Ukrainian forces advances in this sector suggest that they have breached the foremost layer of Russian mines and defensive structures in the region, and that their progression seems to be gaining pace. Ukrainian officials have stated that following the liberation of the settlement of Robotyne, Ukrainian forces have achieved further success with fighting ongoing around the village of Novoprokopivka, and Ukrainian forces digging in at captured positions. Novoprokopivka is approximately three kilometres south of Robotyne and is located along the strategically important T0408 highway. The T0408 roadway constitutes a primary assault route for the UAF in their ongoing southern offensive. In the face of layered and strongly fortified Russian defences, the UAF’s progress has been gradual, recovering approximately 12 kilometres in the sector over the past two months. If verified, the Ukrainian forces’ mechanised units achieving a territorial gain of three kilometres into Novoprokopivka within 24 hours would signify a remarkable acceleration in the Ukrainian forward movement. This occurrence could potentially denote a significant breakthrough by Ukrainian forces through the initial defensive perimeter of the three-tiered Russian defences in the Zaporizhzhia sector. Furthermore, these territorial gains by Ukraine are part of a broader strategy to stretch and starve the Russian forces before launching their strike operations. Ukrainian troops are extending the reach of Russian defences by launching attacks at multiple locations across the extensive 600-mile front. Additionally, they are eroding Russian assets within occupied territories, neutralising artillery units, command and control (C2) nodes, staging zones for reserve forces, and strategically hitting crucial supply depots and routes. This approach aims to heighten the challenges for Russia in maintaining its defence efforts. In essence, Ukraine is steadily intensifying pressure on its adversary until a breaking point occurs, prompting the deployment of reserves and a decisive strike. This is the foundation of Ukraine's strategic calculation. A minor breach has the potential to generate opportunities for rapid exploitation of any breach, which in turn could result in disorder within Russian forces and may amplify Ukraine's chances of sustaining its prevailing momentum, and the liberation of the Robotyne could be the start of this.

Footage of the Ukrainian flag flying in the centre of Robotyne. Source: @NOELreports

  • Reports have emerged indicating that Ukrainian military units have successfully traversed the Dnipro River and established a bridgehead on its eastern (left) bank in Kherson Oblast. This development could mark a pivotal juncture, in conjunction with the tactical advancements around Robotyne, in Ukraine's summer counteroffensive push within the southern region. The exact number of troops involved in the river crossing and the level of security achieved within their established positions remain unclear. Effectively crossing the Dnipro River and creating a firmly secured bridgehead on the eastern shore would signify a significant breakthrough. From the outset of the conflict, Russian forces recognised the strategic significance of the Dnipro River. They understood that control over the river could facilitate the division and subjugation of Ukraine, offering a natural defence against potential counter-offensives. During the counteroffensive undertaken in the autumn of 2022, Ukraine managed to regain substantial territorial ground in the eastern and southern areas, successfully dislodging Russia from the western (right) bank of the lower Dnipro. However, Russia's control persists on the eastern bank, underscoring its dominance in that region. This is precisely why reports detailing Ukrainian advancements across the river hold such paramount importance. The effective execution of Ukrainian forces’ successfully establishing a bridgehead on the eastern bank of Dnipro was reportedly made possible by utilising information obtained from the detained Russian battalion commander, Major Tomov. This intelligence encompassed specifics regarding Russian positions, surveillance posts, command centres, defensive arrangements, and patrol paths – all meticulously indicated on a map. The data acquired through Tomov's capture empowered Ukrainian forces to initiate a subsequent series of assaults with exceptional accuracy.
  • Whilst the UAF have successfully deployed light infantry forces across the Dnipro in Kherson, and likely attained fire-superiority with their artillery to support this action, it will be much more challenging to move heavier armoured units across the river. Small boats can be used to discreetly move light infantry units (and their support weapons) across the river, but in order to enable a significant breakout using a mechanised manoeuvre force, larger, slower (and therefore more vulnerable) craft will be required. 
Suppressors and Drones: UAF's stealthy preparations for the South

Operational / Strategic Military

  • On 23 August 2023, it appears that Ukrainian Armed Forces targeted a Russian defence system located deep inside occupied Crimea. The Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) released information and footage showing the attack on an S-400 anti-aircraft missile system as well as a battery system armed with anti-ship cruise missiles.

Footage of Russian anti-aircraft systems being destroyed. Source: warintel4u

So What?

  • Since Russian forces occupied Crimea in February 2014, they have established a considerable missile base on Cape Tarkhankut located in western Crimea. At the site the Russians deployed an S-400 surface-to-air missile battery, the Bastion anti-ship cruise missile system, as well as an array of radars. Both of these battery systems were able to provide a considerable threat to the Ukrainian military; the S-400 battery system was able to threaten aerial targets of up to 250 miles away, covering the western Black Sea, whilst, the Bastion battery system, equipped with “Onyx” P-800 high-speed anti-ship cruise missiles threatened ships in the Black Sea, as well as land targets – targeting Ukrainian grain warehouses. It is not currently known what weapons systems were used to destroy the battery systems, but, in recent weeks, there has been a notable increase in the shaping activity in the form of UAF long range missile strikes. Initial hypotheses stated that British supplied Storm Shadow cruise missiles were used however, the Ukrainian GUR have claimed responsibility for the attack posting several videos on social media of Special Forces carrying out a raid on the Peninsula, approximately 120km behind the Forward Line of Enemy Troops (FLET). The Special Forces unit, working alongside the Ukrainian Navy, reportedly landed on the western most tip of Crimea, near the settlements of Olenivka and Mayak, engaged and killed Russian troops before destroying equipment at the base of Russia’s 3rd Radio Engineering Regiment. Alongside the raid, Ukrainian Special Forces were able to deploy a drone above the S-400 anti-air defence to record the footage of it being destroyed. This will likely cause concern among Russian military leadership, due to Russian forces inability to successfully employ Electronic Warfare (EW) jamming capabilities, a sentiment which has been shared among certain members of the Russian milblogger community. Similarly, if missiles were used to destroy the batteries and corresponding radars, it would imply that Russian forces seemed ill-prepared to counter such missile strikes with their air defence systems. Ukrainian authorities have been quick to assert that they were responsible for the attack which caused the destruction of the battery systems, radars and Russian military personnel in the vicinity, and considering that Russia has a limited number of such sophisticated systems it is a rather significant strategic win for Ukraine and an embarrassing loss for Russia. 

Ukrainian Special Forces carrying out the raid on Crimea. Source: @NOELreports


  • Wagner mercenary chief, Yegeny Prigozhin, is assumed dead after Russian forces reportedly shot down an aircraft transporting a number of senior Wagner Group Private Military Company (PMC) commanders. The plane was believed to be carrying the Wagner mercenary chief on 23 August 2023, and reportedly exhibited no signs of trouble until it experienced a sudden descent in its final 30 seconds, as indicated by flight-tracking data. The plane was en route from Moscow to St. Petersburg when it suddenly nose-dived and crashed near the village of Kuzhenkino, Tver Oblast.
  • Some reporting also suggests that the aircraft was brought down by an explosive device hidden in the landing gear. Imagery of the wreckage suggests some shrapnel damage to the wings, indicative of an interception by a surface to air missile – however the cause of the explosion is currently unconfirmed.

The plane carrying the Wagner commanders can be seen hurtling towards the ground. Source: @Osinttechnical

So What?

  • It is almost certain that the destruction of the aircraft was not an accident. It is highly likely that the Kremlin gave the order to the Russian military command to shoot down the plane carrying the Wagner commanders. The rationale behind such a move is almost certainly aimed at Putin reestablishing his authority and seeking his revenge for the embarrassment he suffered from the Wagner Group’s armed rebellion on 23 June 2023. During the attempted armed rebellion Wagner mercenaries downed Russian helicopters and killed 13 Russian servicemen. By employing Russian air defences for Prigozhin’s assassination, not only did the Russian Ministry of Defence exact their revenge, but they also conveyed a message to Russia’s elites, who may have been eager to see Putin removed ahead of the 2024 Russian presidential elections.
  • The sudden descent noted on the flight tracking data and supported by video footage is indicative of an aircraft that has been struck; almost certainly by Russian air-defence forces. The downing of Yevgeny Prigozhin's airplane carries significant implications for both the Wagner Group and wider geopolitical dynamics. The reported demise of Prigozhin has created a substantial leadership vacuum within the Wagner Group, introducing uncertainty about the group's future activities and strategic orientation. The absence of key figures like Dmitry Utkin compounds this uncertainty, highly likely to result in disruptions to operations and reduced effectiveness. Furthermore, Prigozhin's passing raises inquiries about the sustainability of the group's undertakings, given that his personal associations and networks greatly influenced Wagner's involvements, particularly in Africa. This incident also prompts considerations about the Kremlin's response and the expected reshuffling of leadership within the Wagner Group Private Military Company (PMC). Identifying a successor who garners both Kremlin endorsement and the capability to navigate the intricate web of connections established by Prigozhin poses a formidable challenge. This internal power struggle will very likely exacerbate the group's internal cohesion and effectiveness. As the organisation adapts to its new circumstances, the Kremlin will likely take steps to manage the repercussions. It's highly likely that a replacement for Prigozhin, preferably someone aligned with Kremlin interests, will be sought to lead Wagner's overseas endeavours, albeit with adjustments for sustainability. The fate of Wagner's combatants and the handling of Prigozhin's death, including the potential for a state funeral, might serve to balance both internal and external perceptions, particularly within the military blogging community. Additionally, if the confirmation comes that the aircraft was indeed shot down, there will likely be consequences for the responsible air commander. The destiny of Wagner's fighters either exiled to Belarus or operating within African nations remains uncertain. Some could seek alternative employment, possibly in West Africa, while others might be integrated into the Russian Federation Armed Forces (RFAF) if not engaged in African or Syrian deployments. Beyond the Wagner Group itself, the death of Prigozhin sends ripples across the international arena. Essentially, the downing of Prigozhin's aircraft disrupts the established hierarchy within the Wagner Group, likely raises doubts about the sustainability of its operations, and triggers discussions about the future path of Russian private military entities on the global stage. The aftermath of this incident is likely to shape the landscape of conflicts, private military dynamics, and international responses for the foreseeable future.

Site of the plane crash in the Tver Oblast, Russia. Source: @Gerashchenko_en 

  • Furthermore, unsubstantiated reports indicate that fighters affiliated with the Wagner Group PMC are organising convoys to exit encampments in Belarus and make their way towards Russia. These convoys are believed to be bound for the Russian border; however, Belarusian security services are actively working to prevent the vehicles of these groups from departing. Additionally, there has been a significant disruption in mobile and internet communications in villages situated near the Wagner Group PMC. While, at best, it remains a realistic possibility that Wagner forces might attempt coordinated retaliatory actions, the implementation of heightened security measures will help diminish the risk of a second major uprising occurring in both Belarus and Russia. The group’s ability to mobilise effectively is likely to be compromised following the loss of its key commanders. 

Wagner Group mercenaries issue a declaration. Source: @IntelDrop_

What Next

The Ukrainian forces have made tactically significant progress during this reporting period, particularly along the southern axis of the front, and it is likely that they will look to capitalise upon these newfound gains and to make further, swifter progress following a steadier preceding 11 weeks counteroffensive operation. Ukrainian forces have likely pierced the initial Russian defensive lines, consisting of heavily mined sectors, and are now approaching the second lines of defence which are likely to be less densely mined to allow for Russian troops to move more easily among the battlefields. 

Ukrainian forces will almost certainly continue to carry out long-range strikes on Russian logistics supplies in order to suppress supplies to Russian troops fighting on the front line and to help enable Ukraine’s counteroffensive operations. Additionally, following the successful nighttime raid of Ukrainian Special Forces on the Crimean Peninsula, we will likely see more of these types of sabotage raids in order to continue stretching the already weakened Russian troops defensive capabilities. 

We can expect to see Russia’s “disinformation fog of falsehoods” descend as multiple, conflicting narratives surface surrounding the death of Prigozhin and Utkin, purposefully designed to sow confusion amongst the civilian population. Despite this, the underlying message will have already resonated profoundly with Putin’s political adversaries ahead of the 2024 Presidential elections. The act of eliminating Prigozhin and other senior Wagner figures with anti-air defence almost certainly serves as a resounding demonstration of Putin’s authoritative resurgence following the Wagner Group’s attempt to undermine him in the June march to Moscow.

Furthermore, Prevail Partner’s analysts look forward to the confirmed delivery of F-16 fighter aircraft from Denmark and the Netherlands by 2024, and monitoring the new dimension this will bring to the conflict. How will the US respond if these F-16s find themselves systematically neutralised by their Russian counterparts and anti-air defence? This new dynamic and its repercussions remain to be seen.