September 27, 2023

Sitrep for Sept. 25-27, 2023 (as of 8:30 a.m.)

Photos of a fire in the Moscow region, geolocated in the area of Shchyolkovo, are being actively discussed in Ukrainian Telegram channels. There are speculations that the fire may be related to the Chkalovsky airfield or the Russian railway troops training center (it was later discovered that the smoke in the photo was coming from a burning private house in the village of Zagoryansky in the Shchyolkovo district).

Frontline Situation Update

During the past week there were no significant movements on the frontline, however,  in the last two days, the Armed Forces of Ukraine launched a massive attack in the Orikhiv direction in the area of villages of Robotyne-Verbove-Novoprokopivka. This was reported by pro-Russian Zaporizhzhya region officials: Russian-appointed Zaporizhzhia vice-governor Volodymyr Rohov and Dmitry Rogozin [former Director General of Russia's space agency Roscosmos and Russian-appointed Senator from the Zaporizhzhia region]. A video of a strike on a Ukrainian infantry fighting vehicle, geolocated on the outskirts of Verbove, was published, as well as a video of the destruction of a Marder 1A3 infantry fighting vehicle in the same area, that was confirmed from the ground.

It is reported that Ukrainian forces are not only attacking Verbove, but are also advancing to the northeast towards Novofedorivka. The pro-Russian Telegram channel VDV za Teplinskogo [Airborne Forces for Teplinsky] has expressed concerns that the AFU may encircle Russian Airborne Forces units near Verbove. However, neither we, nor other military analysts, see any indications that an encirclement will occur. It is quite possible that such reports are made to demonstrate the incompetence of the new command appointed to replace the ex-commander of the Airborne Forces, Colonel General Mikhail Teplinsky.

Heavy fighting continues in the southern part of the Bakhmut direction, yet there are still no advancements.

Strikes on Ukrainian and Russian Territory

On Sept. 25 Ukrainian forces hit an ammunition storage facility in the town of Sorokyne (Krasnodon) in the Luhansk region, 138 km from the line of contact with either a drone or a long-range missile. There is a video showing an explosion with secondary detonations and satellite images of the aftermath of the strike. The Astra Telegram channel uncovered  that the strike targeted a missile and artillery armaments depot belonging to the 2nd Army Corps. As a result, five Russian soldiers were wounded, two of them presumably died in hospital. Three civilians also received minor injuries.

The Russian Ministry of Defense published a video of a strike on a Ukrainian ammunition depot in Kyselivka, Kherson region carried out on Sept. 25, where secondary detonations can also be seen.

On Sept. 25, as a result of another Russian airstrike on Beryslav, Kherson region, three people were killed. In addition, the village of Lvove, west of Beryslav, was hit allegedly with two air-dropped bombs, resulting in one civilian killed. Pro-Russian Telegram channels claim a military facility was targeted.

On the night of Sept. 26, as a result of a loitering munitions attack in the Odesa region, the Orlivka checkpoint on the border with Romania, warehouses and a large number of trucks were damaged. Two drivers were injured.

Russian forces managed to destroy a Ukrainian Mikoyan MiG-29 fighter jet at the Kulbakino airfield near Mykolaiv, approximately 50 km from the frontline. The video was captured from a Russian drone. This is not the first time loitering munitions and reconnaissance drones have been operating up to 70 km from the contact line.

On the morning of Sept. 26, authorities in the Kursk region reported a new attack by a Ukrainian drone, which dropped an explosive device on a substation in the village of Snagost, leaving seven villages without electricity. A source from the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) told BBC News Ukrainian that it was indeed an intelligence service drone that dropped the explosive device on the substation. It appears the SBU might have admitted to committing a war crime. He also added that the blackout in the Kursk region was a response to Russian strikes on Ukraine's energy infrastructure.

Dmitry Medvedev, Deputy Chairman of Russia's Security Council claimed that 325,000 people had signed contracts with the Russian Ministry of Defense since the beginning of the year. On Sept. 3, he mentioned a figure of 280,000 people, and on Aug. 3 it was 231,000. Thus, if the previously announced recruitment rate was about 1,600 people per day, it has now apparently increased to almost 2,000 people per day. These numbers, as before, are not confirmed by publicly available data.

At a meeting of the Russian MoD Military Collegium Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that a set of measures designed to extend until 2025 will make it possible to attain the set goals. This could be interpreted as laying the groundwork for a war that would last at least until 2025. Such an interpretation was later denied by the Moskovskij Komsomolets newspaper which claimed that Sergei Shoigu actually meant “plans to upgrade the capabilities of the military and build up its combat effectiveness.”

The Wagner Group is reportedly undergoing training in Crimea with the intention of returning to the frontline, although there is no reliable confirmation thereof.

It seems that various fragments of this Group are trying to appropriate the Wagner brand, although there is actually no single entity which should be taken into account in terms of its influence on the developments at the frontline.

The first Abrams tanks have reportedly arrived in Ukraine. It is expected that the delivery includes enhanced armor penetration depleted-uranium rounds which the USA promised to supply to Ukraine.

International media outlets are reporting news from Poland that may seem indicative of a rift among Ukrainian partners. Examples of this include statements made by Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki regarding the cessation of arms transfers to Ukraine, contradicted by President Andrzej Duda, and a recent post by the Rzeczpospolita newspaper regarding last year's incident involving a Ukrainian S-300 surface-to-air missile that landed on Polish territory. We believe that the reason behind these actions, including the reposting of a 2021 video in which migrants attempt to breach the Poland-Belarus border fence, is the upcoming mid-October elections. These actions are aimed at the domestic audience and are part of the ruling party's campaign. In reality, there is no evidence of a rift among Western partners of Ukraine.

In November 2022, the Russian side claimed unsuccessful attempts by Ukrainian saboteurs to storm the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. At that time, it did not appear plausible to us, as attacking a well-defended facility on the other side of the river is doomed to failure.

We have received a video from the telemarathon of the 1+1 Ukrainian channel, depicting Ukrainian special forces operations in the vicinity of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, which indeed occurred at that time. Based on our assessment, the group shown in the video consists of up to a hundred individuals. In the video, Ukrainian military personnel participating in these raids confirm that there were no plans to storm the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, and that only a few sabotage actions were conducted. Their goal was to exert pressure on Russian forces through disruptive attacks.