ISW: Ukrainian advances point to ‘severe degradation’ of Russian units

September 19, 2023

Ukrainian front-line troops with a Leopard 2 tank in Zaporizhzhia Oblast on September 16, 2023. (Photo by Vincenzo Circosta/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Recent Ukrainian advances in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast and south of Bakhmut correspond with evidence that Russian units in those areas have suffered heavy losses, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) wrote in its Sept. 18 report.

The ISW identified a number of Russian front-line units, including the 42nd Motorized Rifle Division, that regularly fought Ukrainian troops during the earlier stages of the counteroffensive.

Following recent Ukrainian advances, these units appear to have withdrawn.

“The absence of recent reports and footage of these elements participating in combat engagements in western Zaporizhia Oblast suggests that casualties sustained during the first phases of the Ukrainian counteroffensive rendered them combat ineffective,” the ISW said.

The ISW also said that elements of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet appear to have retreated behind deeper defensive lines following Ukraine’s liberation of Robotyne.

Further, the ISW said that elite Russian units dedicated to counterattacking advancing Ukrainian troops have “likely suffered heavy losses in these operations.”

Russian units south of Bakhmut have also racked up heavy losses. The ISW said that Russia’s 72nd Motorized Brigade “has likely been rendered combat ineffective.”

The ISW’s report cautioned that it is too soon to tell exactly what level of degradation Russian units in western Zaporizhzhia and the Bakhmut sector have suffered, and that losses may vary across units.

However, the ISW said that “evidence currently available” points to heavy losses, including loss of combat effectiveness among elite Russian units.


  1. Such a nice analysis. One day I’m looking forward to reading ISW reports when it’s only reporting on the middle east or Asia as the Moskali will be gone and we are living in peace.

  2. Instead of enlarging the Russian Federation, Putin has triggered the disintegration of the evil Empire. Peripheral states will have to distance themselves from Moscow, out of pure demogralhic nevessity. The enormous blood toll, especially among the younger generation, is threatening their own future. To take part in this war is the road to ruin, so they will have to resist Putins demands. And even inside core Russia, the fight for survival will soon overwhelm any patriotic delusions. The final result will be that the reign of the Tsar ends at a wall of his palace, in front of a shooting squad. Hjstory repeats itself.

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