October 16, 2023

Sitrep for Oct. 13-16, 2023 (as of 8:30 a.m.)

Frontline Situation Update

Over the weekend, Russian forces continued striking targets around Avdiivka. For the first time in a long while, thermite incendiary munitions seem to have been used against Ukrainian positions. Video footage does not allow to determine whether the strikes adhered to the Geneva Convention—the use of incendiary munitions is prohibited within city limits. Armed Forces of Ukraine officials later clarified that the incendiary projectiles hit a forested area away from Ukrainian positions.

Reports have emerged about a battle for the Avdiivka spoil tip. The Russians Armed Forces initially succeeded in capturing the position; however, the AFU later reclaimed it in a counterattack. Furthermore, Semyon Pegov, author of the WarGonzo Telegram channel, reported on successful Ukrainian counterattacks around Sieverne and Pervomaiske, southwest of Avdiivka. This has raised concerns among pro-Russian sources, with some worrying that the Russian command may try to reinforce the offensive in the Avdiivka direction with the remaining forces at their disposal.

Strikes on Ukrainian and Russian Territory

On Oct. 13, Ukrainian forces launched an attack on Russian military ships in Sevastopol. Initially, a video surfaced of smoke emanating from a Project 22160 patrol ship. Subsequently, Ukrainian media sources in the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) and the Ukrainian Navy reported a successful attack on a small Buyan-M type artillery ship and the Pavel Derzhavin Project 22160 patrol ship. The press service of the Black Sea Fleet, as well as the occupation administration, explained that all of it was part of military exercises.

More details about this incident were provided by the pro-Russian blogger Boris Rozhin. According to his version, Ukrainian forces attacked the Pavel Derzhavin patrol ship as it was departing Sevastopol Bay, resulting in damage to its steering system. Subsequently, a tugboat was dispatched to assist, and it, too, came under attack by Ukrainian forces. Both ships, it is claimed, remained operational, and the extent of damage is currently unknown. Rozhin notes that it was the first time an explosion occurred underwater, suggesting the use of unmanned surface vessels equipped with new weaponry. This information is also corroborated by the Ukrainian media outlet Censor.net, which cites sources in the SBU. The stealth of the attack is attributed to the fact that these new modified drones remain fully submerged underwater. An explosion below the waterline can inflict significant damage to a ship.

According to the Head of the Kherson city military administration, on Oct. 15, Russian Sukhoi Su-34 [Fullback] strike aircraft hit a critical infrastructure facility in Kherson with air-dropped bombs, causing a temporary loss of electricity in the city center.

A video was published showing SBU drones dropping munitions on the Krasnaya Yaruga electrical substation in the Belgorod region on Oct. 15. The substation is reported to power military facilities, but it is currently impossible to verify this claim. In any case, we do not believe that the potential military advantage justifies the collateral damage to civilian infrastructure.

On Oct. 14, an unexploded Russian OFAB-250-270 air-dropped bomb was found in the city of Horlivka, Donetsk region. This is likely another instance of Universal Gliding and Correction Module (UMPK) failure. A similar incident occurred on Oct. 4 in the Zaporizhzhia region, within the territory controlled by the AFU.

Western Assistance

Ukrainian pilots have successfully completed a language course in the United States and are en route to Arizona to commence their F-16 pilot training. They will begin their training on simulators before advancing to l flying aircraft with instructors.

The USA is leading a coalition of Ukraine’s Western partners tasked with the modernization of the AFU Air Force. This coalition consists of 11 countries willing to support F-16 pilot training, with the Netherlands, Denmark and Belgium also committed to providing aircraft.

It is assumed that utilizing Western ammunition launched from Western aircraft will result in a reduction in the number of weapons failure.

The subject of Russia’s involvement in the preparation of the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel is increasingly debated. This assumption was even mentioned by Kyrylo Budanov, Chief of the Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine's Ministry of Defense, in an interview with the Ukrainska Pravda online newspaper. According to Budanov, in late September, a Russian communications intelligence satellite changed its position to a geostationary orbit over Israel, which was interpreted as indirect evidence of Russia supporting Hamas. However, diligent satellite enthusiasts have revealed that the only Russian satellite to alter its orbit around the end of September was the Luch satellite, which actually moved further away from Israel than before. It is presumed to be monitoring another commercial communications satellite.

In addition, despite numerous speculations on this matter, no substantiated evidence or investigation has emerged showing that Russia covertly supplies weapons to Hamas. Nonetheless, Russia seeks to leverage this conflict.

Last week, a video of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel was circulating online, in which Russian speech was allegedly heard. Vladimir Osechkin [founder of the Gulagu.net human rights project] claimed that the video includes the phrase "Cover me!" in Russian. According to him, Russian-speaking instructors were issuing orders and coordinating the actions of terrorists. However, Kevin Rothrock, the Editor-in-Chief of the English version of Meduza [international Russian-language online media outlet], found that the recording was in Arabic with a Palestinian accent. The man in the video uttered a phrase that can be translated as "son of a bitch," and then asked another terrorist to crouch down.

A BTR-90 armored personnel carrier was observed in a combat video shot around Avdiivka. The BTR-90 APC had undergone trials and was adopted into service as early as 2008 but was not produced in large quantities, as the BTR-82A APC turned out to be more cost-effective with comparable capabilities. The appearance of the BTR-90 APC on the frontline once again suggests a shortage of equipment within Russian forces.

Simultaneously, the combat loss of an old Soviet-era BTR-50P APC was recorded for the first time.

Two videos have emerged showing T-72B3M (2022 model) and T-72B (1985 model) tank convoys. The sequential numbering of these tanks suggests the deployment of a single unit. Additionally, we noticed that a significant number of these tanks are equipped with KMT-6 or KMT-8 mine plows. This indicates that the unit is likely to be employed in offensive operations in heavily mined areas, potentially for an assault on Avdiivka. We believe this is the newly formed 153rd Tank Regiment from the Nizhny Novgorod region. We had earlier noticed a post in which soldiers of this tank regiment stated they were heading to the frontline and thanked volunteers for their support.

The AFU have released a video showing the use of an FPV drone not in a kamikaze role, but as a "bomber" dropping munitions into trenches. We have not yet seen the RuAF employ FPV drones in a similar manner, although the Russian side has frequently published videos showcasing FPV drones being used for strikes against Ukrainian vehicles and personnel.

Western weaponry continues to be modified to work with Soviet-era equipment. The most recent US aid package includes AIM-9M air-to-air missiles, which have been adapted to be launched from the ground. Additionally, American engineers have successfully modified RIM-7 Sea Sparrow surface-to-air missiles to be launched from Ukraine's existing Soviet Buk SAM systems. Western officials have coined the term "FrankenSAM" for this purpose. Furthermore, allies are restoring and transferring to Ukraine disused Hawk missile systems that had long been out of service.

Marat Khusnullin, Russia's Deputy Prime Minister for Construction and Development, announced that the Crimean Bridge has been fully restored, and traffic is open on all four lanes. Repair work took less than three months, and limited traffic on the temporary bridge was restored in less than a day after the collapse.

Users of the pro-Russian platform Lostarmour and authors of pro-Russian Telegram channels are making every effort to convince themselves that the operation in Avdiivka was not a complete failure.

Oleksii Arestovych, a former advisor to the head of the President's Office of Ukraine, released a lengthy post, in which he admitted to making predictions that set "exaggerated expectations" for the Ukrainian offensive, relying on calculations that, at the time, did not seem exaggerated to him and promised significant success. As we previously noted, even within the ranks of the AFU, the situation on the ground tends to be embellished when reporting to higher-ups. Consequently, the top leadership lacks a true understanding of the army's actual condition, leading to a biased perspective on events along the frontline.

According to Arestovych, during combat operations, the Ukrainian Army made two fundamental errors: an excessive expenditure of military equipment and personnel during the battle for Bakhmut, resources that would now be useful in the south of Ukraine. And the AFU’s failure to construct defensive structures similar to the "Surovikin line" built by the RuAF.