August 10, 2023

Sitrep for Aug. 9-10, 2023 (as of 8 a.m.)

Strikes on Ukrainian and Russian Territory

As a result of a strike on Donetsk on Aug. 8, three people were killed, and three more were injured. Reportedly, cluster submunitions were used, but it is difficult to verify this claim only judging by the available photographs.

In dense urban areas, the dispersion of submunitions is not always as noticeable as in the field. In addition, since most of these attacks took place during the curfew, a large number of casualties were avoided.

On the night of Aug. 9, Russian forces hit the Nikopol district of the Dnipropetrovsk region, killing a teenager and injuring three people.

As a result of a strike on Zaporizhzhia on Aug. 9, two people were killed, and nine more were injured. A residential area was also hit, and a church was destroyed opposite the Motor Sich factory, which had been repeatedly targeted by the Russian Armed Forces.

On Aug. 9, a powerful explosion rocked Sergiyev Posad, Moscow region. Photos and videos from the scene show a rising mushroom-shaped plume of smoke, with hints of orange at its base. Whilst orange typically suggests an ammonium nitrate explosion, images from the blast site seem to indicate that it actually is brick dust. Two artillery shell casings were discovered close to the epicenter of the explosion, with both missing their warheads and detonators. Distinctive markings on the casings suggest that they are components of 152mm projectiles designed for the 2A36 Giatsint-B towed 152mm field gun artillery family. They appear to be empty.

The explosion occurred near the Zagorsky Optical-Mechanical Plant, which produces, amongst other things, military optical sights. As of now, we lack sufficient information to determine whether the plant might have been, even partially, adapted for the production of artillery shells. A section of the plant had been leased by the Piro-Ross company, which used the space for storing pyrotechnics.

Sergiyev Posad is even farther from the frontline than Moscow. No evidence suggests drone involvement in the explosion. Although scattered projectile fragments are visible, there is no indication of secondary detonations typically associated with ammunition storage facility explosions. Furthermore, upon arrival, firefighters promptly initiated fire suppression, whereas they usually do not approach explosive objects).

Researchers have pinpointed the explosion's location to the hangars adjacent to the optical-mechanical plant and the Piro-Ross warehouse, but not associated with these facilities.

At the time of recording the video sitrep, we were aware of one person killed, 12 people missing in action, and 71 injured as a result of the explosion.

Mobilization Update

The governor and pro-military community of the Zabaykalsky region launched an active PR campaign in defense of a war veteran who was assaulted by local residents. Initially, it was stated that several individuals attacked the "veteran" due to the assailants’ anti-war beliefs. However, the police declined to immediately initiate a case against the attackers. The incident gained attention from the prosecutor's office due to public outcry, including a series of angry video addresses allegedly recorded by Russian soldiers on the frontline.

Thanks to Sibir.Realii [part of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty] online media outlet], it was revealed that the injured "Wagner Group member" was actually a former convict, sentenced in 2019 for attempted mass murder in a manner dangerous to the public. After being pardoned, he returned home and began to threaten his victims upon encountering them. A fight occurred, resulting in minor injuries to the Wagnerite (which is why the police initially did not initiate a case). Contrary to some media reports, no one stripped him of his awards or accused him of murdering peaceful Ukrainians on the frontline.

Deputy Minister of Science and High Education Dmitry Afanasiev has announced that in 2023, approximately 7,000 individuals were enrolled in Russian universities through preferential admission terms for war veterans and their children. Many of the students admitted scored significantly below the passing grade on the Unified State Exam [graduation examination in Russia’s schools]. Once it becomes evident that such students may struggle to master the curriculum of prestigious national universities and fail to pass their first term, we can expect another scandal to break out.

As we reported in yesterday's sitrep, the Olenegorsky Gornyak Ropucha-class landing ship has arrived at a dry dock in Novorossiysk. Its repair is likely to be a lengthy process.

Oleksandr Khodakovskyi, a former field commander in the “DPR” who now commands a military unit of Russia’s National Guard in the annexed “republic” presented a prototype of a significantly cheaper counterpart to the Lancet kamikaze drone called the KB Vostok. Plans involve mass production of this model in substantially larger quantities.

Satellite pictures of Aug. 9 show that Russia has built a pontoon crossing along the Chonhar bridge.

Photos of BM-21 Grad MLRS missiles produced in North Korea have appeared on the internet. We have already pointed out that Russia experiences a shortage of ammunition. Russia’s Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu presumably visited North Korea with a view to arrange weapons deliveries. Also, we have seen Russian soldiers use mortar rounds made in Myanmar. Nevertheless, the aforementioned missiles did not necessarily arrive in Russia straight from North Korea. They might have been supplied to Iran at some point, or possibly purchased by the Wagner Group in November 2022.

Western Assistance

Germany has acquired 100 satellite communication terminals from the Swedish company Satcube (at a cost of $65,000 per terminal), with plans to deliver them to Ukraine in the near future.

Satcube's internet service is slower compared to Starlink (70 Mbps versus 100 Mbps), and the terminals also come at a significantly higher cost.

Photos have emerged of Ukrainian soldiers undergoing training under the guidance of Norwegian instructors in the United Kingdom. Unlike previous videos, these exercises focused on trench warfare, which we consider to be far more beneficial than urban warfare training.

Germany has transferred 2 Patriot surface-to-air missile systems to Ukraine, as well as 10 BV206 all-terrain carriers and more than 6,000 smoke-generating artillery shells.

A photo of a German-Estonian THeMIS unmanned ground vehicle with mine-clearing attachments, taken in the Kharkiv region, has been published. Seven such unmanned mine-clearing vehicles have been delivered to Ukraine.

Also in the Kharkiv region, a destroyed Ukrainian KrAZ-6322 off-road truck with an M777 howitzer in tow was filmed. Earlier, FMTV trucks were used to tow these howitzers, but it is likely that a significant part of them has already been lost—this is what we see in the fresh video.

Military analyst Michael Kofman gave an interview to Alexandr Plushev [Russian journalist, creator of the eponymous YouTube channel] in which he confirmed that Ukrainian brigades have problems with combined arms operations due to the critically short time given for training and joint combat exercises. However, Ukrainian soldiers have shown excellent infantry skills and fight better than Russian soldiers. In addition, Kofman notes the superiority of Ukrainian artillery, especially in counter battery fire.

Regarding the strikes on the bridges connecting Crimea to the Kherson region, Kofman believes that Ukraine is attempting to isolate the combat zone and limit supplies for the Russian troops on the line of contact.

When asked about the possibility of a Ukrainian breakthrough, Kofman stated that it is difficult to predict, as it is unclear how long resources will last. It is not sufficient to merely breach the defensive line; it is necessary to do so in a way that preserves forces for further advances at the breakthrough point. Furthermore, he believes that if the war has not ended within a year, it will become increasingly challenging to do so. Hence, it is likely that the war will continue into the next year, and then everything will depend on the reserves available to both sides. For instance, Russia recklessly expended its offensive reserves in the middle of winter.

At present, there are enough contract soldiers to replenish current losses. However, if losses increase or if Russia decides to launch another offensive during the winter, another mobilization should be anticipated. We agree with this assessment.

Kofman also noted that Russia is attempting to capitalize on the fact that the AFU find it challenging to simultaneously maintain significant reserves in the southern part of Ukraine (the Zaporizhzhia axis), conduct an offensive around Bakhmut, and stabilize the situation in the Kupiansk-Svatove-Kreminna direction, all while carrying out local attacks. According to Kofman's assessment, Russian forces lack foresight in their approach to defense. Instead of spreading out their forces in order to establish defensive depth and utilizing multiple lines of fortifications, they consistently engage in counterattacks, quickly depleting their reserves. We concur with this evaluation.

Presently, the Wagner Group is not engaged in combat within Ukraine; rather, it is utilizing Belarus as a training ground for its operations in Africa. In prior engagements, including the winter offensive on Bakhmut, the Wagner Group served as assault infantry, a role ill-suited for defense. Nevertheless, if General Valery Gerasimov, Chief of the Russian Armed Forces' General Staff, intends to undertake offensive actions this winter, the possibility of deploying Wagner Group mercenaries instead of initiating a new mobilization phase cannot be dismissed.

At the same time, according to independent media reports, mercenaries’ relatives are voicing complaints about a noticeable reduction in wages following their transfer from the frontline to Belarus. Consequently, some fighters are choosing to leave the group altogether, return home, and potentially transition to contract-based military service within the Ministry of Defense.