Northeast – Kharkiv and Western Luhansk Area of Operations
- The Russian Federation Armed Forces (RFAF) operating in Luhansk Oblast remain focused on preventing the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) from making ground towards Troitske, Svatove, and the P-66 Main Supply Route (MSR).
- There has been a reduction in the number of artillery and rocket strikes into the border regions of Sumy and northern Kharkiv. It is reported that UAF artillery has struck targets in Belgorod Oblast, Russia. It is possible that the UAF fire into Russia was counter-battery fire.
- RFAF continue to conduct fires near Bilohorivka, in spite of claims to have captured it previously. It is possible that the RFAF or aligned forces are operating in the southeastern part of the village.
- Advisor of the Ukrainian President’s Office, Oleksiy Arestovych, stated that the Russians intend to evacuate people from Kreminna, Rubizhne and Severodonetsk. He said this was due to fears of a Ukrainian advance in northern Luhansk Oblast. He likened it to the evacuation of the Russian occupation government and pro-Russian population in Kherson which was conducted prior to the military withdrawal.
Likely a Pro-Russian Twitter post reportedly showing geolocated footage of Russian troops in Bilohorivka. Source: @UnerkanntW
East – Donbas Area of Operations (assessed RFAF Operational Main Effort)
- The assessed RFAF's main effort to clear Donetsk Oblast of Ukrainian forces is ongoing. There is no reporting to indicate that troops displaced from the west bank of the Dnipro in Kherson have been used to bolster the persistent assaults around Bakhmut, Soledar, and Spirne. Some reporting indicates that Russia-aligned forces have captured Mayorske; however, the subsequent push towards Toretsk was repelled by the UAF defences. Both the Russian mil-blogger community and to a lesser extent the Ukrainian Government have stated that the fighting has caused a significant number of killed and wounded on both sides.
- Additional assaults against fixed Ukrainian defences are ongoing in the vicinity of Krasnohorivka and Vodyane; this is north and south of Avdiivka and represents a continued attempt to isolate the town and force a Ukrainian surrender or withdrawal. Russian forces reportedly also broke into Opytne near Vodyane on 13 November 22.
Footage reportedly showing a Russian thermobaric rocket strike near Bakhmut. Source: @RALee85
Report stating that a Canadian volunteer fighting for the UAF was killed near Bakhmut, published on 17 November 22. Source: @EuromaidanPress
South – Kherson, Zaporizhia and Black Sea Coast Area of Operations
- There have been no reported territorial changes along the Forward Line of Enemy Troops (FLET) in Zaporizhia Oblast. The RFAF continues to degrade UAF defences around Pavlivka and Vulhedar and initial reports of RFAF territorial gains are uncorroborated. Pro-Russian sources have previously declared areas under RFAF control which have subsequently proved to be false, so at this time there is no assessed change of territory.
- Russian forces and locally recruited/coerced civilians have reportedly continued to establish defensive engineering works (trenches, dugouts, tank-traps etc.) near Melitopol and Mariupol.
Video showing probably pre-fabricated concrete defensive structures, reportedly near Melitopol. Source: @Bayraktar_1love
- Despite rumours that the RFAF has withdrawn 10-15km from the left bank of the Dnipro in Kherson Oblast, there have been reports of shelling in multiple Ukrainian-controlled villages and towns on the right bank, including Zelenivka, Chornobayivka, and Kherson. There is an airfield located at Chornobayivka, which has been shown in numerous videos since the Russian withdrawal – usually filming destroyed Russian equipment. This persistent UAF presence may have caused the Russians to shell the airfield from positions on the other side of the river.
- There have been no reports to confirm UAF presence on the left bank of the Dnipro in Kherson Oblast. This follows rumours last week that UAF Special Operations Forces had occupied Kinburn Peninsula/Spit, and regular UAF elements had secured a bridgehead in the town of Oleshky.
- On 15 November 2022, explosions occurred near the village of Przewodów, Poland. The explosions were reportedly caused by missiles which impacted near a grain facility and killed two Polish nationals. Initial verbal responses from Western (particularly Baltic) nations was strong, with many accusing the Russians of either deliberately targeting Poland as a warning, or blaming errant RFAF cruise missiles. Subsequent investigation and analysis from Western commentators/spokespersons indicates that the debris was from an S-300 air defence (AD) missile. After this tentative identification, there was a step back in rhetoric from both officials and internet ‘pundits’ alike. Poland reportedly called to convene a NATO emergency session to see if an Article 4 response was warranted, and if so what form it would take. Polish President Druda has stated that there was no evidence that the incident was an “intentional attack”.
- At the time of writing, President Zelensky reportedly still believes the missiles were Russian and has requested that Ukrainian investigators be allowed access to the incident location to independently analyse the evidence.
The Latvian Deputy Prime Minister accuses Russia of firing missiles into Poland, prior to any investigation. Source: @Pabriks
- The Russian narrative on the incident has focussed on it being portrayed as a false-flag attack by either Ukraine or NATO to set conditions for increased anti-Russian NATO involvement in the Ukraine conflict. Donald Trump Jr. also took to Twitter to use the incident to suggest cuts to the US provision of military aid.
Donald Trump Jr. questions US foreign/defence policy decisions. Source: @DonaldJTrumpJr
- Turkey has successfully brokered an extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative (BSGI) for another 120 days, until March 2023. The deal between Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, and the United Nations (UN) was championed by Turkish President Akinci on 17 November 22.
UN Secretary General Guterres announces the extension of the BSGI. Source: @Quicktake
- The Ukrainian Government has stated that Russia fired up to 100 long-range weapons at Ukraine on 15 November 22, striking targets in Kyiv, Mykolaiv, Lviv, Vinnytsia, Rivne, and Volyn among others. Targets were predominantly electrical infrastructure and caused blackouts across large areas of the country. Some of the missiles were air-launched from over the Caspian Sea and some were fired by Russian naval vessels in the Black Sea. The strikes occurred the same day as the reported explosions in eastern Poland. The Ukrainian Government stated that this was the largest attack since the early stages of the war.
- It is probable that the UAF still intends to sever the P-66 highway near Svatove and cut Russian logistics in occupied Luhansk Oblast. If the rumours of the evacuation of pro-Russian occupational governance are true, this is a likely indicator that the RFAF are preparing another withdrawal – likely with the purpose of shortening defensive lines and attaining more defensible positions using the likely limited forces that remain on that operational axis.
- Russia is highly likely intending to continue offensive activity in Donetsk Oblast, with the possible intent of securing the Donetsk Oblast borders by the end of the year. It is likely that mobilised Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR)/Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) militiamen as well as other RFAF units will be used to erode Ukrainian defences despite heavy casualties as the RFAF repositions and concentrates forces from Kherson in preparation to renew the attack and attempt to penetrate the UAF defensive line.
- Previous assessments of the RFAF taking 7-10 days to withdraw from the right bank of the Dnipro in Kherson were proved incorrect. Russian forces conducted a semi-professional withdrawal, and there have been no confirmed reports of large numbers of equipment captured or prisoners taken. It is likely that the announcement by Shoigu was only made once the evacuation was almost complete. There have been some reported vignettes that mobilised soldiers were used to hold the line against the UAF whilst the contract soldiers of the VDV and RFAF withdrew alongside their equipment.
- Russia has almost certainly left many mines, boobytraps, and explosive remnants of war behind in de-occupied Kherson. It will take a significant effort by the UAF to clear the area and render it safe for the local population. Russia is likely to continue to shell Kherson from the opposite bank of the river to disrupt UAF clearance efforts and prevent UAF elements from coalescing to conduct a river crossing operation.
- It is unlikely that the RFAF have withdrawn forces 10-15km from the left bank of the Dnipro in Kherson, as this would restrict the ability to conduct cross-river disruptive fires with tactical artillery/MRLs. Russia is likely to continue to construct defences along the riverbank to prevent a UAF amphibious crossing and provide artillery manoeuvre areas to enable this disruptive activity.
- It is highly likely that a Ukrainian AD missile exploded and killed the two people in Poland. It is also highly likely that, despite this, NATO will hold Russia at least partly responsible using the logic, ‘If Russia wasn’t shooting missiles into Ukraine, then Ukraine wouldn’t have to launch AD missiles to intercept them and nobody in Poland would have got hurt’.
- Zelensky and Ukraine’s insistence that the missiles were Russian may harm international relationships if Western countries verify the missile was fired by the UAF. It is likely to frustrate Western allies, who wouldn’t blame Ukraine for firing the errant missiles. By seeking to amplify a false narrative regarding the deaths in Poland, the Government of Ukraine are likely to undermine the trust of the United States and NATO partners.
- The Russian agreement to continue the BSGI is highly likely due to an inability to prevent it. The degradation and containment of the Black Sea Fleet are likely to prevent Russia from being able to blockade these ships, even if it wanted to do so – as demonstrated by Russia leaving and then re-joining the original deal after an attack on the Kerch bridge. Russia will likely also seek to use this ‘gesture of international goodwill’ to strengthen any future negotiations which may occur.
- It is likely that the RFAF missile attacks against infrastructure (predominantly electrical) were designed to further damage the Ukrainian power grid and cause increased hardship for the Ukrainian people, while also increasing the burden for Western supporters. Multiple commentators have stated that this must be one of the last times Russia can conduct long-range strikes on this scale due to a shortage of precision-guided munitions – however, this has been repeated almost since March this year and is to be viewed with some scepticism. It could be a possible indication that the much-anticipated Iranian ballistic missiles are almost ready for RFAF operational use; the Iranian deal would go some way towards alleviating concerns over dwindling numbers of Russian domestically-produced weapons.
It is a realistic possibility that the UAF will redeploy troops from the Kherson front to support offensives to cut the P-66 highway and isolate or capture Svatove. The rebalancing of UAF units will have to take into consideration the reinforcement of Bakhmut and its environs against a probable RFAF attack.
In the short term, it is unlikely that the UAF will be able to inflict sufficient casualties on Russian forces near Vuhledar, Andriivka, and Bakhmut to force the Russian offensives to cease. It is possible that these axes will be reinforced by infantry, airborne, or armoured units from Kherson. It is a realistic possibility that these reinforcements will need to deploy without a large proportion of their organic artillery and AD, which could be left in place in Kherson to protect defences and conduct fires across the river.
It is likely that Russia will continue to force mobilised men in occupied territories to construct defences around key terrains such as major road junctions and rail/logistics hubs. These are likely to form defensive depth and provide strongholds and fighting positions to conduct an area defence in the future, should they be required. It is unlikely to be an indicator of imminent RFAF withdrawal to these areas near Melitopol and Tomak. The RFAF in Kherson are likely to remain in defensive positions within the indirect fire range of the Ukraine-controlled bank of the Dnipro. It is a realistic possibility these fighting positions will be occupied by mobilised soldiers and locally recruited units, as well as DPR/LPR militiamen. This is likely intended to break or at least reduce the operational momentum gained by the UAF in Kherson over the last fortnight.
It is likely that Poland and NATO will increase their economic and military support to Ukraine following the deaths in Poland. Regardless of who fired the missile, it is highly likely renewed support will be justified as Russia is found ultimately responsible for the deaths due to its invasion of a neighbouring state. Aid packages are likely to include further tranches of advanced Western AD equipment; although this will be limited by low quantities available in donor nations which have minimum requirements for their own national defence. Further sanctions against Russia, alongside increased support to Ukraine, are the likely outcomes of this event. It is almost certain that there will be no significant or kinetic direct NATO-Russia activity, and the chances of the conflict escalating to another ‘World War’ in the short term remain low.
Attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure are likely to continue, seeking to maintain the frequency but with a reduction in the number of munitions fired each event. It is a realistic possibility that the next concentrated strike will occur using a proportion of Iranian-made weaponry. Russian domestic weapon production likely continues to be hampered by sanctions, and Russia must preserve stocks for any possible escalation of the conflict, therefore strikes using over 80 Russian cruise missiles are likely to be infrequent.
KHERSON OBLAST, UKRAINE - OCTOBER 27: A bridge and dam of hydro are seen after clashes in the recently retaken village of Velyka Oleksandrivka in Kherson, Ukraine on October 27, 2022 as Russia-Ukraine war continues.