12 AUGUST 2023
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has observed tactically significant successes of the Defence Forces in the western part of Zaporizhzhia Oblast.
Details: Analysts note that Ukrainian forces have made tactically significant gains in the western part of Zaporizhzhia Oblast as counteroffensive operations continued in at least three frontline areas on 11 August.
Geolocation data released on 11 August confirms that Ukrainian forces have reached the northern outskirts of Robotyne (10km south of Orikhiv) in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast, although the permanence and extent of these positions are unclear.
The ISW recalls that Ukrainian forces have been conducting regular ground attacks towards the settlement of Robotyne for several weeks now as part of operations aimed at weakening Russian defences.
According to the report, the ability of the Defence Forces to advance to the outskirts of Robotyne, which Russian forces have spent considerable effort, time and resources defending, remains significant, even if Ukrainian gains to date have been limited.
Geolocation footage released on 11 August shows that Ukrainian forces have advanced to Urozhaine (9 km south of Velyka Novosilka) along the border of Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia oblasts.
According to the experts, Ukrainian counteroffensive operations seem to be forcing the Russian military to laterally redeploy Russian forces defending the western part of Zaporizhzhia Oblast. This indicates that Ukrainian efforts there could significantly weaken Russian defences.
The ISW also points out that Russia’s practice of conducting lateral redeployments in key areas of the front is likely to further weaken Russian defensive lines in general, as operations on both sides entrench Russian units in certain areas of the front.
These lateral reinforcements are likely to disrupt Russian offensive and defensive operations in the sectors from which they come and threaten to rapidly degrade the forces that the Russian military uses as reinforcements.
Furthermore, it is noted that Russia does not currently appear to have significant available forces that it could bring in for reinforcements without jeopardising other sectors of the front.
Ukrainian counteroffensive operations have drawn elite Russian formations and units to the Bakhmut area and continue to hold them there.
Russian forces have also deployed significant numbers of troops for localised offensives in the area of Kupiansk and Svatove, which are also aimed at drawing Ukrainian troops away from the areas of Ukrainian counteroffensive operations.
“Even if the Russian command determines to end localised offensive pushes in these areas it would likely take some time for Russian forces to lower the tempo of their operations and withdraw forces for lateral redeployments without opening up areas of the front to successful Ukrainian counterattacks. The limited Russian lateral redeployment of elements of the 7th VDV Division from the left bank of Kherson Oblast in June appears to have set conditions that allowed Ukrainian forces to more freely operate in the area, and Ukrainian forces will likely similarly exploit weakened Russian groupings in other areas of the front where they are actively conducting offensive operations in the event of further Russian movements,” the review says.
On the other hand, analysts say, Ukrainian troops have reserves that allow them to rotate units instead of relying on redeploying units engaged in defensive and offensive operations to other parts of the front without rest.
In the ISW’s opinion, Ukrainian forces are likely to be able to maintain the necessary combat capability required to continue to degrade Russian forces defending themselves in the southern part of Ukraine and the Bakhmut area, while also holding back Russian advances along the Kupiansk-Svatove-Kreminna line.
And the lateral redeployment of Russian troops is likely to increase the likelihood that the Russians will be forced to retreat to prepared defensive positions without significant support in the event of a Ukrainian breakthrough.
“The further degradation of defending Russian forces thus creates opportunities for any Ukrainian breakthrough to be potentially decisive,” the experts conclude.
To quote the ISW’s Takeaways on 11 August:
- Ukrainian forces made tactically significant advances in western Zaporizhia Oblast and reached the outskirts of Robotyne amid continued counteroffensive operations on at least three sectors of the front on 11 August.
- Ukrainian counteroffensive operations appear to be forcing the Russian military to laterally redeploy Russian forces defending in western Zaporizhia Oblast, indicating that the Ukrainian effort there may be significantly degrading Russian defences.
- Russia’s necessary practice of conducting lateral redeployments to key sectors of the front will likely further weaken Russian defensive lines in aggregate, as both Russian and Ukrainian operations are fixing Russian units to certain sectors of the front.
- The further degradation of defending Russian forces creates opportunities for any Ukrainian breakthrough to be potentially decisive.
- Russian forces appear to be intensifying offensive operations northeast of Kupyansk, likely to draw Ukrainian forces away from more operationally significant areas of the front.
- Russian forces conducted another series of missile strikes in Ukraine on 11 August and targeted a Ukrainian airfield for the second time in the last week.
- Russian sources claimed that the Wagner Group appears to be maintaining a presence at its facilities in Belarus, though the status of its rumoured withdrawal to Russian remains unclear.
- The Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) is struggling with significant personnel shortages, especially in occupied territories in Ukraine, amid a broader power shift between other Russian internal security organs.
- The Kremlin and Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) are likely attempting to deflect blame for Ukrainian shelling in Russian border areas onto mid-level officers.
- Russian forces conducted offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, on the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line, and in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast area on 11 August and advanced in some areas.
- Ukrainian forces conducted offensive operations on at least three sectors of the front on 11 August and advanced in the western Donetsk-eastern Zaporizhia Oblast border area and in western Zaporizhia Oblast.
- The Russian defence industrial base (DIB) has begun producing “Geran-2” drones, a modified version of the Iranian-produced Shahed-131/136 drone that will likely enable Russia‘s ability to maintain or potentially increase the frequency of Russia’s drone strikes on Ukraine.
- Russian occupation authorities are taking steps to make the upcoming regional elections in the Russian occupied territories appear to be fair and competitive.