Northeast – Kharkiv and Western Luhansk Area of Operations

  • The Russian Federation Armed Forces (RFAF) in this Area of Operations remain focused on preventing the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) from making ground towards Troitske, Svatove, and the P-66 Main Supply Route (MSR). 
  • Air, artillery, and rocket bombardment have occurred against Ukrainian towns on the Russo-Ukrainian border to the south of Belgorod. There have been no reported additional assaults into northern Kharkiv Oblast from Belgorod in Russia.
  • 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.
  • There have been no reported UAF advances following the Russian reporting last week of Ukrainian troops concentrating on an attack towards Svatove. 
  • The Russians conducted an unsuccessful attack towards Yampil from Kreminna, fighting through the woods west-northwest of Sievierodonetsk.
  • There are likely a large number of explosive remnants of war (such as mines and cluster munitions) in formerly occupied areas of Kharkiv Oblast. Fields and the sides of major roads are still mined, and vehicles have been instructed to keep to the roadway.

Tweet reporting civilian deaths from a mine detonation in Kherson. Source: @maria_avdv

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

  • Russia-aligned forces, predominantly from the Luhansk People's Republic (LPR) military and Wagner Private Military Company, continue to conduct offensive operations in the vicinity of Bakhmut. 
  • Since 2 November, the RFAF have continued to unsuccessfully assault Bakhmutske, Soledar, Yakovlivka, and Mayorske. 
  • South of Bakhmut, Russian forces continue to assault UAF defensive positions in Krasnohorivka and Vodyane in an attempt to isolate and encircle Avdiivka – a major rail hub and Ukrainian stronghold.

Footage reportedly from the UAF 10th Assault Brigade, operating near Bakhmut. Source: @Flash_news_UA

Video reportedly showing the use of a Russian Lancet loitering munition against a UAF air defence vehicle. Source: @RALee85

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, except for repeated assaults against Pavlivka, Novomykhailivka and Marinka in the south-eastern corner of the FLET. Reportedly, the UAF have had to retreat from parts of Marinka; however, the Russians lost a significant proportion of the 155th Naval Infantry Brigade (300 killed) attempting to take Pavlivka – a claim that Russian military bloggers refute.

Tweet reportedly showing a translation of a letter from 155th Naval Infantry Brigade to the governor of their home Oblast in Primorsky Krai. The letter claims significant losses were incurred near Pavlivka. Source: @wartranslated

  • 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. Reporting indicates that this effort may have achieved its aim of making the RFAF defence of Kherson west of the Dnipro untenable. Despite significant efforts to create an urban defensive area in western Kherson, it is highly likely that RFAF will conduct a withdrawal from the west bank to more permanent defensive positions along the east bank of the natural obstacle. It is unlikely that the Russians had sufficient time to complete defensive works on the east bank, and it is highly probable that operational tempo and momentum sit with the UAF – causing the Russians to withdraw prematurely.
  • At the time of writing, there has been a public briefing from General Surovikin to Russian Defence Minister Shoigu that an orderly withdrawal east of the Dnipro would begin imminently to ‘preserve the lives of servicemen’ and civilians. If true, while this is a significant operational victory for the UAF, it will be interesting to observe if the RFAF withdrawal is conducted in good order to maintain cohesion and preserve combat power for future use. The announced withdrawal comes 42 days after Russia announced it had annexed Kherson Oblast into the Russian Federation. 

Video of Gen Surovikin briefing Shoigu on the planned withdrawal east of the Dnipro in Kherson. Source: @wartranslated

Strategic/Political

  • Russian Security Council Secretary, Nikolai Patrushev, was reported to have arrived in Iran on 8 November for discussions with the Iranian Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Secretary, Ali Shamkhani, and other senior Iranians. The visit was reported by an Iranian state-run news agency. There was no reporting to indicate the topic of the discussion, but it was almost certain to relate to arms deals and bilateral cooperation. There has been some reported disagreement within the upper echelons of Iran’s government over whether to supply Russia with additional weapons and capabilities.

Institute for the Study of War tweet covering Patrushev’s visit to Iran. Source: @TheStudyofWar

  • Grain continues to leave Ukraine and pass through the Black Sea without significant interruption, despite Russia leaving and re-joining the United Nations (UN)-brokered agreement within the last 10 days. This agreement expires on 19 November 2022, and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Rudenko declared that it was not yet decided whether Russia would agree to extend the deal.

United States (US) Ambassador to the UN visits Ukraine to discuss Ukrainian grain and the world food shortage. Source: @USAmbUN

  • Russia continues to target Ukrainian energy infrastructure with long-range strikes. These continue to create emergency blackouts and restrictions on use in western Ukraine. 

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. 
  • It is anticipated that the RFAF will be pursued across western Kherson Oblast as they seek to withdraw to the left bank of the Dnipro. It is a real possibility that at least a proportion of the approximately 40,000 RFAF soldiers west of the Dnipro will conduct an orderly fighting withdrawal due to the presence of VDV and other more ‘professional’ Russian units. It is highly probable that the UAF will seek to degrade as many Russian forces as possible during their retreat from Kherson. This will likely include the use of HIMARS and their fragmenting wide-area ammunition to target convoys and concentrations of Russian troops as they seek to withdraw. An orderly withdrawal will require Russian units to conduct delaying actions to prevent UAF artillery raids, where conventional tube artillery is pushed forward in order to bring opponents in depth into indirect fire range. 
  • It’s possible that Russia will seek to conduct a ‘scorched earth’ type policy upon withdrawal, including destroying infrastructure (ostensibly to slow pursuit) and sewing minefields. It is a realistic possibility Russia will also seek to destroy any evidence of war crimes from formerly-occupied territories. The destruction of infrastructure and other buildings has the potential to exacerbate an already poor humanitarian situation in the city, creating an additional administrative, logistical, and economic burden on the UAF and Ukrainian government.  
  • Patrushev’s visit to Iran was likely an attempt to cement agreements for greater provision of weapons to Russia for use in Ukraine, including ballistic missiles as previously reported. It is a realistic possibility that the Iranians publicised the visit in order to influence external audiences and their perception of Iran as both a regional power and a useful international partner, in spite of long-standing sanctions from the West. The visit may be perceived as highly embarrassing for the Russians, who will seek to play it in a positive light – probably showing what a valuable partner they are and how they can operate globally. It is a real possibility that Russia would agree to share technology (possibly including nuclear technology) as part of the payment for Iranian weapon systems. 
  • Both the announced withdrawal from Kherson city and the visit to Iran are highly embarrassing for the Russian government and President Putin. The withdrawal from Kherson has been explained as a way of preserving the lives of both civilians and Russian soldiers, and reportedly any pro-Russian civilians who wish to leave are to be assisted. It is likely that most pro-Russian civilians have already left, along with the pro-Russian civilian occupation authorities. Russia is highly likely to be able to shape the information environment for its domestic population/audience, but criticism of the Russian Ministry of Defence from military bloggers is expected. Internationally, it will be challenging not to be seen as weak by allies and observers alike, as what was touted as the second most powerful military in the world is forced to concede approximately 4600km2 of newly acquired ‘Russian Federation territory’ within six weeks of announcing its annexation whilst beseeching the pariah nation of Iran to sell them more weapons due to poor domestic production rates. 
  • It is a realistic possibility that the RFAF intend to draw the UAF into urban areas which will require slow and methodical clearance, and then use concentrated artillery barrages fired across the river to harass, suppress, and disrupt the UAF. It is anticipated that defensive engineering preparation of the Dnipro’s left bank will continue as Russia seeks to consolidate positions for occupation by recently displaced troops.  

What Next?

It is probable that the UAF will seek to pursue Russian forces as they withdraw from Kherson Oblast to the west of the Dnipro. They will continue to target bridges, C2 nodes and concentrations of forces which may move non-tactically. There is a possibility that the UAF will over-extend during the clearance and will suffer casualties to mines, booby-traps, stay-behind (possibly Spetznaz) forces, and indirect fires. The UAF fighting units may also outrun their logistics chain due to the need for humanitarian assistance to the local population and the likely Russian destruction of bridges, culverts, roads, and rail lines. Given the generally reported low morale of the RFAF, it is likely that militia and conscript/mobilised forces west of the Dnipro will panic out of fear of being left behind or trapped by the destruction of river crossings by Ukrainian precision fires. If even a part of the force panics, it is likely to take greater professionalism and junior leadership from the RFAF than has yet been substantially evidenced to prevent the overall withdrawal from turning into a riot.

It would be reasonable to expect Russia to rest troops and rotate them through the new defensive positions to rehabilitate and recover, but it is likely that the VDV and other ‘elite’ units will rapidly redeploy to other areas of the front – as we saw with the forces that withdrew from the Kyiv and later Kharkiv axes. These forces could be redeployed to the Bakhmut front in the hope that the additional mass will enable a penetration of Ukrainian lines and threaten the southern flank of Siversk. Given their likely level of fatigue and well-used equipment, it is a possibility that these troops could suffer heavy losses if committed too soon to offensive operations, which would further gut the professional core of Russia’s pre-conflict regiments. 

Despite internal dissent, it is feasible that Iran will supply Russia with additional weapons, including ballistic missiles. The Russians are still likely to exert relatively strong influence with the Iranian regime, and this may be seen as an opportunity for them to negotiate with a world power from a position of strength. Russian technology transfer, particularly in the field of nuclear weapons, could be proposed as part of the method of payment which would further incense Western nations.  This could however provoke increased Israeli support for Ukraine, as Russia aligns itself further with a nation that has vowed to destroy Israel. If the RFAF acquire Iranian ballistic missiles, this is highly unlikely to be acknowledged officially by either party but will be evident from increased attacks on Ukrainian energy infrastructure and the prioritisation of targeting any identified modern Air Defence (AD) sites. Destruction of modern Western-supplied AD units which are vulnerable to ballistic missiles would shape the battlespace for increased use of cheaper Shahed and Arash loitering munitions against infrastructure.


War destruction of a Ukrainian City Image by Алесь Усцінаў