September 13, 2023

Sitrep for Sept. 11–13, 2023 (as of 8:30 a.m.)

Frontline Situation Update

Ukrainian milblogger Tatarigami has marked recent traces of artillery strikes on satellite images of Novoprokopivka in the Orikhiv direction, south of Robotyne dated Sept. 10 noting that the scorch marks were not present on satellite images dated Sept. 6. Such traces indicate active fighting on the territory of the village, which, in turn, is a good indication of Ukrainian progress in this area over the past two days.

In addition, a video has appeared showing two tanks of the 116th Mechanized Brigade of the Armed Forces of Ukraine engaged in fighting northeast of Novoprokopivka. While shelling Russian positions, the tanks were unsuccessfully attacked by an ATGM and a Lancet loitering munition.

Pro-Russian war correspondent Semyon Pegov (a.k.a. Wargonzo) reports on a Ukrainian advance to the west from Robotyne, and combat activities near the village of Kopani. Thus, one can conclude that, in the Orikhiv direction, the AFU are expanding the western side of their bridgehead in the area of Robotyne. Earlier, fighting was mostly occurring further east, near the village of Verbove.

In the area of the bridgehead, Ukrainian forces have only gone through part of the minefields, as the gaps between defense lines are also mined, although the density of those minefields is unclear. Clearing the entire area of all of its mines does not appear to be an objective at the moment, as the AFU just need to create pathways in the minefields to attack Russian positions. At the same time, Oleksandr Khodakovskyi, a former field commander in the "DPR" who now commands a military unit of Russia's National Guard in the annexed "republic," previously stated that ever since Ukraine started using cluster munition strikes, the effectiveness of Russian minefields has reduced, since submunitions explode on the ground, detonating nearby mines over a larger area. Additionally, according to Pegov, the tactics of the Ukrainian forces to the west of Robotyne are sustained artillery shelling, razing Russian fortifications to the ground. In this case, the accompanying demining effect of cluster munition strikes should be more pronounced.

On the Donetsk axis, Ukrainian forces managed to secure control over a part of the village of Opytne near Avdiivka, located approximately 5 km north of the Donetsk airport. This has already been confirmed by Ukraine's Deputy Minister of Defense Hanna Maliar.

Additionally, the AFU have made advances in the Bakhmut direction, which is a part of the Donetsk axis, to the south from the town of Bakhmut. A video has surfaced showing Ukrainian soldiers moving calmly through the center of the village of Klishchiivka, indicating full control of the area by the AFU. Only the northern part of Klishchiivka remains contested. We believe that the complete liberation of this village is now a matter of time.

The significance of Klishchiivka lies, firstly, in the tactical heights it provides, as previously mentioned by Yevgeny Prigozhin [deceased owner of the Wagner Group]. They make it possible to advance towards the villages of Opytne and Zaitseve, which, should they be retaken, would allow for a semi-encirclement of Bakhmut. Secondly, the highway connecting Bakhmut and the city of Horlivka can be reached from Klishchiivka, making it possible to cut one of the supply routes of the Russian Armed Forces in this direction. Moreover, there is fighting in the Soledar area north of Bakhmut. All this implies that the AFU still view this direction as important, although the Zaporizhzhia axis remains the main priority, with the Orikhiv direction being part of it.

The 1430th Motorized Rifle Regiment of the RuAF whose members include drafted Moscow region residents have received only five T-55A tanks since it was formed a year ago. By regulation, a motorized rifle regiment must include a tank battalion equipped with 31 tanks.

Vladimir Putin has met with the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Vostochny spaceport. The main question is whether Russia will receive weapons and munitions from North Korea and, if yes, of what type and what Russia will give back in return. Based on previous agreements with Iran, we think that Russia will receive artillery rounds and possibly components to produce them which are in short supply in Russia. These may include propelling charges, gunpowder and nitrocellulose (a raw material used to produce gunpowder).

It is also possible that artillery gun barrels will be part of the deal (it is worth noting that artillery gun barrels wear out with use and, unless they are regularly replaced, lose precision and risk getting damaged). However, the issue of barrel replacement can only be dealt with once it reaches the higher command of the RuAF.

Another possibility is North Korean anti-tank missile systems. While not the most modern, these systems could nevertheless be of use to Russia along the frontline as anti-tank missiles are in short supply (assuming the RuAF General Staff is aware of this problem).

We do not think that Russia is in need of more rifles or towed artillery. Nor do we think that the transfer of T-55 or T-65 tanks is likely since this could undermine Russia’s image as a leading supplier of military vehicles to the rest of the world.

In exchange for weapons, Russia could theoretically provide food, fertilizers or petroleum products which is a potentially simpler transaction compared to transferring technologies, such as those related to submarines (North Korea has recently launched a modernized submarine). On the other hand, the fact that this meeting took place at the spaceport could also suggest that Kim Jong Un is interested in, for instance, reconnaissance satellites, and it seems quite plausible that discussions about the transfer of relevant technologies to North Korea might be underway.

Footage showing a discussion between the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, and staff analysts has been released. On a large screen, Project OWL maps are visible, and on one of the monitors, maps of the Institute for the Study of War are displayed. The use of data from independent researchers by government officials is not a novelty; perhaps they are shown because this information is inherently public—it is known from Teixeira files that the Pentagon also creates excellent maps, but they are classified.

Western Assistance

The German government has commissioned the automotive and arms manufacturer Rheinmetal to transfer 40 more Marder 1A3 infantry fighting vehicles, owned by the Bundeswehr, to Ukraine.

In our previous sitrep, we reported that Japan would supply Ukraine with trucks equipped with crane manipulators for "humanitarian mine-clearing purposes" and were wondering how they would be used for this specific task. One of our viewers from Japan watched Japanese television reports and found out that these trucks are actually armored excavators with a mine trawl device instead of a traditional shovel bucket.

Denmark has announced a military aid package worth $833 million to Ukraine, marking the largest contribution from the country to date. The package includes tanks, infantry fighting vehicles and ammunition for tanks and anti-aircraft guns. Denmark's Foreign Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen stated that after a year and a half of war, Denmark has exhausted its own reserves and is seeking new ways to assist Ukraine with weapons and technology by both placing orders with various factories, and international cooperation.

Continuing with previously discussed rumors, CNN, citing its sources, reports that Joe Biden will make a decision in the coming days regarding the delivery of long-range ATACMS tactical ballistic missiles to Ukraine.

During the night of Sept. 13, Russian forces once again attacked ports on the Danube using Shahed-136 drones, also known as Geran-2 loitering munitions. Details of the attack's consequences are currently unknown.

During a parliamentary session, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak revealed that on Aug. 24, when Russian soldiers attacked Ukrainian ports, two 3M-54 Kalibr cruise missiles were fired at a Liberian-flagged civilian vessel, and were successfully intercepted by Ukrainian air defense. The basis for concluding that the ship, rather than the port infrastructure, was the target of the attack remains unclear, especially given the attack's lack of success.

Putin has submitted a bill to the State Duma [lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia], proposing the establishment of a new holiday on Sept. 30, commemorating the "Reunification Day of Russia and Occupied Territories of Ukraine."

Additionally, Putin spoke at the Eastern Economic Forum, where he presented new, yet unverified statistics regarding the number of RuAF contract soldiers, Ukrainian armored vehicles destroyed, and AFU soldiers killed.

Mikhailo Podolyak, Advisor to the Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, has said that Ukraine will not conduct an investigation into the Kostiantynivka missile attack, stating that "everything is clear." According to his account, the market was struck by a missile fired from a Russian MLRS. He also noted that everything had been documented, and that "we will establish who launched the missile, and from what distance."

However, there are no Russian MLRS capable of launching rockets equipped with prefabricated fragments that would result in the kind of shrapnel damage observed at the point of impact. While the Tornado-S MLRS does possess warheads equipped with submunitions containing prefabricated fragments, they are much larger, and descend on their target with a parachute, causing the fragments to disperse horizontally. Similarly, while Russia does have rockets with cluster munition warheads and prefabricated fragments in its arsenal, we are confident that they were not used in this attack. The only MLRS rockets capable of causing the kind of damage we have observed at the market are the GMLRS rockets of the M30 family, launched from the HIMARS. However, we have excluded them from our analysis, as we do not believe Ukraine deliberately targets its own territories.