September 7, 2023

Sitrep for Sept. 6–7, 2023 (as of 9 a.m.)

Strikes on Ukrainian and Russian Territory

On Sept. 6, a missile strike rocked Kostiantynivka, a town in the Donetsk region under the control of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The missile hit a bustling city market at 2:04 p.m. local time, leaving 16 dead and 33 injured. Photos and videos of the aftermath of the strike have been circulated by various media outlets worldwide.

CCTV footage published on President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s official Telegram channel captured not only the moment of impact, but also the preceding few seconds when bystanders turn their heads, alerted by the sound of the incoming missile. Additionally, the missile’s reflection can be seen on the roofs of two parked cars in different frames of the video. Based on the geolocation of the video, and these reflections, we can say with a high degree of confidence that the missile flew in from the north-west.

The nearest Russian positions are located approximately 18–19 km east and southeast of Kostiantynivka, as to the northwest, the missile could only have been launched from Russian territory in the vicinity of Grayvoron in the Belgorod region at a distance of about 250 km. Since we consider such a scenario to be unlikely, it is reasonable to assume that it was an accidental Ukrainian missile strike.

This version is also indirectly supported by a report about missile launches from aircraft south of Druzhkivka posted at 2:01 p.m. by a pro-Russian Telegram channel, where locals loyal to Russia report on Ukrainian Air Force activity. Druzhkivka is located just northwest of Kostiantynivka.

According to the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, it was a S-300 SAM system strike. Although Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valerii Zaluzhnyi claimed in January that Russian forces were hitting Kyiv with S-300 or S-400 SAM missiles, the Ukrainian side provided no evidence that Russia use anti-aircraft missiles against ground targets at ranges of 200 km or more. Additionally, since Kostiantynivka is located close to the frontline, it is unclear why the Russian side would launch long-range missiles from the Belgorod region to hit the town.

Pro-Russian Telegram channels assume that it was an AGM-88 HARM missile. The AFU regularly uses such missiles in the Donetsk region—for example, yesterday we reported a hit by such a missile on a residential building in Donetsk. There were also other incidents near Horlivka; fragments of a HARM missile were found on Sept. 1 near Holmivskyi, 30 kilometers southeast of Kostiantynivka.

It should be noted that at the explosion site, there is no large crater, but the asphalt, building walls, and vehicles are riddled with holes from prefabricated fragments (these can be compared, for example, to the damage from a HARM missile strike on a house in Donetsk on April 19). Furthermore, the fireball in a video from a missile test and the recording from Kostiantynivka were compared, and they appear quite similar, although the low quality of the footage does not allow for definitive conclusions.

The scale of destruction was increased by the fire that occurred after the explosion—the video captures the moment when severed power lines short-circuit.

Currently, there are no photos of the missile debris, making it impossible to identify it. In the reflections seen in the video, no details of its construction can be discerned. Despite the existence of missiles capable of making turns in the air (e.g., the 9K720 Iskander mobile short-range ballistic missile), in this case, there are far more direct and indirect pieces of evidence in favor of an accidental strike by an AGM-88 HARM missile.

On the night of Sept. 7 in Rostov-on-Don, the Ministry of Defense reported that air defense systems shot down two Ukrainian drones. Reports indicate that the explosion, caught on video, occurred near the building of the Southern Military District headquarters. According to Vasily Golubev, governor of the Rostov region, one of the drones fell in the western part of the city, and the other in the center, near house 42 on Pushkinskaya Street. Building facades and several cars were damaged, and one person was injured. Another drone, according to the Russian Ministry of Defense, was shot down over the Moscow region.

​Western Assistance

On Sept. 6, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Prime Minister of Denmark Mette Frederiksen visited Kyiv. Frederiksen announced the allocation of $43 million to Ukraine for recovery and humanitarian assistance, while Blinken pledged an aid package worth $1 billion, with the detailed composition of this package currently unknown.

The Department of Defense has announced additional security assistance to meet Ukraine's critical security and defense needs. The capabilities in this package, valued at up to $175 million, include:

  • Equipment to support Ukraine's air defense systems;
  • Additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS);
  • 155mm and 105mm artillery rounds;
  • 81mm mortars systems and rounds;
  • 120mm depleted uranium tank ammunition for Abrams tanks;
  • Tube-Launched, Optically-Tracked, Wire-Guided (TOW) missiles;
  • Javelin and AT-4 anti-armor systems;
  • Over 3 million rounds of small arms ammunition;
  • Tactical air navigation systems;
  • Tactical secure communications systems and support equipment;
  • Demolitions munitions for obstacle clearing; and
  • Spare parts, maintenance, and other field equipment.

Russia has requested a UN Security Council meeting on Sept. 12regarding the delivery of Western weapons to Ukraine.This is most likely related to the deliveries of depleted-uranium tank rounds.

A video has appeared, filmed 8-9 kilometers away from Urozhaine, in which a Ukrainian FPV drone unsuccessfully attempted to attack a Russian Kamov Ka-52 (Hokum B) attack helicopter. Based on the altitude at which the helicopter was positioned, it can be inferred that it was assuming a combat position to launch 9K121 Vikhr air-launched anti-tank missiles. Such an FPV drone is unable to catch up with a flying helicopter but may hit it head-on with a stroke of luck.

A video has been published showing the detection and strikes on a Russian ammunition storage facility using GMLRS rockets, in the Bakhmut direction (9M127 Vikhr air-launched anti-tank missiles for Ka-52 helicopters were reportedly stored there).

Photos of the use of UAVs equipped for mine-clearing, provided by Denmark to the AFU, have been published. Using a specialized scanner that detects magnetic anomalies, these drones can identify metallic objects up to three meters deep underground. This allows for maps to be created showing sappers the locations of potentially explosive objects.

The Russian Ministry of Defense has proposed amendments to the military registration regulations, allowing individuals in detention facilities to be registered for military service in penal institutions. For this purpose, the Federal Penitentiary Service will provide information to draft offices. This is another evidence of the insufficient number of volunteer fighters willing to participate in the war.

In Ulyanovsk, a newborn in a large family was named in honor of the Russian Army—Arsina, which stands for "Russian Army—the Strength of the People."

Researcher Michael Sheldon from the Bellingcat team geolocated a photograph 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, and his wife. The photo was published two days ago by Ksenia Sobchak, a Russian public figure, TV anchor, journalist, socialite and the daughter of Putin's one-time boss. It was taken in the parking lot of the "Podmoskovnye Vechera" restaurant in the elite Moscow region village of Zhukovka.

Member of the State Duma Defense Committee Viktor Zavarzin stated that they have found a "good" position "in the CIS" for Surovikin. It cannot be ruled out that there may be a connection to the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization).

Radio Free Europe analyzed recent satellite images of the Crimean Bridge from Sept. 3 and Sept. 5 on planet.com. They determined that Russian forces have installed a new span to replace the one damaged in an attack by unmanned surface vessels on July 17. It is likely that the bridge will soon be back in full operation.

Throughout the territory of Russia, regular attempts to set fire to various railway infrastructure continue. This problem is so widespread that there are warnings of life imprisonment for sabotage on relay cabinets on the South Ural Railway.

Romanian Minister of Defense Angel Tilvar confirmed that on the night of Sept. 4, Russian drone debris fell within the country's territory near the village of Plauru, which borders the Ukrainian city of Izmail in the Odesa region. Consequently, there is a need to enhance security measures. Nevertheless, we do not anticipate any significant repercussions.