Northeast – Kharkiv Area of Operations

  • The Russian Federation Armed Forces (RFAF) remain focused on preventing the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) from making ground towards the international border and have sought to fix UAF elements to prevent the reinforcement of other axes. (No change)
  • Air, artillery and rocket bombardment activities have continued across the outskirts of Kharkiv city and along the line of contact. (No change)
  • No tactical changes on the ground to report. Ongoing fighting is reported to the south-east of Kharkiv city, in Lebyazhe and Bazaliivka. Probing attacks continue elsewhere along the line of contact, fixing UAF personnel.
  • Ahead of Ukrainian Independence Day on 24 August 22, a curfew will be imposed in Kharkiv from 23 August 22 (PM) until 25 August 22. Ukraine’s railways have cancelled some trains travelling in and out of the Kharkiv region, until the curfew has finished.

Video reported to show damage to a building in Kharkiv city following RFAF strikes. Source: @revishvilig

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

  • The situation on the East Axis remains extant from the last report.
  • Russian forces continue to conduct assaults along the Bakhmut front, targeting urban settlements to the east and the south of the city. Despite Russia’s tactical progress in the last couple of weeks, Ukrainian defences are reported to be holding firm in Zaitseve.
  • In Bakhmutske and Soledar, RFAF progress has been hampered as they advance into an urban combat environment. Whilst in Kodema, RFAF are now reported to be advancing on the settlement from three fronts.
  • Similar activity is being noted further south, near Avdiivka – with reports suggesting that the Russian forces have made further incremental advances in Pisky, situated approximately 10km from Donetsk city. Russian sources maintain that it has full control of the settlement since the last report; however, this hasn’t been confirmed by independent sources.
  • To the south of Izyum, an increase in Russian ground activity has been observed in the last 48-72 hours. Several unsuccessful assaults were reported near Bohorodychne. Similarly, multiple reconnaissance-in-force operations have been reported – without success – along the line on contact to the north of Slovyansk.

Video of Wagner fighter operating near the Bakhmut front. Source: @RALee85

South – Kherson and Black Sea Coast Area of Operations

  • Over the weekend, UAF continued to demonstrate its ability to strike deep into Russia-occupied territory, after conducting an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) attack on the Russian Black Sea Fleet Headquarters (HQ) in Sevastopol on 20 August 22. The attack was well documented across social media, with video footage of the drone descending into the building without being interdicted by Russia defences. However, Ukrainian officials have not confirmed its forces were responsible for carrying out the attack.
  • Concurrent to these strikes, Russia is reported to be contemplating strengthening its security posture in the Crimea region – including potential front-line withdrawals from other axes in Ukraine. However, social media reports suggest that despite these new measures, and reassurances on the ground, Russian residents continue to leave the region – 40,000 vehicles were reported to have transited out of the Peninsula in a 24-hour period (reported on the 16 August 22). Also, on 20 August 22, unverified social posts showing scores of vehicles leaving and heading towards Yalta, following the attack on the Black Sea Fleet HQ.
  • In addition to the attack on the Black Sea Fleet HQ, UAF conducted further strikes on ammunition depots across both Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions. Vulnerabilities have been reported in Russian defences near Melitopol, following the redeployment of air defence systems to Kherson region.
  • At the line of contact, RFAF conducted multiple ground assaults throughout the reporting period, probing Ukrainian defences. Ukrainian General Staff reported that the RFAF had some success to the south of Blahodatne, north-west of Kherson city on 21 August 22. Other than that, the situation on the ground remains extant.
  • There has been a continuation of S-300 activity targeting Mykolaiv city, causing damage to residential, commercial, and industrial infrastructure. On 18-19 August 22 alone, eight strikes were reported.
  • UAF struck the Kakhovka bridge, disrupting Russian plans to reopen the bridge and recommence logistics operations. Reporting highlights that the RFAF are using barges to transport equipment along the Dnipro River. Separate reporting also indicates that the RFAF are establishing a pontoon bridge next to the Antonivskyi bridge. These alternative logistics operations are highly likely to be key vulnerabilities for Russian forces in the short-term, with them likely being viable targets for HIMARs.
  • The situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (NPP) remains delicate. Ukrainian officials articulated their concerns that Russia will formulate a provocation in the coming days. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) officials still believe there is a credible risk of a radiation leakage connected to ongoing reports that shelling continues to be observed near the facility daily. Also, there’s further evidence that Russia continues to transport military equipment and hardware into the NPP. Western leaders continue to push for an IAEA visit.

Video showing UAV prior to it crashing into the Black Sea Fleet HQ, Sevastopol. Source: @Liveuamap

Interview with Ukrainian nuclear official, claiming that Zaporizhzhia NPP staff have been tortured by the RFAF. Source: @SkyNews

Images reported to show explosions on the Antonivskyi Bridge following UAF strikes. Source: @PaulJawin


  • Darya Dugin, daughter of pro-Putin ally and ultranationalist, Alexander Dugin, was assassinated after a vehicle car bomb was detonated on 20 August 22. According to news reports following the incident, Alexander Dugin was the likely intended target, but he switched vehicles with his daughter shortly after a public event. A Russian dissident group, the National Republican Army, is reported to have claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement, according to the former Duma member and Putin critic, Ilya Ponomarev. As of the time of this report, this claim has not been verified. Russia continues to blame Ukraine for the attack, accusing it of state terrorism, including releasing purported documentation of the person responsible for carrying out the attack.

Video showing a burning vehicle following the assassination of Darya Dugin. Alexander Dugin can also be seen in this video. Source: @Lukewearechange

  • US officials stated they have received intelligence that Russia is looking to “step-up” its efforts to target Ukrainian civilian and governmental infrastructure in the coming days. This downgraded intelligence was published after President Zelenskyy warned the Ukrainian public that Russia could target Kyiv and other major urban settlements ahead of Ukraine’s Independence Day, on 24 August 22. Consequently, the Ukrainian authorities have banned all mass gatherings to minimise the risk of civilian casualties in the event the city is targeted. Other locations, including Kharkiv and Mykolaiv have brought in measures in response to the increased threat.
  • The motivation of Russian forces has been placed under the spotlight following reports that members of the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) refused to be deployed to support the Donetsk offensive. The United Kingdom Ministry of Defence highlighted that this refusal to join the offensive is symptomatic of Russia’s wider struggle to motivate its auxiliary forces. Separate CNN reporting quoted a former Russian paratrooper who criticised front-line conditions, the state of Russian equipment and questioned the Russian rationale for the invasion. A BBC News article also highlighted some of the ongoing issues Russia faces in being able to recruit individuals into its armed forces. The overarching theme was a lack of trust in the system, augmented by reports that there is not a civil consensus for war in Russia.
  • Images being shared on social media appear to show metal cages being built at the philharmonic hall in Mariupol, where it is being speculated that Ukrainian prisoners of war are to be placed on trial in the coming days. According to United Nations (UN) officials, such an act would be in breach of international humanitarian law. Other concerns highlighted by the UN include lack of access to independent legal advice.
  • On 19 August 22, the United States (US) announced a new USD 775 million military aid package to Ukraine, which according to the Department of Defense will include TOW missiles, M119 Howitzers, ScanEagle drones, HIMARs ammunition, and Javelin anti-armour systems.

Statement from the Department of Defense, outlining its next military aid package to Ukraine. Source: @DeptofDefense

So What?

  • Ukrainian successes in the south and Crimea are likely to act as ‘just cause’, from a Russian perspective, to conduct strikes into major urban settlements in the coming days. Strike activity will send a message that Russia retains the ability to target key decision-making centres in Kyiv, Kharkiv, and other locations. Strikes into civilian areas are also highly likely in this instance. The assassination of Darya Dugin is further provocation that will feed into the Russian propaganda narrative – as illustrated across multiple state media feeds since the attack. The reported show-trial which is expected to take place in Mariupol is another lever to justify its military actions and reemphasise the de-Nazification message which was one of Putin’s aims prior to the invasion. All these factors are designed to undermine the Ukrainian independence message and bolster Russia’s domestic support.
  • In last week’s report, it was noted that Crimea is no longer viewed as a haven for Russian citizens. The latest attack targeting the Black Sea Fleet HQ building reinforces that local opinion and is now being amplified to a global audience across multiple social and media platforms, undermining the Russian narrative. In the coming weeks, it can be expected that the UAF and other partisan elements will seek to maintain the operational tempo. This will amplify the negative sentiment that if Ukraine is able to strike sensitive targets deep into Russia-occupied territory, the civilian population cannot be safe.
  • The latest US military aid package is an uplift in capability. The provision of TOW missiles will be a force multiplier on the battlefield, forcing the RFAF to consider how they defend against this capability. Being active in Syria, Russia will have had first-hand experience of understanding how effective TOW missiles can be in degrading its armoured capability. It is precision equipment, which supplements the HIMARs system and will likely enable the UAF to diversify its targeting – especially along the East Axis in its defence of Slovyansk, Kramatorsk, and other RFAF objectives across Donetsk region. ScanEagle drones are also a notable inclusion and will support the UAF’s precision artillery efforts, particularly along the South Axis where they are having continuing success. However, one concern remains - that is the speed in which this equipment can be delivered to the front-line, with the associated training burden, to ensure it achieves the maximum operational success.

What Next?

The tactical picture in Ukraine is unlikely to see any major changes across any of the three operational axes in the next reporting period.

In the East Axis, the RFAF will continue to conduct ground assaults to capture urban settlements to the northeast and the south of Bakhmut. Progress, as observed in the last two reports, has been slow and this rate of advance is expected to continue. There are no current indicators to suggest that the UAF are overwhelmed at these locations, reducing the likelihood of a tactical withdrawal. Similarly, in the vicinity of Donetsk city, RFAF offensive activity is likely to remain concentrated in the vicinity of Pisky, Avdiivka, and probing of UAF defences in Marinka.

In the South Axis, the situation is also likely to remain extant from this reporting period. The UAF may look to counter RFAF advances in Blahodatne; however, the bulk of activity along the line of contact is likely to be conducted at range. The UAF are likely to remain focused on severing RFAF Ground Lines of Communication (GLoC) and conducting strikes against logistics targets in Kherson and other regions. It is also a realistic possibility that the UAF will maintain the tempo of operations in Crimea to increase existing levels of panic amongst the pro-Russia population. At Zaporizhzhia NPP, the situation is unlikely to change in the short-term, with the western focus on securing access for IAEA inspectors to evaluate the facility and the management of any safety risks. Intermittent shelling will also continue to be observed.

It is highly likely that there will be an increase in RFAF strike activity into major urban settlements – notably Kyiv, Kharkiv, Mykolaiv, and Odessa. Strikes could also occur in central and western Ukraine. This increased alert state is expected to last for the next 48 – 72 hours.

Ukrainian soldiers waiting for the formation of a military column as they prepare to push toward front line positions in eastern Ukraine from a base south of Kyiv on Aug. 21. Lynsey Addario for The New York Times