October 20, 2023

Sitrep for Oct. 18-20, 2023 (as of 9 a.m.)

Frontline Situation Update

The Armed Forces of Ukraine have initiated operations on the Kherson axis, landing on the left bank of the Dnipro River and advancing toward the settlement of Poima. Rybar, a prominent pro-Russian analyst, reported on Oct. 18 that the Russian Armed Forces launched a counterattack, forcing the Ukrainians to retreat toward the village of Pishchanivka. Subsequently, on Oct. 19, new reports emerged of the AFU landing near the village of Krynky, east of Pishchanivka. It is worth noting that Krynky is adjacent to the village of Kozachi Laheri, with both lining the riverbank, making it challenging to establish a bridgehead on the left bank.

The Ukrainian presence on the left bank is confirmed by a video of strikes against AFU positions near the bridge crossing the Konka River, as well as footage showing Ukrainian soldiers in the northern part of Poima. However, we have yet to see evidence of heavy Ukrainian military equipment crossing the Dnipro River, and it remains uncertain whether such a maneuver is feasible at all. Supplying a bridgehead on the other bank of the Dnipro, separated from the main force, remains a treacherous task. Furthermore, should a pontoon crossing be established, it would immediately become a target for Russian missiles and airstrikes. Attempting significant advances without the support of armor is unlikely to succeed, especially in an environment where the enemy can readily deploy armored vehicles.

In this direction, we consider the possibility of a major offensive, as opposed to small raids, to be unlikely, though it is worth noting that similar assessments regarding the attack on the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant proved to be incorrect. While these attacks may appear to be part of a major offensive, they most likely are tactical maneuvers aimed at diverting the attention of the Russian command and compelling them to redirect forces to the Kherson axis.

Fighting continues in the Avdiivka direction. A video of Russian soldiers storming an AFU strongpoint near the bridge south of Avdiivka has been published. If Russian forces manage to gain a foothold in this area, they will have advanced approximately 500 meters to the north. Attempts by the RuAF to make a large-scale breakthrough and take Avdiivka in a pincer movement remain unsuccessful.

These recent offensives on both sides lead us, like many other analysts, to the conclusion that both sides are almost equal in force: neither has sufficient resources to carry out and exploit a full-fledged breakthrough. It remains unclear what needs to be done in such a war of attrition. According to military theory, the most sensible strategy for both sides is to remain on the defensive and accumulate forces, since any attempt to launch an attack will most likely result in greater losses. Nevertheless, both sides are making offensive attempts, although without much success. Since the AFU managed to break through the "Surovikin line" in certain areas, their position is somewhat better than that of the RuAF.

On the evening of Oct. 18, Dmitry Rogozin, former Director General of Russia’s Roscosmos space agency and Russian-appointed Senator from the Zaporizhzhia region, on his Telegram channel mentioned a massive concentration of Ukrainian armored vehicles on the Zaporizhzhia axis, from which he deduced that the AFU were getting ready for a major offensive operation. Sometime later though he reported on the Russian forces successfully repelling some "attacks launched by minor groups." Rogozin is known to have published several reports about enemy armored forces buildups  and imminent offensives, although none of them have ever been confirmed.

The RuAF continue offensive actions along the Kupjansk-Lyman axis in the north of the Luhansk region, though they are not as intensive as those in the Avdiivka direction. By launching attacks in the areas of Marinka and Torske, Russian forces are trying to push the AFU behind the Zherebets River or, ideally, behind the Oskil River, so as to reach the administrative border of the Luhansk region. Still, the strengths of both sides on this section of the frontline have almost balanced out, which has resulted in a relative stabilization of the frontline.

To change the situation and actively advance with the aim of liberating the occupied territory, the AFU require significant supplies of tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and armored personnel carriers (the current volume of supplies, apparently, only allows for compensating losses). Effective leadership is also necessary. According to Western analysts, Ukrainian forces lack well-coordinated command. In our view, the supply of ATACMS tactical ballistic missiles alone will not be the decisive factor that could determine the success of the Ukrainian offensive.

Ukraine's Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba stated that Ukraine will receive more ATACMS missiles than currently supplied (as we previously reported, according to The New York Times sources, about 20 have been delivered by now), and with longer ranges.

Strikes on Ukrainian and Russian Territory

Some details have emerged regarding the aftermath of the attacks on RuAF airfields on the night of Oct. 17. The Frontelligence Insight team, founded by Ukrainian military analyst Tatarigami, analyzed satellite images of the Luhansk airfield and concluded that at least five helicopters sustained varying degrees of damage. Due to the somewhat poor image quality, it is impossible to fully assess the extent of these damages and determine if any aircraft were destroyed. It is our assessment that the strike on the Luhansk airfield did not result in a large-scale fire; additional information is required for more precise conclusions.

The Schemy [Schemes] project (part of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty) published high-resolution satellite images of the Berdiansk airbase, revealing damage to at least six helicopters. Furthermore, a photo, taken at the airfield, emerged showing that at least one helicopter sustained substantial damage.

On Oct. 18, Ukrainian forces launched a strike on a facility in Crimea with modified S-200 surface-to-air missiles. The Russian side stated that the missile fell in a deserted place and did not cause any damage. However, according to sources from the Astra Telegram channel, one of the missiles hit a military base in the village of Sakharna Holovka near Sevastopol, where a Russian Black Sea Fleet weapons depot is located. Reports indicate the military base incurred damage, and one serviceman was wounded.

On the night of Oct. 18, Ukrainian UAVs launched an attack on a field camp near the village of Postoyalye Dvory in the Kursk region. We have previously mentioned this camp in 2021 when discussing the Russian military's preparations for a potential invasion of Ukraine, involving troop movements to training ranges and camps in the Belgorod, Kursk and Voronezh regions. Local residents reported hearing explosions, but the extent of the damage caused by the strike remains unknown. Roman Starovoyt, the Governor of the Kursk region, stated that six drones were shot down, while another four were suppressed by means of electronic warfare, with no reported damage or casualties.

The Voyennye Advokaty [Military Lawyers] Telegram channel reports that military commissariats [enlistment offices] and police are resuming raids on men of conscription age, forcing potential conscripts into draft offices, ordering accelerated medical examination and enlisting them into the army. Contrary to what is happening now, such raids used to be conducted at the end of conscription campaigns.