November 1, 2023

Sitrep for Oct. 30-Nov. 1, 2023 (as of 7:30 a.m.)

Strikes on Ukrainian Territory

The frequency of Russian loitering munition and missile strikes on Ukrainian territory has increased in recent days. This escalation is possibly due to the approaching winter and may be a prelude to a new campaign of attacks on civilian targets aimed at influencing the political situation in Ukraine.

On Oct. 30 and 31, Russian forces heavily shelled the right bank of the Dnipro River, causing significant civilian casualties and damaging civilian infrastructure:

  • On the night of Oct. 30, a residential house in Kherson caught fire due to a strike, resulting in the death of an 85-year-old woman;
  • The same day, an attack on the village of Antonivka in the Kherson suburbs resulted in one 63-year-old woman killed and one 62-year-old man injured.
  • On Oct. 31, a person died in a car fire caused by a strike in the Dniprovskyi district of Kherson.
  • The same day, a massive attack on central Kherson injured two people and damaged several warehouses.

Additionally, on Oct. 31, two people were killed in a Ukrainian strike in the Budyonnivskyi district of Donetsk.

A video was published showing a Kh-38 missile attack by the Russian Armed Forces on the bridge over the Sukhi Yaly River in the village of Kostiantynivka, Donetsk region. As the aftermath of the strike is not shown, the extent of the damage remains unknown.

On Oct. 30, Russian air defense positions in the area of Olenivka in Crimea were hit, according to some sources, with a US-made long-range ATACMS tactical ballistic missile. If the information is true, then it is the first time that these missiles have been used to attack the territory of Crimea. According to the Astra Telegram channel, 17 servicemen were injured as a result of the strike, while the VChK-OGPU Telegram channel claims that there were more than 20 wounded, which may be an indirect confirmation that an ATACMS missile with a cluster warhead was used.

On the night of Oct. 28, in the occupied city of Volnovakha, Donetsk region, nine people, including two children, were killed in a residential house. At first, certain “Kadyrovtsy [nominally National Guard and Police units loyal to Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov] were claimed to have been involved: allegedly, household members declined to give them moonshine for free. However, 21-year-old Anton Sopov and 28-year-old Stanislav Rau, contract soldiers from the Far East serving in the 155th Naval Infantry Brigade of the Pacific Fleet were later detained (Notably, the Group of Troops “East” does operate in this area). The detainees stated that the motive behind the murders was a domestic quarrel with the men, and the children were allegedly shot by mistake. However, photographs of those killed refute the latter assertion: the gunfire was deliberate, with many victims, including children, apparently shot in the head. Judging by the fact that no one woke up, a weapon with a silencer was likely used.

Photos (still images from a video) of the bodies of executed Ukrainian soldiers with their hands tied behind their backs have been published. It is not possible to determine any details from them, including the date of the incident.

Researchers compared satellite images of the Berdiansk airport on Sept. 29 and on Oct. 29 (it was attacked by an ATACMS tactical ballistic missile on Oct. 17) and found that all surviving helicopters had been relocated from this airport to others. It is likely that a decision was made to move all Russian helicopters out of the range of ATACMS missiles within the occupied territories. This can have a significant impact on combat operations: helicopters will take longer to reach the frontline, giving the Armed Forces of Ukraine more opportunities to spot them, and accomplishing combat tasks will require more time and fuel.

In previous sitreps, we reported on the deliveries of artillery ammunition from North Korea to Russia. According to Estonian intelligence, a thousand containers were shipped within a month, containing 300,000 to 350,000 rounds.

Based on the latest satellite imagery of a munition depot in Tikhoretsk, Krasnodar region, information from Russian and North Korean ports, as well as insights from their own well-informed source, the Frontelligence Insight team, founded by Ukrainian military analyst Tatarigami, has concluded that in the past two months, over two thousand munition containers, totaling approximately half a million 122mm and 152mm rounds, have already been delivered.

While this estimate appears plausible, it is essential to note that the containers might contain not only the mentioned howitzer rounds but also larger Grad MLRS rockets and potentially even spare artillery barrels or other military equipment. In such a scenario, the estimate could be overstated.

A video has emerged of a cargo train in the Amur region carrying D-30 122mm howitzers allegedly originating from North Korea. This assessment appears groundless due to the lack of markings indicating their North Korean origin, while Russia does not face a shortage of guns. This gives us reasons to believe that the train must be coming from one of the Ministry of Defense depots in the Far East.

Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte informed Volodymyr Zelenskyy that F-16 fighter aircraft will arrive at a training center in Romania in two weeks. We expected more rapid deliveries, however, it is possible that simulator training is already in full swing.

The Kyiv International Institute of Sociology published the results of its latest survey: from May 2022 to October 2023, Ukrainians' trust in the Verkhovna Rada [Ukrainian Parliament] decreased from 58% to 21%, trust in the Cabinet of Ministers dropped from 74% to 39% and trust in the telethon [television marathon fundraising event] decreased from 69% to 48%. Trust in Zelenskyy also declined from 91% to 76%. This could be related to overly optimistic expectations for the Ukrainian offensive this year. However, most likely, it is not the sole reason, as the decline is shown over a year and a half, from May 2022.

Dmytro Kukharchuk, battalion commander from the 3rd Assault Brigade of the AFU, stated in an interview that the Ukrainian society's expectations were overheated with promises of a quick victory, and now, with no rapid success, people are disappointed, and societal support is waning.

Time magazine published an article about the pessimistic attitude of Ukraine's allies toward the war. Zelenskyy claims that no one abroad believes in Ukraine's victory as much as he does, and convincing partners, unhappy with corruption in the country, to continue supporting Ukraine is becoming increasingly challenging. However, Zelenskyy also notes that freezing the conflict in its current state will equal defeat.

In the previous sitrep, we reported that the new Speaker of the US House of Representatives stated that the military aid package to Israel would be allocated separately from aid to Ukraine and other allied countries. President Biden has promised to veto any decision on military aid that includes only Israel without mentioning Ukraine. Biden insists on the approval of his proposed $106 billion military aid package, of which approximately $60 billion is intended for Ukraine.

Unlike some analysts, we did not have inflated expectations for the Ukrainian offensive, and do not consider it a failure. This conflict represents the first war between adversaries of comparable strength in the modern era of technological advancement, and its outcome was always going to be uncertain. At this point, it is clear that the war will be prolonged, and it is necessary to continue advocating for Ukraine's support, military aid deliveries, and the restoration of its energy infrastructure. However, it is important to bear in mind that various bureaucratic delays are inevitable.

At present, the only way the Russian side could potentially achieve short-term success is through a general mobilization. In our perspective, the Kremlin's most favorable scenario entails freezing the conflict in its current state, restoring the Russian Army over the course of a year or two, and subsequently launching a new offensive.