Content Assessment: Against the Grain? Russo-Ukrainian War Update (September 4 - September 10, 2023)
A short assessment of the qualitative benefit of the post highlighting the recent Ukraine conflict assessments from the Institute for the Study of War.
Editor’s Note: The tug-of-war between Russian aggression and Ukrainian counter-offensives raged on this week. The Ukrainian counteroffensive continued making incremental gains in western Zaporizhia as troops advanced 2-3 km beyond Russian defensive positions, moving past anti-tank ditches and dragon’s teeth obstacles, though without yet breaching the main defensive line with armor support. Russia unsuccessfully tried expanding minefields to 30 km depth to hinder Ukraine’s advance since June, while facing critical artillery shortages forcing deviation from standard doctrine per RUSI reports.
Militarily, Russia struck energy infrastructure in Odesa and Dnipropetrovsk with Iranian Shahed-136 kamikaze drones overnight September 3-4 in attacks likely aimed at reducing Ukraine’s electric supply ahead of winter. Russia attacked along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut where Wagner forces made gains, on the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line, near the Donetsk-Zaporizhia border, and in western Zaporizhia including around Bilohirka, gaining some areas. Ukraine counterattacked near Bakhmut and the village of Biloghirka in western Zaporizhia. The weekend saw Ukrainian gains north of Bakhmut and in western Zaporizhia near Novovoskresenske.
Diplomatically, Putin reiterated his unwillingness to rejoin the Black Sea Grain Initiative without extensive Russian demands met, when meeting Turkey’s Erdogan on September 4. The UN’s Mose said the commission hasn’t concluded Russia committed genocide in Ukraine yet. The UN offered favorable grain deal renewal terms including facilitating Russian exports, but Russia inexplicably rejected them.
Domestically, Shoigu claimed Ukraine’s gains were insignificant, highlighting a new Russian academic year starting. Putin drew WWII parallels, setting expectations for a prolonged war requiring societal dedication. Local Russian politics are increasingly constrained by the war.
Meanwhile, Armenia took actions questioning its Russia security relationship, reportedly providing humanitarian aid to Ukraine and dissatisfied with Russia’s guarantees. Ukraine estimated over 420,000 Russian personnel are in occupied Ukraine. Voting concluded on September 10 in occupied regions as Russia pushed for legitimacy.
Additionally, a Russian general was detained on bribery and corruption charges amidst escalating drone attacks on Moscow, Russia struck Kyiv overnight, September 9-10, with kamikaze drones, and Ukraine’s intelligence head Budanov chillingly stated counteroffensives will continue into late 2023 despite the weather.
The week saw Ukraine’s military move forward incrementally, but Russia remained aggressively defiant. Diplomatically, Russia spurned an olive branch grain deal renewal showing no desire for peace. Domestically, both countries seem to be settling in for a prolonged fight.
Source Note: One of the most accurate and detailed sources for ongoing updates on the Ukraine crisis is the Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment from the Institute for the Study of War. The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) is a 501(c)(3) organization and produces strictly non-partisan, non-ideological, fact-based research. ISW seeks to promote an informed understanding of war and military affairs through comprehensive, independent, and accessible open-source research and analysis. ISW’s research is made available to the general public, military practitioners, policymakers, and media members. Providing a daily synthesis of key events related to the Russian aggression against Ukraine, ISW updates may benefit investigators and litigators as they follow the business, information technology, and legal trends and trajectories impacted by and stemming from the current Russo-Ukrainian conflict.
The drone wars are undergoing a transformation, as evidenced by the tactical shifts and technological advancements from both Russian and Ukrainian forces. For those seeking to grasp the full scope of this evolving landscape, the complete updates from the Institute for the Study of War serve as an invaluable resource.
Assessment and Maps*
Russo-Ukrainian Conflict Assessments
- Institute for the Study of War (ISW), Russia Team
- Critical Threats Project (CTP), American Enterprise Institute
General Assessment Background Info
- ISW systematically publishes Russian campaign assessments, including maps highlighting the assessed control of terrain in Ukraine and main Russian maneuver axes.
- These maps augment daily synthetic products that cover key events related to renewed Russian aggression against Ukraine.
The Russian Offensive Campaign Assessments
- September 10, 2023
- By Riley Bailey, Angelica Evans, Nicole Wolkov, Karolina Hird, and Mason Clark
- Ukrainian forces continued to advance south of Robotyne in western Zaporizhia Oblast and reportedly advanced near Bakhmut on September 10.
- Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) Head Kyrylo Budanov stated on September 10 that Ukrainian forces will continue counteroffensive operations into late 2023. Cold and wet weather will affect but not halt active combat, as it has done in the first 18 months of the war.
- Russian military personnel continue to detail persistent problems hindering Russian operations along the frontline in Ukraine.
- Russian forces conducted a series of Shahed-131/-136 drone strikes targeting Kyiv Oblast on the night of September 9 to 10.
- Russian forces conducted offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line, in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area, and in western Zaporizhia Oblast and reportedly regained some lost positions in some areas.
- Ukrainian Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) Spokesperson Major General Vadym Skibitskyi stated on September 10 that the Russian military has concentrated over 420,000 military personnel in occupied Ukraine, not including Rosgvardia (Russian national guard) and other military units and structures.
- Russian occupation officials held the final day of voting for Russian regional elections in occupied territories on September 10, continuing efforts to coerce residents to vote and portray the elections as legitimate.
- September 9, 2023
- By Grace Mappes, Karolina Hird, Riley Bailey, Christina Harward, and Mason Clark
- Ukrainian forces made confirmed advances in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area and in western Zaporizhia Oblast and made claimed advances south of Bakhmut on September 9.
- Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) Spokesperson Vadym Skibitskyi reemphasized Ukraine’s right to target critical Russian strategic and military objects in rear areas.
- Russia’s war in Ukraine is increasingly constraining Russian local and regional politics, with even the minimal pre-war competition suppressed and regional governments increasingly focused on their ability to generate resources for the war.
- The Kremlin continues to refuse to rejoin the Black Sea Grain Initiative in an attempt to extract maximum concessions from the West and may believe that apparent support or acceptance for its demands from some international actors offers it more leverage in renegotiating the deal.
- Russian forces conducted offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line, in the western Donetsk-eastern Zaporizhia Oblast border area, and in western Zaporizhia and advanced in some areas on September 9.
- Russian occupation authorities continue efforts to manufacture a guise of legitimacy and legality around ongoing local elections in occupied regions of Ukraine.
- September 8, 2023
- By Riley Bailey, Kateryna Stepanenko, Angelica Evans, Grace Mappes, Annika Ganzeveld, and Mason Clark
- Russian forces have reportedly made notable changes to their command and control (C2) in Ukraine to protect command infrastructure and improve information sharing, although Russian force deployments are likely still exacerbating issues with horizontal integration.
- Artillery constraints in Ukraine are reportedly prompting the Russian military to accelerate longstanding efforts to implement a fires doctrine prioritizing accuracy over volume.
- Russian forces are additionally reportedly adapting their deployment of electronic warfare (EW) complexes.
- Ukrainian forces reportedly continued to advance south of Bakhmut and south of Robotyne in western Zaporizhia Oblast but did not make any confirmed gains on September 8.
- Russian forces conducted another series of Shahed-131/136 drone strikes targeting Odesa Oblast on the night of September 7–8.
- Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov publicly rejected an incredibly favorable offer from the UN Secretariat that met many of Russia’s stated demands to rejoin the Black Sea Grain Initiative on September 6, indicating that the Kremlin is either delaying its return to the grain deal in an attempt to extract maximum concessions from the West or has no intention whatsoever of returning to the grain deal.
- The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) directly responded to recent indications that the Armenian government may be questioning its decades-long security relationship with Russia.
- Russian forces conducted offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove line, near Bakhmut, and along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line but did not make any confirmed advances on September 8.
- The New York Times (NYT) — citing Western, African, and Russian sources — reported that Russian intelligence structures are competing for control of the Wagner Group’s assets and operations in Africa.
- Russian occupation officials continue to hold illegal regional elections in occupied Ukraine. Russian occupation officials in Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhia, and Kherson oblasts announced the start of in-person voting in occupied territories on September 8.
- September 7, 2023
- By Karolina Hird, Riley Bailey, Grace Mappes, Angelica Evans, and Mason Clark
- Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations near Bakhmut and in western Zaporizhia Oblast on September 7 and made further gains on both sectors of the front.
- US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) Director of Analysis Trent Maul stated that there is a “realistic possibility” that Ukrainian forces will break through the entire Russian defense in southern Ukraine by the end of 2023, while a Ukrainian source suggested that upcoming Russian defensive positions are weaker than those Ukrainian forces have previously breached.
- Ukrainian forces are making tactical gains and successfully attriting defending Russian forces and ISW continues to assess Ukraine’s counteroffensive may achieve operational successes in 2023, but subsequent series of Russian defensive positions still pose significant challenges for Ukrainian forces and may in sections be strongly held.
- Russian forces conducted another large-scale Shahed-136/131 drone attack against Sumy and Odesa oblasts overnight on September 6-7.
- Moscow Oblast authorities detained the commander of the 1st Special Purpose Air and Missile Defense Army on bribery and corruption charges amidst continued and escalating drone attacks on Moscow.
- Russian forces continued offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, in the Bakhmut direction, along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line, and in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area but did not make any confirmed advances on September 7.
- September 6, 2023
- By Karolina Hird, Christina Harward, Nicole Wolkov, Grace Mappes, and Mason Clark
- Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations in the Bakhmut and western Zaporizhia Oblast directions and have made gains in western Zaporizhia Oblast as of September 6.
- Ukrainian and Russian sources report the Russian defense industrial base (DIB) faces growing challenges replacing basic supplies in addition to known challenges rebuilding its stocks of precision weapons.
- Russian forces conducted a large missile and drone strike against Ukraine overnight on September 5-6.
- Russian sources continue to speculate on the current role and future of dismissed Wagner-affiliated Army General Sergei Surovikin, the former commander of Russia’s Aerospace Forces (VKS).
- US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced an additional $175 million military assistance package for Ukraine during an unannounced visit to Kyiv on September 6.
- Russian forces conducted offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, along the Avdiivka-Donestk City line, and in western Zaporizhia Oblast and advanced in some areas on September 6.
- Ukrainian forces conducted offensive operations in at least two sectors of the front and advanced near Bakhmut, along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line, and in western Zaporizhia Oblast on September 6.
- Russian authorities continue crypto-mobilization efforts amid continued rumors of a new wave of general mobilization.
- Ukrainian reports indicate that Russian and occupation authorities continue attempts to increase social control in occupied Ukraine by cracking down against pro-Ukrainian materials in occupied schools.
- September 5, 2023
- By Grace Mappes, Angelica Evans, Nicole Wolkov, Christina Harward, Karolina Hird, and Frederick W. Kagan
- Ukrainian forces continue to advance in western Zaporizhia Oblast.
- Russian sources continue to complain that Russian forces lack sufficient counterbattery capabilities and artillery munitions in the face of ongoing Ukrainian counteroffensive activities, which the Kremlin and the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) are reportedly attempting to combat.
- Ukrainian counteroffensive operations in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area are likely succeeding in pinning elements of the 7th Guards Mountain Airborne (VDV) Division and preventing them from laterally redeploying to critical areas of the front in western Zaporizhia Oblast.
- Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reiterated boilerplate rhetoric intended to dismiss recent Ukrainian advances and highlight the beginning of a new academic year for Russian military institutions during a meeting with Russian military leadership on September 5.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin drew historical parallels between Soviet participation in the Second World War and the current war in Ukraine to set ideological expectations for a prolonged war effort.
- The Armenian government appears to be seriously questioning its decades-long security relationship with Russia, amid reports of Armenian humanitarian aid to Ukraine and increasing public dissatisfaction with Russia’s security guarantees.
- Russian forces conducted offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line, in the western Donetsk-eastern Zaporizhia Oblast border area, and in western Zaporizhia Oblast and advanced in some areas on September 5.
- Ukrainian forces conducted offensive operations in at least two sectors of the front and advanced near Bakhmut, in the western Donetsk-eastern Zaporizhia Oblast border area, and in western Zaporizhia Oblast on September 5.
- Russian sources continue to report on Russian efforts to recruit volunteers amid continued rumors of general mobilization.
- The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) reportedly attempted to assassinate a Russian occupation official in occupied Luhansk Oblast on September 5.
- September 4, 2023
- By Nicole Wolkov, Riley Bailey, Christina Harward, Angelica Evans, and Frederick W. Kagan
- Ukrainian light infantry has advanced to positions beyond anti-tank ditches and dragon’s teeth anti-tank obstacles that comprise the current Russian defensive layer ahead of the Ukrainian advance in western Zaporizhia Oblast, and Ukrainian forces likely intend to hold those positions. ISW is not prepared to assess that Ukrainian forces have breached this Russian defensive layer in the absence of observed Ukrainian heavy equipment in these areas.
- Russian forces reportedly attempted to expand minefields in southern Ukraine following the start of the Ukrainian counteroffensive in June.
- Limitations on Russian artillery capabilities and Ukrainian advantages in counter-battery fire are forcing the Russians to deviate from their own doctrine, RUSI reported.
- Russian forces conducted a drone strike on Dnipropetrovsk and Odesa oblasts on the night of September 3-4.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated Russia’s unwillingness to rejoin the Black Sea Grain Initiative until all of Russia’s extensive terms are met at a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
- Head of the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine Erik Mose stated on September 4 that the commission has not yet concluded that Russia is committing genocide in Ukraine.
- Russian forces conducted offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line, in the western Donetsk-eastern Zaporizhia Oblast border area, and in western Zaporizhia Oblast and advanced in some areas on September 4.
- Ukrainian forces conducted offensive operations and advanced near Bakhmut and in western Zaporizhia Oblast on September 4.
- Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced on September 4 that the Russian military will not be holding “Zapad-2023” joint strategic exercises scheduled for September.
- Russian occupation officials continued the fifth day of early voting for Russian regional elections in occupied territories on September 4.
We do not report in detail on Russian war crimes because those activities are well-covered in Western media and do not directly affect the military operations we are assessing and forecasting. We will continue to evaluate and report on the effects of these criminal activities on the Ukrainian military and population and specifically on combat in Ukrainian urban areas. We utterly condemn these Russian violations of the laws of armed conflict, Geneva Conventions, and humanity even though we do not describe them in these reports.
Chronology of Maps from September 4-10, 2023 – Mouseover to ScrollUkraine Conflict Maps – 0904 – 091023
* Shared with direct express permission from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).
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