Military

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 Kharkiv city and surrounding areas. (No change)
  • RFAF appear to have consolidated gains at the westernmost point of their northern axis in the vicinity of Udy. It is unlikely that the UAF have the required mass (or force ratios) to dislodge the Russians; however, RFAF units being used to garrison the town and provide information on UAF activity will be unable to commit to activity elsewhere along the front.

Video reportedly showing the damage caused by an RFAF strike in Kharkiv City. Source: @irmachep


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

  • RFAF offensive activity remains limited and is predominantly occurring near Bakhmut and Avdiivka. There has been no reporting to indicate any significant territorial change within this Area of Operations (AO).
  • At Bakhmut, the UAF has reportedly repelled Russian offensive attempts to the East (Pokrovske and Klynove), northeast (Bakhmutske), and south (Kodema and Zaitseve).
  • In Kodema, RFAF is reported to continue their assault along the Main Supply Route (MSR) into the eastern outskirts of the town; however, the UAF maintain control of the high ground to the west of the settlement, which provides a natural defensive barrier and an advantageous fighting position.
  • In the north of the pocket, northwest of Siversk, the UAF reportedly conducted a successful river crossing of the Siverskyi Donets to seize the town of Ozerne, approximately 5km southwest of Yampil and 11km southeast of Lyman – both of which have been used by the RFAF as Command and Control (C2) nodes and logistics areas for Russian units fighting near both Siversk and Izyum.
  • There are several rumours among pro-Russian military Telegram users that the UAF is preparing for a substantial offensive in northern Donetsk near the Izyum front. These rumours have not been addressed by the Ukrainian General Staff, nor open-source intelligence analysts covering the conflict.

Video reportedly showing Ukrainian National Guardsmen crossing the Siverskyi Donets River near Ozerne. Source: @Militarylandnet


South – Kherson and Black Sea Coast Area of Operations

  • Since the official announcement of the Ukrainian Kherson offensive on 29 August 22, there has been very limited reporting from pro-Ukrainian sources to preserve Operational Security (OPSEC) and maintain tactical surprise. It is likely that the UAF are advancing methodically along four axes, two towards Kherson itself (astride the M-14 highway), one attacking southeast towards Nova Kakhova from the bridgehead at Lozove, and one attacking southwest from recently recaptured Vysokopillya and Olhyne.
  • The UAF have announced that they continue to target RFAF logistics and C2 elements on both sides of the Dnipro River in Kherson Oblast. This is concurrent with the localised offensive actions along the four likely avenues of approach. UAF are reportedly using air and aviation as well as indirect fires to target RFAF crossing points and command centres.
  • On 4 September 22, the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (GUR) reportedly used Special Operations Forces (SOF) to conduct a raid across the river near Enerhodar/Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Plant (NPP). The raid reportedly destroyed material associated with future referenda in occupied areas, and the FSB location responsible for securing it.
  • Partisan attacks are almost certainly ongoing, with the latest reported incident being the car bombing of the ‘Mayor’ of the occupation authorities in Berdiyansk, Artem Bardin. Partisan attacks continue to undermine Russian occupation authorities and likely fix and preoccupy Russian security organisations (such as the Rosgvardia) operating in the area.

Satellite imagery reportedly of the damaged ballot storage facility/FSB location attacked by UAF SOF on 4 September 22 at Kamianka-Dniprovska. Source: @COUPSURE

Tweet showing reported damage to a Russian pontoon crossing near Dar’iivka, Kherson Oblast. Source: @Osinttechnical

Tweet reportedly showing the locations of ten RFAF targets struck by the UAF on 3 September 22. Source: @Flash43191300


Strategic/Political

  • The inspection team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) successfully visited Zaporizhia NPP on 1 September 22, after delays caused by shelling near the location. Most of the team left after carrying out their initial survey (reportedly in a compressed period of about four hours); however, some members (six initially, falling to two) remained at the NPP in order to carry out further monitoring and testing. It is likely the intention for the IAEA to maintain a permanent presence at the facility is to report on the safety of the plant. Throughout the visit, the UAF and RFAF accused each other of shelling the facility. On 5 September 22, the NPP was once again disconnected from the Ukrainian national grid (for the second time in its history – the first being on 25 August 22). This is reportedly due to damaged power lines.

Imagery of some of the reported damage to Zaporizhia NPP. Source: @EuromaidanPress

  • According to the Institute for the Study of War1 Russia has stepped up recruitment/mobilisation efforts to increase combat power for their operations in Ukraine. It is stated that Russia has begun recruiting physically and mentally unwell personnel to join the armed forces as contract soldiers. This effort reportedly included an advert on the St. Petersburg Psychoneurological Dispensary No. 2 website, which was subsequently removed. Forced mobilisation/’recruiting’ of Ukrainian nationals in occupied areas is ongoing to bolster the RFAF and LPR/DPR units – with some reports stating that within the LPR fathers are being blackmailed into joining the military under unspecified threats against their children who are attending Russia-run schools in the region. Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov also announced that President Putin plans to task the Russian Cabinet of Ministers with protecting the civilian job positions of Russians who volunteer for the war in Ukraine in order to encourage further recruitment.

1 https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-september-5

Tweet linking article reporting on Russian attempts to recruit locals in occupied Melitopol. Source: @ChuckPfarrer

  • On 5 September 2022, Peskov also stated that gas supplies through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline would not resume until European nations lifted sanctions against Russia. The pipeline was shut down on Friday 2 August 22, after Russian claims of technical issues with turbines. They claimed the parts required to repair the system were sanctioned and therefore could not be attained. The West has however referred to the Russian activity as “weaponising energy” and “..part of Russia's psychological warfare against us…”.

So What?

  • Given the recent offensive by the UAF and the relatively low threat posed by RFAF ground forces north northwest of Kharkiv, the northern front is unlikely to show any significant change in the next reporting period. It is highly likely that artillery and missile strikes by the RFAF will continue to cause fear and additional economic damage to Kharkiv and environs, as well as destroying military targets where identified.
  • It is likely that the limited UAF offensive success in the Donbass region within the last week has been caused by the repositioning of professional RFAF military units to Kherson over the last weeks. The forces that remain to fight for Russia are predominantly units from the 1st Army Corps and consist of Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic militiamen, as well as Wagner Group mercenaries. It is unlikely that these soldiers will have the training, professionalism in combined manoeuvre, morale, and equipment to successfully penetrate well-established UAF lines of defence in Donetsk Oblast – particularly around Siversk and east of Bakhmut.
  • It is highly likely that the Ukrainian attempt to stifle resupply to RFAF soldiers west of the Dnipro in Kherson Oblast is having success. Forcing the use of smaller ad-hoc pontoon bridges also creates opportunity for the UAF to strike concentrations of troops and equipment as they coalesce to board ferries and temporary bridges. It is highly likely that the UAF has sufficient collection assets (both human, through the population or special forces, and technical such as Unmanned Aerial Systems and satellite imagery) to identify and strike the majority of Russian crossing points.
  • It is a realistic possibility that the Ukrainian Air Force has had some success conducting Close Air Support to UAF ground elements, assisting in their breakthroughs in some axis. The recently achieved time-limited air-parity (or in some instances control of the airspace) is likely due to the provision of HARM missiles to Ukraine by the United States (US). These weapons allow for effective Suppression of Enemy Air Defences (SEAD) by targeting anything emitting a radar signature. The ability to suppress Russian air defences for a limited period has created opportunities to conduct strikes in support of ground operations.
  • The Ukrainian offensive in Kherson is demonstrating an ability to combine conventional combined-arms offensive activity with precision strike and special forces raids with a saboteur network to effectively disrupt Russian attempts to hold ground in the west of the Dnipro. Ukraine is unlikely to seek a decisive engagement – instead aiming to attrit Russian forces whilst reducing their defences and isolating them through strikes against logistics. This will continue to lower the morale of RFAF units trapped on the west bank – further reducing combat effectiveness.
  • Russian measures to force unwilling and incapable personnel to join the fight in Ukraine are unlikely to yield either short or medium-term success. The almost certain lack of sufficient training to be provided will further lower the new recruits’ combat effectiveness, whilst creating a burden on supply and logistics chains.

What Next?

It is highly likely that the UAF will seek to maintain their steady progress in Kherson Oblast whilst continuing their campaign of targeted strikes and partisan attacks. The UAF is likely to continue to use conventional artillery and Close Air Support to enable ground operations to liberate villages along key routes and to break down the trapped Russian forces into smaller and more manageable groupings. In order to deny the Ukrainians local and temporary control of the airspace, the RFAF will have to increase combat air patrols near the front – using aircraft that have had to be relocated further away following a series of strikes on airfields in Crimea. The RFAF may aim to move greater numbers of anti-air assets which use infra-red or electro-optical targeting, in order to mitigate against the threat from HARM strikes – these include MANPADs and self-propelled systems (such as the SA-22 ‘Greyhound’).

It is a realistic possibility that the UAF does not have sufficient HARMs (or HARM-converted airframes) for sustained Suppression of Enemy Air Defence missions across a broader front. Additionally, it is unknown whether the UAF has sufficient conventional artillery to maintain the operational tempo until November – suppression, offensive support, and counter-battery fires are all ammunition intensive, and stockpiles of soviet-calibre munitions for legacy UAF artillery systems will be in high demand. Likewise, NATO calibre ammunition for western weapon systems may also be in limited supply given low production rates in Europe and the US. The RFAF are unlikely to be able to move sufficient reinforcements/replacements or materiel across the Dnipro River in Kherson to support an effective area defence. It is also unlikely that Russia has sufficient wide wet gap crossing equipment available to enable the crossing of a sizeable Russian force which would threaten Ukrainian gains across the frontage.

It is unlikely that the RFAF will see any great success on the ground within the next week. The diversion of professional RFAF soldiers to Kherson has likely left the Donetsk offensive severely lacking in competent well-trained forces. This, combined with UAF probing attacks, reconnaissance in force, and special-forces raids is likely to prevent Russian forces from gaining any momentum. This shaping activity by the Ukrainians also denies the Russians the ability to mass conduct a concentrated attack against a limited objective. It is highly unlikely that Russia or its proxies will be able to seize Bakhmut or Siversk within the next two weeks.

The closure of the Nord Stream 1 pipeline is part of Russian efforts to cause divides in western support for Ukraine. Russia likely hopes that this act will cause nations such as Germany to seek to lift sanctions against Russia to secure sufficient natural gas for the winter. At time of writing, gas prices are reportedly already rising, and Europe must brace itself for shortages as the temperature drops towards the end of the year. So far, Russian activity in Ukraine in 2022 has had the opposite of the intended effect, and has actually increased European solidarity, and even directly spurred greater public support for NATO membership in Finland and Sweden. It is a realistic possibility that if Russia keeps its stance on Nord Stream 1, then more European nations will consider total visa restrictions for Russian citizens – which may be felt in the Kremlin as middle-class and wealthy ethnic Russians feel the second-order effects of their country’s actions in Ukraine.


Ukrainian servicemen walking through a school bombed by Russian forces at the front line in the Mykolaiv region on Aug. 11. Daniel Berehulak for The New York Times.