September 22, 2023

Sitrep for Sept. 20–22, 2023 (as of 8 a.m.)

Frontline Situation Update

Based on new video footage showing Ukrainian armored vehicles beyond a “dragon’s teeth” line of concrete pyramids, it can be concluded that the Armed Forces of Ukraine have achieved a local breach of the Surovikin line on the Zaporizhzhia axis. Marder 1A3 infantry fighting vehicles and Stryker armored personnel carriers were observed advancing along a dirt road toward the village of Verbove, deploying smoke screens and disembarking troops near Russian positions, before coming under Russian artillery fire. Another video from that area shows an M113 APC arriving to evacuate Ukrainian troops from the battlefield. It appears that the AFU were unable to establish a foothold in the area. The challenge with crossing fortified defensive structures through only a few unblocked paths lies in the fact that Russian soldiers know where those locations are in advance. Meanwhile, once Ukrainian armor crosses anti-tank ditches, there is no turning back, as all the surrounding areas are mined.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrived in Canada on Sept. 21 and met Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He is scheduled to address the Canadian Parliament during his visit.

During the meeting held with Joe Biden in Washington the day before, a new military aid package for Ukraine from the United States was announced. However, the ATACMS tactical ballistic missiles were not included. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stated that their delivery to Ukraine is not currently planned but did not rule out future shipments. The main focus of these negotiations was to secure stable deliveries of air defense systems during the winter when Russian forces are expected to renew attempts to disrupt Ukraine's power grid. In connection with this, Biden mentioned that the US will provide Ukraine with a second battery of the MIM-23 HAWK surface-to-air missile system and plan to make stable deliveries of HAWK and other systems every month throughout the winter. The capabilities in this package, valued at up to $325 million, include:

  • 155mm artillery rounds, including dual-purpose improved conventional munitions (DPICM);
  • Additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS);
  • Avenger air defense systems and ammunition;
  • AIM-9M missiles for air defense (could also be launched from F-16s);
  • 12.7mm or .50 caliber machine guns to counter UAVs;
  • Anti-armor systems and missiles and a range of other weapons;
  • Over 3 million rounds of small arms ammunition;
  • 59 light tactical vehicles.

Strikes on Ukrainian Territory

As a result of the first Russian missile strike on Ukraine's energy infrastructure in six months, several energy facilities were damaged, and electricity was temporarily cut off in 398 localities in the Rivne, Kyiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv and Zhytomyr regions. During the missile strike on the distribution station in Rivne, two buildings and five vehicles were also damaged.

On the morning of Sept. 21, as a result of a Russian strike on a hotel in the city of Cherkassy, 10 people were injured and six were sent to a hospital. The Dva mayora [Two Majors] pro-Russian Telegram channel claims that the hotel housed foreign military instructors, but there are no signs of military presence in the available photographs. This claim can only be confirmed if corresponding obituaries emerge.

Additionally, on the night of Sept. 21:

  • the RuAF launched an attack with 20 missiles targeting Kyiv; as a result, seven people were injured, including a child in the city, and two more people were injured in the Kyiv region;

Moreover, as a result of Russian strikes on Ukrainian territory:

  • in the city of Kharkiv, two people were injured, and a warehouse was destroyed;
  • in Nikopol, Dnipropetrovsk region, at least three people were injured;
  • in the city of Kherson, three people were killed, and five more were injured when a dormitory and a residential building were hit (there were no traces of military presence in these buildings either).

On the night of Sept. 22, the town of Kurakhove, Donetsk region, was hit. As a result,13 people were injured, residential buildings were damaged and a fire broke out.

On Sept. 20, an AGM-88 HARM missile fell in Donetsk.

In addition, on Sept. 20, Ukrainian forces launched a missile attack on a facility in Crimea. According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the Skhemy [Schemes] project, which studied satellite images, a reserve command post of the Russian Black Sea Fleet was hit and largely destroyed during the attack. However, it remains unclear whether it was in operation. Our team will be vigilant for obituaries that might be related to this strike.

The Russian Black Sea Fleet has withdrawn all submarines from Sevastopol. According to information from the Crimean Wind pro-Ukrainian Telegram channel, , the only submarine at the dock in the South Bay of Sevastopol is the captured Ukrainian Zaporizhzhia submarine. It is worth noting that this will not prevent submarines from launching 3M-54 Kalibr cruise missiles, as their flight ranges are sufficient to reach any target in Ukraine from any point in the Black or Azov Seas.

A video has been published confirming that the target of the Russian strike on Kharkiv on Sept. 16 was the Kharkiv Armored Vehicle Plant. The video shows a hit on one of the plant's workshops.

Russia's Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu visited Iran, where he inspected various missiles and air defense systems.

In commemoration of the anniversary of the mobilization, CIT and Vazhnyye Istorii [IStories, independent Russian investigative media outlet], together with a team of volunteers, have released a piece on mobilized soldiers killed in the war. By analyzing obituaries obtained from open sources, journalists discovered that more than half of the approximately three thousand mobilized soldiers that were killed, died within the first five months of the mobilization.

It has come to light that Denis Slyusarev, a mobilized father of a large family, was killed in the war. He was drafted in September 2022 when his wife was expecting their third child. His wife sought assistance from various authorities to bring her husband back home. She had two meetings with Governor of the Krasnoyarsk region Mikhail Kotyukov who promised to help. Eventually, Slyusarev was killed in the Zaporizhzhia region on Sept. 14, without ever having the opportunity to meet his third child.

The regular fall conscription campaign is scheduled to start on Oct. 1, however it is doubtful that an order to postpone it will be issued by that time. That gives us reasons to believe that a second wave of mobilization will not occur before the New Year.

Consequently, soldiers currently deployed on the frontline are unlikely to be rotated, as there are not enough troops in reserve to replace them.

We are aware that many conscripts are forced to sign contracts with the MoD through blackmail and threats, and up to 30% of conscripts end up signing contracts in some military units. Therefore, we remind those who have turned 27 but have not yet been issued a military ID that they should get transferred to the reserve before Dec. 31, so as not to fall under the spring conscription campaign.

Ukraine’s Main Directorate of Intelligence has claimed that saboteurs blew up two airplanes and one helicopter at Chkalovsky air base, Moscow region, on Sept. 18. It has not  yet been confirmed by other sources and we have not seen any noticeable damage in satellite images. Note that Chkalovsky is an important air base as all the international delegations depart from it and it is also where Russian soldiers are delivered to after a prisoner exchange.

On Sept. 21, several Crimean Telegram channels reported powerful blasts in Sevastopol. Pro-Russian governor of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhaev explained that these were military exercises taking place in the city. We have not yet seen any reports of the strike impact from the Ukrainian side or details of the targets that were hit from independent sources.