September 4, 2023

Sitrep for Sept. 1–4, 2023 (as of 9 a.m.)

Frontline Situation Update

On Sept. 1, a video appeared showing Ukrainian soldiers walking along a dirt road east of Robotyne on the Zaporizhzhia axis. One can see several destroyed Russian military vehicles along the road and a line of concrete pyramids (part of the first line of Russian fortifications) in the distance.

OSINT analyst Def Mon, who shares our opinion that the Armed Forces of Ukraine are now fighting near the first line of defense, notes the arrival of Russian reserves on the Zaporizhzhia axis including the 76th Air Assault Division, the 7th Air Assault Division and a number of other formations. In his opinion, a certain slowdown in the Ukrainian offensive should be expected in the near future as their attacks will be focused mostly on Russian reserves and depots.

The 3rd Separate Assault Brigade of the AFU, still fighting in the Bakhmut direction, posted a new video geolocated near the railroad between Andriivka and Kurdiumivka. The video showing Russian soldiers ambushed by Ukrainian servicemen must have been filmed there as well. Both videos indicate that Ukrainian forces have made some progress in the direction of the aforementioned railway.

Additionally, Def Mon notes the Ukrainian advance in the area of Klishchiivka over the past week, marking it with a blue dotted line on the map, while a purple dotted line stands for previous AFU positions.

A rather difficult situation for the AFU has developed in the Svatove direction, in the area of Novoyehorivka, in the northern part of the Luhansk region. According to the Ukrainian side, the Russian Armed Forces continue their assault attempts on Ukrainian positions there, throwing Storm-Z units into battle. However, judging by a video showing the destruction of two Russian tanks with FPV kamikaze drones, the AFU succeeded in repelling these attacks and even managed to gradually recapture positions.

Strikes on Ukrainian and Russian Territory

On Sept. 1, Donetsk was massively attacked, including with the use of cluster munitions. Civilian infrastructure suffered significant damage. A 7-year-old girl was killed, and 10 people were injured in a strike on the Donetsk City shopping center.

Additionally, on the same day, Kherson was subjected presumably to mortar shelling. As a result, one person was killed when a private residence was hit.

According to Vyacheslav Gladkov, Governor of the Belgorod region, on Sept. 2, a projectile struck a private residence during an attack on the urban-type settlement of Urazovo, located approximately 10 km [6.2 mi] from the Ukrainian border. As a result, one person was killed, and two others were wounded with shrapnel and sent to a hospital.

On Sept. 2, Russian forces attacked Kramatorsk, Donetsk region, reportedly employing a Smerch MLRS. A cemetery and residential houses were damaged, but there is no information available regarding casualties. Symmetrical holes visible on the tail fins of the rocket that penetrated the ground in the photos suggest the use of the Smerch MLRS rather than the Uragan MLRS as its rocket tail fins feature an asymmetrical pattern.

Furthermore, on the same day, the Russian Ministry of Defense released a video showing Russian servicemen firing a Tornado-S 9K515 MLRS.

During the night of Sept. 3, Russian forces attacked the Reni seaport in the Odesa region using Shahed-136 (Geran-2) loitering munitions. According to the Ukrainian Air Force, out of 25 UAVs launched, 22 were successfully intercepted by air defense. The attack resulted in the destruction of a fuel storage facility and nearby fuel tanks, with two port employees reported injured.

The Russian Ministry of Defense announced another incident involving the destruction of unmanned surface vessels in the vicinity of the Crimean Bridge on the night of Sept. 2. However, no visual evidence has been provided to substantiate these claims.

Additionally, the Russian MoD reported the destruction of four high-speed boats carrying AFU troops heading toward the Tarkhankut Peninsula. This report closely resembles information we previously published.

A new audio message has emerged from General Popov, who was dispatched to Syria and formerly served as the commander of the 58th Combined Arms Army. In the message, he advised his former subordinates to continue reporting only accurate information to their superiors within the armed forces. He also disclosed that his dismissal came following a similar report to General Valery Gerasimov, Chief of the General Staff of the RuAF, during which Gerasimov allegedly nearly fainted.

There are numerous indications that the Ministry of Defense is attempting to assume roles previously carried out by the Wagner Group in the African region. Last week, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yunus-Bek Yevkurov visited Libya, where he met with Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar. Following this, he visited Burkina Faso and held talks with Ibrahim Traoré, the interim leader of Burkina Faso since the Sept. 30, 2022 coup d'état. They discussed the training of Burkina Faso military personnel in Russia and the issue of countering international terrorism.

Ukraine's Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov has resigned following a statement by Volodymyr Zelenskyy calling for his replacement. The specific reasons for Reznikov's dismissal have not been publicly disclosed. It is likely that his resignation is connected to cases of corruption within draft offices and military medical boards, and changes may also affect the supply of the AFU or the conduct of mobilization. Although there are speculations that the resignation may be related to the ongoing military offensive, in reality, combat activities are overseen by General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the Commander-in-Chief of the AFU, and General Oleksandr Syrskyi, the commander of the Ukrainian Ground Forces, therefore, we do not expect any changes on the battlefield as a result of Reznikov's resignation.

Western Assistance

In the previous sitrep, we reported that 200 Ukrainian military personnel had completed training in Germany for operating and maintaining M1 Abrams tanks.

According to Politico, citing a US Department of Defense official, Ukraine is slated to receive the first 10 of 31 promised Abrams tanks in mid-September.

Furthermore, this week, the Biden administration plans to announce the shipment of depleted-uranium munitions to Ukraine, which are likely intended for these tanks.

On Aug. 23, we reported that a ship transporting boats for the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine was spotted in the Bosporus Strait. New photos of these boats have emerged from the port of Constanta in Romania.

Rare photos of an air-dropped JDAM-ER bomb on a Ukrainian MiG-29 fighter have been published. However, despite them being deployed for several months, we have not yet seen any videos that would allow us to assess their effectiveness.

A video has emerged of a Ukrainian MT-LB multi-purpose armored vehicle, converted into an infantry fighting vehicle fortified with the Parus (Sail) combat module from the BTR-4 APC. It is worth noting that both sides are lacking infantry fighting vehicles on the frontline.

For the first time since the fall of 2022, the use of the Bayraktar TB2 UAV has been recorded. It struck a Russian boat in the south of the Kherson region, where unidentified cargo was being offloaded onto the riverbank. It is possible that in this area, Ukrainian forces have managed to sufficiently thin out Russian air defenses, or that Russia has simply reallocated air defense assets to more critical areas.

We have previously reported on the upcoming regional elections in Russia on Sept. 10, including as part of our joint investigation with journalists from Vazhnyye Istorii [IStories, independent Russian investigative media outlet] and a team of volunteers into the biographies of candidates running for parliament in occupied territories. One of the conclusions of the investigation was that people are reluctant to become candidates.

Furthermore, there is a shortage of law enforcement personnel to monitor the occupied territories. Fearing sabotage and attempts to disrupt the voting process, the occupation administration of the Zaporizhzhia region has assembled a civilian militia to perform police functions on the days of the elections.

In Mariupol, the occupation administration is rebuilding the Drama Theater which was almost destroyed as a result of Russian strikes. Construction is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2025.

We continue to monitor statements by Dmitry Medvedev [Deputy Chairman of Russia’s Security Council] and other Russian officials regarding volunteer fighters who have signed contracts with the MoD. On Aug. 3, Medvedev stated that since the beginning of the year, 231,000 people had signed contracts, and on Sept. 3 there were already 280,000 contracts signed. On Aug. 21, our editor of mobilization summaries, based on the plan to recruit more than 400,000 people by the end of the year, made a correct forecast that the number reported in September would be around 270-280 thousand people. It means that 50,000 people are being added to the official number every month.

At the same time, we see records of propaganda speeches by regional military commissars given at enterprises, where they admit that there have been much fewer contract soldiers recruited than planned. For example, on Aug. 21 such a video from Togliatti was published, and on July 28 a video from Kazan.

It is important to note that the presence of 300,000 soldiers mobilized during September and October of 2022 was evident from the large number of new units and heightened activity at training ranges. Currently, there is no evidence of the recruitment, movement or training of 280,000 people, even as  soldiers on the frontline regularly complain about the lack of rotation.

Andrey Gurulyov and Viktor Sobolev, members of the State Duma Defense Committee, confirmed that the plan is to recruit more than 400,000 contract soldiers by the end of the year. Sobolev also said that there are not enough people recruited at the moment.

The story about the Russian Mil Mi-8 helicopter, which landed in Poltava continues. The Main Directorate of Intelligence of Ukraine has published a film about the Russian Air Force. In it, among other things, the pilot of the 319th Separate Helicopter Regiment Maksim Kuzminov said that he had decided to surrender because he did not want to fight. He also said that during the landing of the helicopter he was injured, and the other two crew members did not want to surrender and were killed by Ukrainian soldiers.