October 30, 2023

Sitrep for Oct. 27-30, 2023 (as of 8 a.m.)

Frontline Situation Update

Despite continuous fighting, there have been no significant changes on the frontline in recent days. On the Kherson axis, Russian forces were unable to dislodge Ukrainian troops from the area around the villages of Krynky and Poima. Similarly, the Armed Forces of Ukraine did not manage to make any further advances.

On the Zaporizhzhia axis, near Robotyne, Verbove and Novoprokopivka, Ukrainian forces attempted to widen their flanks by attacking towards Kopani. However, their efforts have met only limited success so far.

In the Vuhledar direction, Russian forces launched an unsuccessful counterattack.

On the Donetsk axis, near Avdiivka, the Russian Armed Forces have continued their local offensive aimed at encircling the town, without any notable developments. OSINT researcher John Helin created a map highlighting paved and dirt roads going in and out of Avdiivka using satellite images. Currently, only two dirt roads and one paved road near Lastochkyne are still safe for travel. Other roads now run too close to the line of contact to serve as reliable supply routes.

Some of our readers, familiar with spoil tips, have reached out and pointed out one feature previously unknown to us. Spoil tips, due to their composition, tend to smolder from within, creating hollow spaces. These depressions will now pose a risk to soldiers attempting to climb the spoil tip of the Avdiivka Coke Plant. Therefore, it increasingly appears that capturing this spoil tip holds little tactical significance for Russian forces.

Russia's Ministry of Defense has released a video showcasing the work of a repair brigade. The exact location where this video was filmed remains unknown. The video shows a man repairing a tank. The video shows a turret pierced by a shaped charge, with the slat armor removed, leading us to conclude that the cope cage was unable to protect the tank from the UAV attack. According to the man in the video, engine repairs are relatively straightforward as they involve little electronic parts. However, complications tend to arise when dealing with chassis and electronic repairs. In the latter case, pinpointing the exact issue can be extremely challenging.

That is why damaged military equipment that cannot be removed from the battlefield must be destroyed to prevent it from falling into the hands of the enemy.

One noticeable problem for tanks is moisture seeping into night vision devices and optical sights, despite being equipped with dehumidifiers and heated lenses, which often leads to device malfunctions.

It is worth noting that although mud is visible in the video, following recent rainfall, drawing conclusions about the imminent start of the muddy season is premature. In addition, the geolocation of the video is unknown.

In the village of Novohorivka, Zaporizhzhia region, a Ukrainian reconnaissance drone filmed the destruction of three Pole-21 electronic warfare system antennas, allegedly by a JDAM air-dropped bomb (a large crater can be seen at the site of the strike, a couple of dozen meters from the antennas).

The Pole-21 EW system, with a stated range of 25 km, was specially designed to counter satellite guided high-precision weapons. Based on the video taken by the drone, it can be assumed that the EW was not operational at the moment of the strike. Previously, we have already drawn attention to cases where Russian servicemen were not properly trained in operating such equipment. In addition, Russian EW often suppresses not only the enemy’s equipment, but also its own, leading these systems to sometimes being switched off.

However, according to an Azov Brigade serviceman, the RuAF use effective EW equipment along the frontline, and their air defense often fires anti-aircraft missiles to intercept Ukrainian UAVs drones. This significantly complicates the conduct of combat operations by Ukrainian forces. At the same time, on the territory of the Russian Federation, air defense and EW prove far less effective, which results in regular successful UAV attacks by the enemy.

A video depicting an unsuccessful Russian armored column attack in the vicinity of Avdiivka on Oct. 19 has been published. It shows the first two armored personnel carriers being blown up by mines, while the third, instead of pushing forward, remains immobilized due to what is known as “mine fright.” Yury Veremeev, an officer in the engineering troops who has extensively studied the history of mine warfare and authored books such as “Attention, Mines!” and “Mines yesterday, today and tomorrow,” points out that during the Second World War when one or two tanks would blow up on mines it was often enough of a morale blow to disrupt the attack of a whole tank column. Likewise, when a few soldiers would blow up on mines, the whole company (or even a battalion) was affected. According to him, working around a minefield can slow down the advancement of a combat mission much more than the mines themselves.

A well-known user of the pro-Russian website Lost Armour, writing under the pseudonym Wayne Howell, listed other problems originating from the fear that Russian soldiers face during offensives, using the example of the battles in the Avdiivka direction. We have repeatedly covered cases where infantry were sent to storm Ukrainian positions and were told that there were almost no enemy forces left after the enemy had been softened up by artillery, when in fact this was not the case at all. As Wayne writes, even after thorough preparatory artillery bombardments, Russian soldiers (with the exception of the Storm-Z unit and new inexperienced recruits) are so afraid of storming the enemy that they categorically refuse to attack, thereby losing the advantage achieved through the artillery strikes. In addition, soldier morale is affected by the constant lack of leaves, the absence of rotation, and violent methods of punishment.

Naalsio26, an Oryx project volunteer who consistently shares data on lost military equipment, has reported that during the past week of battles in the Avdiivka direction, the RuAF lost an additional 70 military vehicles, while the AFU incurred only 5 losses.

On Oct. 27, associates of the collaborator Oleh Tsaryov, who was sentenced in absentia by a Ukrainian tribunal to 12 years in prison, reported an attempted attack on his life: Tsaryov was allegedly shot twice at a health resort in Yalta. However, the VChK-OGPU Telegram channel stated that neither an ambulance, the Interior Ministry, nor the Investigative Committee were called to the scene of the alleged assassination attempt, and no one was admitted to a Crimean medical facility in connection with it. On the other hand, Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) opened a criminal case over the assassination attempt on Tsaryov, and the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has allegedly claimed responsibility. An SBU source, speaking to both BBC News Ukrainian and the UNIAN Ukrainian news portal, mentioned that Tsaryov had long been listed as a traitor and a legitimate target. However, we find it challenging to interpret this as a confession. In summary, we consider both scenarios plausible: that the assassination attempt was staged or that it actually took place but was carefully classified.

Due to continuing loitering munition attacks, Romanian authorities have decided to install anti-drone systems on the border with Ukraine (there were precedents when drones attacking the Reni seaport and the port of Izmail on the Danube River flew into Romanian territory). Judging by the mention of radars, this likely refers to air defense systems, not EW.

Western Assistance

Mike Johnson, the new Speaker of the US House of Representatives, a Republican allied with Trump who has frequently expressed opposition to supporting Ukraine, met President Joe Biden to discuss the upcoming military aid package to US allies. Following the meeting, he announced that the aid package for Israel would be allocated separately from that intended for Ukraine and other American allies. Biden had previously requested House approval for a comprehensive $106 billion aid package. Mike Johnson, however, affirmed his commitment to continuing support for Ukraine.

As previously reported in our sitrep, Slovakia's new Prime Minister, Robert Fico, announced that his country would no longer provide military support to Ukraine. Now, Hungary and Slovakia have jointly opposed giving Ukraine €50 billion in aid as envisaged by a revised EU budget. Approval of this budget requires the unanimous support of all 27 EU member countries. The decision must be reached before the end of the year as part of the ongoing EU funding for Ukraine.

However, the EU is going to provide Ukraine with € 3 billion, derived from the interest generated by frozen Russian assets in Europe. It is worth noting that according to the estimate jointly prepared by the World Bank, UN, European Commission and Ukrainian authorities in March, the cost of rebuilding the country's infrastructure and economy is projected to be no less than $411 billion.

Analyst Covert Cabal who examined satellite images of Russian tank storage bases six months ago, recently reevaluated the count and compared the results. Since April 2023, approximately 400 tanks have disappeared from open storage areas, and a total of 1,200 tanks in the last year. This indicates a declining rate of restoration and deployment.

A significant number of old tanks have been withdrawn from storage: T-54/55 (52 units, indistinguishable from each other on the images) and T-62 (198 units). It is likely that we have seen these T-54/55 tanks on trains in March, June and July, the total number of tanks on these three trains is about 52 units. The most significant storage reduction was observed with T-62 tanks, possibly because they are easier to repair. The number of T-64 tanks in storage has slightly increased since they are not repairable due to the unavailability of spare parts, as the factory producing them is located in Kharkiv.

Newer tanks like the T-80 (32 units) were rarely taken out of storage. We assume that both the more widespread T-72 (106 units) and T-80 tanks are being modernized: T-72 to the 2022 model T-72B3, and T-80 to T-80BVM. However, there seems to be insufficient capacity to do this quickly. It appears that the urgent need for equipment over the past year was met with old tanks that could be quickly prepared for deployment on the front line, while tanks requiring spare parts were gradually withdrawn from storage and restored.

If we assume that the same number of T-80 tanks were taken from indoor storage as from open storage areas, Russia is modernizing and supplying only ten of these tanks per month to the front line. This is half of what was initially estimated at the beginning of the year. The difficulty in restoring and modernizing T-80 tanks might be due to the fact that their gas turbine engines have not been produced at the Kaluga Motor-Building Plant since the 1990s. It was only on Sept. 24, 2023 that it became known through a Ministry of Defense’s Zvezda TV channel report that their production had resumed (in general, expanding such production is more challenging than producing diesel engines or other spare parts).

T-72 tanks are also undergoing limited modernization, approximately 17 units per month, plus a potentially comparable number from hangars.

We anticipate that at the current deconservation rate, considering the necessity to disassemble some tanks for spare parts, the old T-54, T-55 and T-62 tanks, which do not require factory repairs and are sent directly from storage facilities to the front, may be depleted within 6-8 months. It remains uncertain whether the industry can accelerate the modernization of T-72 and T-80 tanks by that time to keep up with the front's needs.

Recently, General Oleg Makarevich was replaced by General Mikhail Teplinsky as the head of the Group of Troops “Dnepr.” This removal is likely linked to the successes achieved by Ukrainian sabotage and reconnaissance groups and the formation of bridgeheads on the left bank of the Dnipro river. However, we do not believe it will impact the course of the war.

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov stated that former Wagner Group mercenaries are joining the Akhmat unit. (The original post mentioned them joining the special forces of Rosgvardia [the Russian National Guard]). Pro-Wagner Telegram channels deny the transfer of remaining units from the Wagner Group to Rosgvardia. However, it is not surprising that some individual mercenaries, who once fought with the Wagner Group, are joining the Akhmat unit.

The main author of the Oryx project, previously involved in counting visually confirmed vehicle losses, has permanently concluded his activities and deleted his Twitter account. Volunteers who assisted him plan to continue their work.