Northeast – Kharkiv and Western Luhansk Area of Operations

  • The Russian Federation Armed Forces (RFAF) remain focused on preventing the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) from making ground towards Troitske, Svatove and the P-66 Main Supply Route (MSR) for Russian forces operating in Luhansk Oblast. 
  • Air, artillery and rocket bombardment have occurred against Ukrainian towns on the Russo-Ukrainian border to the south of Belgorod. On 26 October 2022 RFAF elements conducted a ground assault against the town of Ternova, which was successfully repelled. It is highly likely that the attack was a raid intended to fix UAF units defending the northern border and prevent their redeployment for offensive activity further to the east. 
  • RFAF continue to shell UAF units east of Kupyansk, likely to disrupt forming up points and axis of advance using pre-planned defensive fires by tube and rocket artillery.
  • According to Russian sources, the UAF are concentrating forces to the north-west of Svatove prior to a renewed effort to capture the town within the next week. 

Imagery reportedly showing damage caused by RFAF shelling in Kupyansk. Source: @Flash_news_ua

East – Donbas Area of Operations (assessed RFAF Operational Main Effort).

  • RFAF offensive activity remains limited and is predominantly occurring near Bakhmut and Avdiivka, with Avdiivka apparently being prioritised since late October. Russia has made some limited gains and is attacking the villages of Kamyanka and Vesele to the north-east and Vodyane to the south in an attempt to encircle and isolate the UAF defending the town.  
  • The RFAF continue to conduct assaults against Bakhmutske, Soledar, Yakovlivka, and Mayorske - currently with little success. It is likely that these forces are sustaining considerable losses as they assault well-fortified Ukrainian positions using Wagner PMC soldiers, some of whom have been recruited from Russian prisons. Persistence and a willingness to take casualties are likely to enable Russian-aligned forces to continue slow and incremental advances in this area – the only area of the front where offensive activity is ongoing. 
  • The Wagner Group has reportedly constructed a defensive obstacle belt known as the ‘Wagner Line’ along the southern bank of the Siverskyi Donets River to the Russian border. The line predominantly consists of two rows of concrete anti-tank obstacles and an open-topped trench line. Additionally, Russian Oblasts have been building similar defences along their borders with Ukraine, particularly Belgorod. On 20 October President Putin announced a decree imposing a series of alert levels in Russian regions. These include Crimea, Krasnodar, Belgorod, Bryansk, Voronezh, Kursk, and Rostov regions. In these areas, authorities introduced a “medium alert level” that restricts movement and transportation and makes provision for the “temporary resettlement of residents to safe areas,” without providing further specifics about the populations that might need to move.

Imagery reportedly showing the ‘Wagner Line’ Source: @thewarzonewire 

Video reportedly showing the destruction around Bakhmutske and Soledar. Source: @GasnostGone

South - Kherson, Zaporizhia and Black Sea Coast Area of Operations

  • There have been no reported changes along the Forward Line of Enemy Troops (FLET) in Zaporizhia Oblast, with the exception of a Russian assault on Pavlivka near Vuhledar in the east near the Donetsk Oblast border. The RFAF appear to be pushing hard in this direction, using armour and infantry supported by aircraft and attack helicopters in addition to the usual artillery. 
  • Bombardment activity by the RFAF along the majority of the FLET is ongoing and likely to endure, targeting UAF defensive locations and infrastructure. 
  • The UAF interdiction campaign against Russian logistics and C2 (Command and Control) elements on both sides of the Dnipro River in Kherson Oblast is ongoing, as is the disruption of pontoon bridges and other crossing points. Civilians, particularly pro-Russian, have continued to use the Russian crossing points to relocate from Kherson to the east bank of the river and beyond. 
  • The RFAF is almost certainly preparing defences in Kherson city. There are a significant proportion of the RFAFs remaining ‘elite’ troops (VDV and Naval Infantry) in Kherson, and the removal of civilians has likely allowed for significant defensive preparation. It is a realistic possibility that the defensive preparation is shaping activity to delay the UAF whilst a more permanent defensive line is established along the eastern bank of the Dnipro River. It is a realistic possibility the RFAF intend to subsequently conduct a deliberate fighting withdrawal and destroy remaining infrastructure and river crossings in their wake – a move that would likely allow them to retain their remaining territory in Kherson Oblast in the short to medium term (over winter). 
  • Russian occupation ‘authorities’ in Kherson Oblast announced that Russia will “evacuate” up to 70,000 residents from a 15km band along the east bank of the Dnipro River and temporarily resettle them deep in occupied Kherson Oblast or in other occupied or Russian territories. In late October 2022, there were some unconfirmed reports of internet communications being cut in Kherson by the occupation authorities. 
  • Partisan activity is reported to be ongoing in occupied areas of Ukraine. Partisan attacks are hindering the effectiveness of occupation authorities and will highly likely continue until the areas are liberated. 

Thread from the Institute for the Study of War on Partisan attacks in Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine. Source: @TheStudyofWar

Video reportedly showing the use of HIMARS against a Russian pontoon bridge in Kherson. Source: @JulianRoepcke


  • Whilst Russia continues to move small contingents of military personnel (normally in approximately company-sized groupings), they are concurrently shipping Belarusian equipment and ammunition back into Russia for use in Ukraine. The head of the Belarusian KGB, Ivan Tertel, has also made a statement that they are expecting an invasion of Belarus from Poland by NATO, including the United States (US) 101st Airborne Division. The rhetoric of a possible NATO invasion of Belarus has been consistent since February 2022 and is intended for a domestic and Russian audience. 
  • The United Kingdom Ministry of Defence has also reported that the Russian Air Force (VKS) has stationed at least two MiG-31K aircraft at Machulishchy airfield in Belarus, likely armed with ‘Kinzhal’ air-launched hypersonic ballistic missiles. 

British Defence Intelligence product showing likely MiG-31K in Belarus. Source: @DefenceHQ

Additional imagery showing MiG-31Ks in Belarus. Source: @JosephHDempsey

  • Iran is reportedly preparing to sell additional loitering munitions and possibly ballistic missiles to Russia for use in Ukraine. It is also reported that Iranian personnel are training the Russian armed forces in the deployment and use of drones from locations in occupied Crimea, Russia, and Belarus.
  • On 31 October 2022, the UAF reportedly shot down a Russian cruise missile over the territory of Moldova. Moldovan officials stated that the missile fell in the town of Naslavcea on the border with Ukraine and whilst there was some damage to property, there were no casualties. It is almost certain that this incident was unintentional; however, it does show the risk posed to Ukraine’s immediate neighbours. 
  • Russia has recently increasingly sought to destabilise Moldova. Moldova has lost 30% of its energy imports from Ukraine, as Russian strikes against Ukrainian energy infrastructure continued throughout October. In addition to this, Russia has announced that it is suspending gas deliveries to Moldova by 50% in November. This action is concurrent to protests against the pro-European Union (EU) government of President Maria Sandu, which have highly likely been inflamed by pro-Russian agitators abroad. In response to these activities, the US launched additional sanctions against individuals who liked to stoke unrest in Moldova including Ilan Shor who is in exile in Israel. 

Tweet linking Russian security services to destabilising activity in Moldova. Source: @ChuckPfarrer

So What?

  • Russia is highly likely intending to fortify currently held territories in order to defeat Ukrainian counter-attacks and force a stale-mate over winter. These fortifications will run parallel to natural obstacles like the Dnipro in Kherson and the Siverskyi Donets in the Donbas. 
  • Russian attacks into Kharkiv Oblast are unlikely intended to capture territory. It is a realistic possibility that further raids will be conducted to fix UAF and prevent their use in the offensive towards Svatove. 
  • The evacuation of civilians from Kherson city and along the east bank of the Dnipro is likely intended to set conditions for a significant RFAF area defence along the line of the river and into Zaporizhia Oblast. It is highly likely that the Russian occupiers deliberately cut internet connectivity in Kherson to ‘encourage’ residents to evacuate eastwards, control the information environment, and hinder pro-Ukrainian citizens' ability to pass targeting information to the UAF.
  • The evacuation of civilians across the same bridges that are bringing in RFAF units and defensive stores/equipment is also likely intended to hinder Ukrainian strikes by using them as ‘human shields’ against HIMARS or other precision strikes. 
  • Partisan attacks in occupied areas will likely be forcing the RFAF and Rosgvardia to use valuable resources providing rear-area security, this will decrease the availability for combat at the front – enabling further UAF offensive activity. Partisans are also highly likely to assist the UAF with targeting information to enable precision strikes against key bridges and other militarily significant targets.
  • The Russian deployment of KiG-31K with probable hypersonic weapons to Belarus is intended as a signal to the West about Russia’s remaining capability. There was no need to position these aircraft in Belarus if they are intended to attack targets in Ukraine – Russia has already proved its hypersonic capability in Ukraine with aircraft remaining over the Russian Federation during launch. Hypersonic missiles are almost certain to be unstoppable by Ukrainian air defences, despite the provision of modern systems by the West. 
  • Russia likely intends to pursue efforts to purchase ballistic missiles and more advanced loitering munitions from Iran. Iran has publicly denied selling these weapons to Russia, but there is clear evidence of ongoing use of Shahed-136, Shahed-131 and Mohajer-6 drones in Ukraine. It is unlikely that the US/West can interdict any arms shipments from Iran to Russia, therefore the deal will likely go ahead. Iranian ballistic missiles may increase the effectiveness of Russian long-range strikes against Ukrainian infrastructure whilst reducing the rate of expenditure of Russia’s more advanced domestic missiles, which are hard and time-consuming to produce under sanctions. 
  • It is highly likely that Russia is conducting a wide spectrum of subversive operations in Moldova. It is likely that the intended effect is not of installing an anti-EU ally, but of forcing additional expense and humanitarian difficulties onto the West, who are likely to feel obligated to prevent the country from destabilising and joining the pro-Russian unrecognised Transnistrian Republic as a bastion against NATO. 

What Next?

It is highly likely that the UAF will continue to set conditions for a methodical clearance of Kherson Oblast to the west of the Dnipro. They will continue to target bridges and Russian logistics and C2 nodes, as well as degrade air defences to increase their ability to operate aircraft in support of ground manoeuvre. Russian forces are unlikely to be easy to dislodge and there is a real possibility they will conduct an active/manoeuvre defence back to Kherson and Nova Kakhova where they will seek to conduct a withdrawal which breaks contact once river crossings are destroyed in their wake. It is a realistic possibility that this will occur by the end of 2022. 

Russia is likely to continue to drive towards Bakhmut in an attempt to gain a symbolic victory and damage Ukrainian morale before the winter sets in properly and Ukrainian manoeuvre becomes more limited. This will likely remain the main effort for Wagner group soldiers and Donetsk People’s Republic/Luhansk People’s Republic militiamen, which frees up Russian BARS Reservists and newly mobilised troops to establish the defensive line, whilst possibly receiving additional training from combat veterans from the front. The bulk of Russia’s remaining professional units are likely to be used for the fighting withdrawal in Kherson, before they can be redeployed elsewhere over the winter leaving less capable troops to hold the more permanent defensive line. 

It remains highly unlikely that Russia will attack Ukraine from Belarus or Transnistria. Russia does not have sufficient combat-capable forces in position, and conditions are less favourable now than they were when the invasion began in February. Movement of troops in and around Belarus, alongside efforts to destabilise Moldova, are likely intended to create additional dilemmas for democratic Western governments and erode their support for Ukraine. 

‘Energy Terrorism’ by Russia against Moldova and other European states is set to continue in the medium term and will be used in conjunction with further attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure as temperatures drop. It is likely that Russia will acquire additional Iranian-guided weapons, and these will be used to continue strikes against power plants and electrical substations. 

Exploded Apartment Block Ukraine/Алесь Усцінаў