October 25, 2023

Sitrep for Oct. 23-25, 2023 (as of 11 a.m.)

Frontline Situation Update

The Russian Armed Forces continue their offensive attempts in the Avdiivka direction.

The Frontelligence Insight team, founded by Ukrainian military analyst Tatarigami, has already documented the loss of more than 109 Russian military vehicles since Oct. 10.

Russia's Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu visited the command post of the Group of Troops “East”, which is responsible for the Vuhledar and South Donetsk directions. During his visit, he heard reports, presented awards and claimed that Russian forces had shot down 24 aircraft (UAVs are not included in this number) in five days. However, he neither explained the source of this completely implausible data nor provided any visual evidence. Additionally, according to him, the Armed Forces of Ukraine, understanding their hopeless situation due to heavy losses, were fleeing the battlefield. Such statements, of course, hardly reflect the real situation.

On the Kherson axis, fighting continues around the settlements of Pishchanivka, Poima and Krynky on the left bank of the Dnipro River. Pro-Russian Telegram channels have reported the ongoing transfer of Ukrainian forces and even the alleged preparation of a pontoon crossing, but there is no evidence to support these claims yet.

The pro-Russian Telegram channel Fighterbomber, associated with the Russian Air and Space Force, published a video of air-bombs with Universal Gliding and Correction Modules (UMPK) being dropped by a Russian bomber aircraft. The location of this attack was geolocated, and it likely targeted either the village of Krynky or the town of Beryslav. The bombs were dropped from a distance of approximately 50 kilometers, a common range for such bombs. Ukrainian officials claim that the range of UMPK air-dropped bombs makes them a formidable weapon that is almost impossible to intercept.

Western Assistance

Boeing and Saab have issued a statement indicating by the end of 2023, they will supply Ukraine with GLSDB (Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bombs) for MLRS with a range of up to 150 kilometers. It is quite possible that we will only learn about their arrival after their first strike against enemy targets.

Once again, Hungary blocked the decision to provide an eighth tranche of aid worth 500 million euros for Ukraine. Representatives of the country demand legal guarantees that Ukraine will not change its decision to remove the OTP bank from its sponsors of war list.

The pro-war Russian Telegram channel Voyevoda Veschaet posted a message expressing condolences and displaying photos of Russian pilots, who were shot down by friendly fire, with mourning ribbons. This post serves as confirmation of the destruction of a Russian Air Force Mil Mi-8 helicopter, as reported by the Fighterbomber Telegram channel on Oct. 22.

One of our recent sitreps described a western-made surface-to-air missile variant named FrankenSAM, which can now be used in conjunction with Soviet-made systems. According to The Financial Times, Ukraine has successfully converted US-made AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles into surface-to-air missiles. In other words, the Ukrainian military employs a missile launcher to launch them from the ground. This new launch platform will bolster Ukraine’s air defense capability in anticipation of Russian strikes on the country’s infrastructure this winter.

The Conflict Intelligence Team and Vazhnyye Istorii [IStories, an independent Russian investigative media outlet] have released a report on punishments practiced within the Russian military, based on information provided by two different sources. We have found that soldiers engaging in misconduct such as drinking, refusing to train or resisting deployment, among other offenses, are subjected to punishment involving confinement in pits dug in the ground at training ranges and physical beatings. Initially, reports of similar punishments emerged solely from territories controlled by the “DPR/LPR,” where basements typically served as improvised holding cells. However, since October last year, incidents of pits being used for punishment on occupied territories for mobilized soldiers have been documented with increasing frequency. Now, two sources confirm that the practice has extended into Russian territory.

Following their lead, we examined satellite images of the Prudboy training ground in the Volgograd region and the Totsky training ground in the Orenburg region. At the first training ground, we found pits that were most likely dug to hold soldiers prisoner: they were not intended for waste disposal, as they are too close to other training ground facilities, and were not intended for training, as they lack targets and descent ramps. Images from the second training ground also revealed pits, with one of them equipped with a trench, likely an entrance, curving at a right angle. Hence, we assume that they are possibly used for some form of training. Nevertheless, we are unable to independently confirm our source’s report.

We believe that the appearance of these pits on Russian territory is tied to the large influx of newly enlisted soldiers through mobilization and volunteer fighter recruitment in 2023. Many of these individuals lack discipline and are motivated solely by financial incentives, with some of them being former convicts. To maintain order among this disparate group of people, violence appears to be increasingly employed within military units to deal with aggressive and inebriated recruits who disrespect their command and disregard military hierarchy.

Eventually, we believe that soldiers tend to perform only the amount of combat tasks that is enough to avoid being sent to a pit. Thus, such practices, in turn, do not have the best effect on the morale and motivation of Russian soldiers and could have an impact on the frontline during the winter period.

We do not anticipate ground operations to significantly change the frontline until the end of 2023. Neither side has a significant advantage in terms of forces for substantial advancements. We are likely to witness long-range strikes by the AFU, similar to the attacks on the Berdiansk and Luhansk airports. New attacks on the Crimean Bridge and Russian ships are also possible.

Russia still has sufficient equipment and projectiles to sustain its war. It is finding partners who, based on available data, supply a significant quantity of scarce artillery munitions. Furthermore, the constant threat of violence and criminal prosecution makes it possible to deter people from fleeing en masse from the frontline, as observed during the Kharkiv counteroffensive. Additionally, Russian forces continue to actively mine occupied territory, which effectively stops the advance of Ukrainian armored vehicles.

At the same time, the Ukrainian side receives insufficient military aid–enough to cover current losses, but not to form new units. We are also seeing a delay in important deliveries of new types of weapons. If ATACMS tactical ballistic missiles with cluster munition warheads had been delivered in June, the Ukrainian offensive could have been much more successful. The same goes for GLSDB precision missiles and F-16 fighter aircraft: their delivery has been discussed for a long time, but they will arrive no earlier than the end of this year.