September 18, 2023

Sitrep for Sept. 15–18, 2023 (as of 10:30 a.m.)

Frontline Situation Update

Contrary to the prevailing belief that the Ukrainian offensive would stall with the onset of the muddy season, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has stated, in a recent interview with the American television channel CBS, that the change in weather would not impede the progress of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

In the southern part of the Bakhmut direction, the AFU have successfully liberated the village of Klishchiivka. Despite reports of ongoing fighting in the area, General Oleksandr Sysrkyi, commander of the Ukrainian Ground Forces, stated that the village had been fully recaptured, while Zelenskyy expressed his gratitude to the military.

Earlier, OSINT analyst Def Mon reported Ukrainian advances in the region, and noted that by the end of last week, only the northern part of Klishchiivka remained under Russian control. Based on video footage from the area, it appears that this village, much like Andriivka, has all but been razed to the ground as a result of intense combat.

We expect the AFU to continue advancing towards Kurdiumivka. Given the village’s elevated position, its liberation, as noted by Ukrainian milbloger Tatarigami, will enable the AFU to establish fire control over the road running from Bakhmut to Horlivka.

Reviewing the available information coming from the frontline, Def Mon noted an increasing number of videos showing captured Russian soldiers. It is unclear what exactly it is related to—perhaps it is in part, due to the increasing fatigue of Russian servicemen, who have been fighting for a long time without rotation or leave.

The AFU successfully attacked Russian positions on the Donetsk axis in the area of Svitlodarsk, destroying two Buk-M3 [SA-27 Grizzly] self-propelled medium-range surface-to-air missile systems of the Russian Armed Forces. They were said to have been protecting the nearby headquarters of a certain brigade and division of the Russian Airborne Forces (VDV). There was also a strike, reportedly with JDAM-ER precision guided bombs, on the area where the 31st Air Assault Brigade from Ulyanovsk was deployed. Following the strike, the Telegram channel of Oleksandr Khodakovskyi published an obituary of the commander of the 31st Air Assault Brigade, Colonel Andrey Kondrashkin, probably killed as a result of the attack.

Photos have also surfaced showing the destruction of a Russian BM-30 (9K58) Smerch MLRS. It is only the second time that such a long-range system has been destroyed since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, as they are usually located deep in the rear.

Strikes on Ukrainian and Russian Territory

Photos of the Russian small missile ship Samum have been published, which, according to the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), was damaged during the attack by an unmanned surface vessel. Russia's Ministry of Defense acknowledged the attack but stated that the Ukrainian vessel was destroyed. The photo shows that the ship is being towed and has a slight list at the stern. However, experts stated that for this type of ship, this angle of list is absolutely normal and corresponds to photos of an intact ship. Towing a ship to port is also normal. Whether this attack was successful will become clear if new photos of the Samum in dry dock or next to repair cranes are published.

On Sept. 16, according to various estimates, the RuAF carried out four to five strikes on the city of Kharkiv, injuring five people. Initially, it was stated that an S-300 SAM system was used, however, later the head of the investigation department of the Kharkiv police, Serhii Bolvinov, reported that fragments of a Iskander-K cruise missile were found at the site of the strikes. Pro-Russian propaganda states that the target was the Kharkiv armored vehicle plant. The MoD made the same statement, while a Telegram channel associated with the MoD published geolocation data of the hits as evidence.

On Sept. 15, Nova Kakhovka was hit, resulting in damage to residential houses. One person was killed and 12 injured. Both sides accuse each other of this incident, although Ukrainian sources suggest it may have been accidental. Based on footage of the strike, geolocation experts identified where the video was shot from and determined approximate directions from which the munition could have come: most likely south, southeast, or east. All of these directions point to the left bank of the Dnipro River, controlled by Russian forces.

There is no crater at the impact site, which is typical for air-dropped bombs, however, we assume that the bomb hit a small single-story structure with concrete walls resembling a garage, visible in satellite images, and destroyed it.

Considering that on Sept. 16, Russian forces conducted an airstrike using air-dropped bombs equipped with the UMPK [Universal Gliding and Correction Module] on Beryslav, located opposite Nova Kakhovka across the Dnipro River, it is plausible that a bomb with a faulty UMPK system could have fallen on Nova Kakhovka, similar to previous incidents in Belgorod and Donetsk.

One of our subscribers has provided CIT with exclusive photos featuring the results of the Ukrainian attack on the Sevastopol shipyard which damaged the Minsk large landing ship and the Rostov-on-Don submarine. Earlier satellite photos did not show a second hole in the submarine’s starboard. Judging by this newly available intelligence neither vessel will be able to carry out combat missions any longer.

The AFU Special Operations Command claimed that their troops had landed in Crimea where they had reportedly identified the targets for a strike and guided missiles to their targets (a  video has been published, although it is not clear what it is supposed to be showing). It is not quite clear why all this was needed for launching a strike on stationary targets, however, it is possible Ukrainian forces wanted to monitor the scale of damage.

Putin has declared that since the start of the year 300,000 individuals have signed a contract with the Russian Ministry of Defense.

Chairman of the Defense Committee of the State Duma [lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia] Andrey Kartapolov stated that there are no rotations for military personnel on the frontline. Mobilized soldiers are entitled to leave once every six months, and they will return home only after the end of the war. We assume that this statement was made in response to requests from relatives of mobilized soldiers to return them home.

For example, relatives of mobilized soldiers from the 1442 Regiment from the Altai region [Russia's federal subject] recorded a video address in which they complained that their loved ones had been gone for several months and were kept on the frontline of defense without rotation. The men are tired and demoralized, yet commanders still throw them into battle,  threatening to kill them, and those who refuse are subjected to beatings.

Higher quality photos of General Sergey Surovikin, ex-Commander-in-Chief of the Aerospace Forces, Deputy Commander (and former Commander) of Russia's Joint Group of Forces in Ukraine, have emerged from Algeria. It is surprising to note that among the entire delegation, he is the only one dressed in sand-colored uniform and appears to have no shoulder straps, as if he had been stripped of all ranks and positions.

Lately, several representatives of the RuAF have visited various African countries. Many speculate that the Ministry of Defense is attempting to assume the roles in the region previously carried out by the Wagner Group. For example, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Yunus-Bek Yevkurov visited Libya and Burkina Faso.

In a video recording of the Russian delegation's arrival in Mali, Major General Andrey Averyanov, head of the 29155th military unit subordinated to the GRU [Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the RuAF] known for engaging in sabotage worldwide, was seen.

For the first time since Russia's exit from the grain deal, civilian vessels have arrived at the Black Sea port of Chornomorsk in the Odesa region. Two bulk carriers under the flag of Palau, the Resilient Africa and Aroyat, will load approximately 20,000 tons of wheat destined for Asian and African countries. Their crews consist of citizens from Turkey, Azerbaijan, Egypt and Ukraine.