October 23, 2023

Sitrep for Oct. 20-23, 2023 (as of 8:30 a.m.)

Strikes on Ukrainian and Russian Territory

On the night of Oct. 22, the Russian Armed Forces launched a missile strike on the Nova Poshta postal depot in the village of Korotych, west of Kharkiv. According to the Kharkiv prosecutor’s office spokesperson, at least two modified S-300 surface-to-air missiles hit the distribution facility. The attack resulted in six people killed and 17 injured; all of them civilian Nova Poshta employees who were inside the depot at the time of the strike.

Pro-Russian Telegram channels have tried to justify this attack by referencing a case we reported in February, in which Nova Poshta trucks were found transporting FV103 Spartan armored personnel carriers. According to their perspective, all of the company’s terminals serve as logistics centers for the Armed Forces of Ukraine, allegedly storing military equipment and ammunition. However, following the same logic, all SDEK [a Russian express delivery company] terminals should now be considered military facilities, given that they are frequently used by Russian soldiers, including for the shipment of Orlan reconnaissance drones.

Frontline Situation Update

Fighting continues on the left bank of the Dnipro River near the villages of Poima, Pishchanivka and Krynky in the Kherson region. The sharp increase in Russian airstrikes in this direction is likely due to the presence of the AFU in the area. According to Oleksandr Prokudin, Head of the Kherson Regional Military Administration, up to 12 aerial bombs are now being dropped daily on the right bank of the Dnipro. Oleksandr Tolokonnikov, spokesman of the Kherson Regional Military Administration, reported that previously, Russian forces dropped 2-3 aerial bombs per day across the entire region, but it has now increased to 38, including strikes on AFU positions on the left bank.

In the Avdiivka direction the RuAF continue their offensive actions, but without significant success. The AFU maintain defensive positions as before and do not attempt their own counter-offensives.

A video recording of an air-dropped bomb strike using the Universal Gliding and Correction Module (UMPK) on multi-story residential buildings in Avdiivka has been released. It is claimed that AFU positions were located there. Since Avdiivka has been on the frontline for many years, most of the civilian population has likely left. However, it is likely that some civilians might still be there, as was the case in Bakhmut when urban battles took place in semi-ruined houses, where some peaceful residents still lived.

The RuAF persist in deploying battalion after battalion into combat in this direction, a phenomenon dubbed "Muradovshchina" in honor of General Rustam Muradov, who employed a similar approach during the advance on Vuhledar in the winter of 2023. It is also asserted that Russian forces have already incurred losses of military equipment near Avdiivka that are roughly equal to, if not greater than, the losses sustained by the AFU during the entire summer offensive on the Zaporizhzhia axis, with the most significant damage being inflicted by Ukrainian loitering and cluster munitions.

However, the situation in the Avdiivka direction remains quite challenging for the AFU. This is reported by Oleh Sentsov [a Ukrainian filmmaker, writer and activist], who is fighting as part of the 47th Separate Mechanized Brigade of the AFU (apparently, some of its units were redeployed to Avdiivka from the Zaporizhzhia axis). According to him, in one instance, out of three groups sent to defend their positions, one was almost entirely destroyed, while the remaining soldiers, including Sentsov, barely managed to retreat under pressure from a column of Russian tanks.

Volunteers of the Oryx project, which recently suspended its work, continue to count military equipment losses. During the Avdiivka offensive, the RuAF lost 87 pieces of equipment (including 24 tanks, 49 infantry fighting vehicles, 7 armored personnel carriers, 1 MLRS and 2 self-propelled howitzers), while AFU losses amounted to 3 military vehicles: 2 tanks and an armored personnel carrier.

A video showing a convoy of Russian trucks driving along a dirt road in the area of Pisky in the Donetsk region has been published. At some point, Ukrainian servicemen watching the convoy refer to some of them as “polutorka” ["one-and-a halfer", with reference to its carrying capacity of 1.5 tons] from which many concluded that they were referring to GAZ-AA trucks used during the Second World War. However, evidently, the GAZ-AA truck in this photo does not resemble those in the video, making it unclear what exactly the AFU servicemen meant.

Despite the fact that the video quality makes it impossible for us to identify the specific truck model, CIT considers those to be armored Ural trucks, as GAZ-AA trucks could not possibly have been deployed there, as they were not in mobilization reserve warehouses (as well as GAZ-51, GAZ-63 and ZIS-150/151 trucks, BTR-40 and BTR-152 APCs). The oldest trucks seen in the mobilization reserve are the ZIL-131 (used as a wheelbase for fuel trucks or 9К55 Grad-1 MLRS) and GAZ-66 trucks. In addition, Russian forces use BTR-50P APCs, and the BTR-60PB APC may well appear in the future. Trainloads departing for the frontline carry large numbers of modern KAMAZ and Ural trucks, which means that the Russian Army likely does not yet need to use WWII era trucks.

Analyst Covert Cabal analyzed recent satellite images (mostly from 2023) of Russian storage bases and counted the number of combat armored vehicles stored in the open. In total, there were 3,677 infantry fighting vehicles and 5,750 units of other similar armored equipment (BTR-60/70, BRDM-2 amphibious armored scout cars and MT-LB multi-purpose armored vehicles). The number of vehicles still stored in hangars is unknown. Nevertheless, this is still a significant quantity. Even when factoring in the high rate of losses and the need for repairing some of the vehicles with the possibility that some equipment may not be restorable at all, it is estimated to be roughly sufficient for about another three years of war.

Colonel Ants Kiviselg, head of the Estonian Defense Forces Intelligence Center, has raised concerns regarding the shipment of 1,000 sea containers from North Korea to Russia. While the exact contents of these containers remain unverified, speculations suggest that each container may have held between 300 and 350 artillery rounds. In total, this could amount to between 300,000 and 350,000 shells. Considering that the daily Russian shell consumption is about 10,000 rounds, this amount would be enough for around one month. Kiviselg also disclosed that, according to Estonian military intelligence, Russia currently has another 4 million artillery rounds in storage.

Rob Lee, Senior Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, pointed out that even if North Korea was capable of delivering not 300-350 thousand, but just 50-100 thousand artillery rounds monthly, it would have a significant impact on the frontline situation. There is no open data on North Korea's ammunition stocks. Nevertheless, the North Korean military is recognized for its strong emphasis on artillery, suggesting that their stockpiles could be substantial.

The first photographs of North Korean 152mm and 122mm artillery projectiles in the hands of Russian forces have emerged. The Ukraine Weapons Tracker project, which recently announced a halt to its operations, reports that these are the world's first publicly accessible photos of North Korean munitions. They bear recognizable characteristics in terms of color, packaging, and markings that allude to their North Korean origin. The project also suggested that these projectiles were manufactured in the DPRK in the 2000s.

British intelligence services estimate Russia’s permanent casualties (killed or permanently wounded) since the beginning of the invasion to be 150,000-190,000 troops. The total number of Russian casualties including troops expected to recover from their injuries and return to the battlefield is between 240,000 and 290,000. However, this assessment does not include losses suffered by the Wagner Group.

According to our own estimate of losses, which is based on verified numbers calculated by Mediazona, an independent Russian media outlet, and BBC News Russian, jointly with a team of volunteers, Russian manpower losses, without taking into account Wagner Group mercenaries and “LPR/DPR” fighters, could be up to 80,000-90,000 killed and about 250,000 injured. The number of irrecoverably wounded soldiers, or maimed, might make up a fraction of those who were minimally wounded and be several times lower than the number of those killed. Total casualties, both recoverable and irrecoverable, could be up to about 340,000 men.

As the war goes on, however, the estimate becomes less precise, as it is affected by multiple factors which can hardly be taken into account. For example, if one and the same individual has been injured four times at different periods of time and is then killed, it will be represented in the estimate as four people wounded and one killed. It is not known how the British Intelligence reached its conclusions and whether it includes the men mobilized in the “LPR/DPR.”

It is also difficult to estimate how many people have been maimed because on the one hand, the gravely wounded often die before medical care, resulting in maimed soldiers becoming killed, and on the other, poor care may result in an amputation when it could have been avoided.

The Department of Defense Office of Inspector General has conducted an audit of two Defense Logistics Agency distribution centers, which housed approximately 2 million repair parts and components for Army Ground Combat Systems, including Abrams tanks, Bradley infantry fighting vehicles and Stryker armored personnel carriers. The findings revealed that only 8 percent of the spare parts were stored properly, while 10 percent were found to have minor deficiencies, and 15% exhibited major problems. Alarmingly, the remaining “$1.31 billion (67 percent) in parts and components are in immediate danger of degrading, and the improper storage and care of parts and components created safety hazards that could potentially lead to injuries among DLA personnel.” For instance, 80 gas turbine engines for Abrams tanks, each valued at $1.1 million (equivalent to the price of a used T-72 tank in 2021), should have been in stored indoors; however, the DLA stored the items outside. Furthermore, it has come to light that the personnel at these distribution centers had not received adequate guidance or training on how to maintain this equipment.

We believe that this can be extrapolated to armored vehicles and military depots of other military branches, including old air-dropped munitions like AGM-88 HARM missiles supplied to Ukraine.

A video has emerged from the Luhansk airport, unequivocally confirming the strike with cluster munitions on the night of Oct. 17. Typical traces of submunition detonations, burnt debris, apparently of a helicopter, two Kamov Ka-52 (Hokum B) attack helicopters with removed rotor blades, a Mil Mi-8 helicopter, an unknown aircraft, and Pantsir-S1 surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery system are visible. However, it is not possible to assess the extent of damage to the equipment located further from the filming location based on this video.

Jakub Janovsky, an Oryx project volunteer, estimated that as a result of strikes on the airports in Berdiansk and Luhansk, seven Kamov Ka-52 attack helicopters and two Mi-8 helicopters were destroyed, while 15 helicopters (eight Ka-52s and seven Mi-8s) were damaged. The loss of 24 aircraft may appear relatively minor in absolute numbers for Russia, however, it is a quite significant result for a single strike.

The pro-Russian Telegram channel Voyenny Osvedomitel [Military Informant] published a video from the control panel of a Lancet loitering munition, presumably equipped with a new targeting system featuring automatic target acquisition. Despite the fact that amateur UAVs have had similar technologies for several years, if this is true, such a modification could make Lancet more effective and destructive.