Content Assessment: Ukraine Makes Gains Amid Ongoing Counteroffensive as Russia Struggles with Military Dysfunction (September 11 - 17, 2023)
A short percentage-based assessment of the qualitative benefit of the recent update on the Russo-Ukrainian War prepared by ComplexDiscovery from reporting and maps from Institute of the Study of War.
Editor’s Note: Ukrainian forces achieved several notable successes in their ongoing counteroffensive operations this week, liberating settlements near Bakhmut and advancing in western Zaporizhia Oblast. The Ukrainian military announced on Sunday the liberation of Klishchiivka, an important gain near the fiercely contested Bakhmut.
Ukrainian forces continue to make incremental gains pushing back the Russians, according to a spokesperson for Ukraine’s Eastern Forces. The liberation of Klishchiivka comes after Ukrainian troops took control of Andriivka in the same area late last week. Meanwhile, in western Zaporizhia, Ukrainian forces have steadily advanced along Russian defensive positions near Robotyne and Verbove.
Experts say that while Ukrainian gains have been slow, their counteroffensive continues to grind down and attrite Russian forces. The Russians lack the men and materials to adequately defend the vast territory they occupy, according to an expert at the Institute for the Study of War. Ukraine is capitalizing on this weakness.
Russia has worked to retaliate against the Ukrainian gains and shore up its defenses. The Russian military struck port infrastructure in southern Ukraine with drones and missiles overnight Saturday into Sunday. Both sides continue to trade attacks on military and civilian targets.
Inside Russia, the war effort has been hampered by military dysfunction. A member of Russia’s parliament recently complained about “endemic lying” within the Russian army’s leadership. Tensions also persist between the Russian military and the Wagner Group, the mercenary forces led by Putin ally Yevgeny Prigozhin.
This week, the Russian Defense Ministry disrupted a Wagner force rotation in Syria as part of a wider effort to consolidate control over the semi-independent group. However, the wage of war is clearly taking a toll on Russia. The Kremlin’s initial expectations of a swift victory have given way to the hard realities of a protracted quagmire, according to experts. As fighting drags on, it will only get harder for Russia to sustain this war effort.
For Ukraine, the path forward also remains difficult. But as they liberate village by village, many see light at the end of the tunnel. Residents of recently liberated areas are filled with pride at the bravery of Ukrainian soldiers. With their continued courage, Ukraine will one day be free again.
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.
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.
Assessments 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.
- Maps augment daily synthetic products that cover key events related to the Russian aggression against Ukraine.
The Russian Offensive Campaign Assessments
From September 11-17, 2023, the Institute for the Study of War provided daily reports on the evolution of the Russo-Ukrainian War. Over the week, Ukrainian forces made incremental gains around Bakhmut and in western Zaporizhia through grinding counteroffensive operations. Russia struck Ukrainian infrastructure but struggled with internal military dysfunction. Tensions persisted regarding Russian mobilization and force generation. The Russian military maneuvered to subsume Wagner’s operations abroad. The war continued as a slow attritional struggle.
On September 17, Ukrainian forces liberated the settlement of Klishchiivka near Bakhmut, a notable gain amid ongoing counteroffensive operations in the area. Ukrainian officials released footage of Ukrainian troops raising flags in the settlement. Elsewhere, Russian forces conducted overnight drone and missile strikes targeting port infrastructure in southern Ukraine. As North Korean leader Kim Jong Un concluded his trip to Russia, he received parting military tech gifts that may violate sanctions. Russia is also backing African juntas more openly as the Russian military moves to subsume Wagner operations on the continent. Meanwhile, rumors of poor health for Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov highlighted his importance for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s control of Chechnya.
On September 16, Ukraine announced the liberation of Andriivka near Bakhmut the day prior, another tangible gain for Ukraine’s counteroffensive around Bakhmut. Ukrainian forces also advanced in western Zaporizhia. Russia’s recent air defense failures after Ukrainian strikes near Sevastopol and Yevpatoria suggested deeper systemic issues. Within Russia, officials proposed blocking WhatsApp to control the information space. Tensions continued between the Russian military and Wagner Group over operations in Syria.
On September 15, Ukrainian forces made further gains near Bakhmut and in western Zaporizhia Oblast amid ongoing counteroffensive operations. A notable development was a Russian general complaining about endemic lying within the Russian military leadership. In the Black Sea, Ukrainian naval drones struck Russian ships. Regarding Africa, Russian military leaders met with figures from African juntas about replacing Wagner forces on the continent.
On September 14, Ukrainian forces advanced near Bakhmut and in western Zaporizhia Oblast as their counteroffensive operations continued. Ukrainian forces also struck Russian air defenses and ships in occupied Crimea. For Russia, President Vladimir Putin balanced developing ties with North Korea with the sanctions risks of deeper cooperation.
On September 13, Ukraine struck Russian landing and submarine ships docked in occupied Sevastopol, Crimea, delivering notable blows to the Black Sea Fleet. Russia continued to retaliate with waves of drone and missile strikes targeting southern Ukraine. Tensions persisted within Russia’s military apparatus as the MoD disrupted a Wagner force rotation in Syria.
On September 12, debates continued within the Kremlin’s inner circle about if and when to conduct a new mobilization wave. Russian President Vladimir Putin repeated false claims about Ukraine’s “failed” counteroffensive. In diplomatic developments, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un arrived in Russia for meetings with Putin.
On September 11, Ukrainian forces made advances near Bakhmut and in western Zaporizhia amid ongoing counteroffensive operations. Within Russia, the National Guard recruited former Wagner personnel, while border guards echoed complaints about poor military provisions.
Overall, the week saw Ukraine make important localized gains through its counteroffensive while Russia struck Ukrainian infrastructure but struggled with internal military challenges. The war’s attritional nature continued as both sides attempted to grind down the other.
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.
Detailed Reporting with Maps for September 11-17, 2023, from the ISW – Mouseover to ScrollRussian Offensive Campaign Assessment – September 11-17 2023 – Final
* Shared with direct express permission from the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).
About the Institute for the Study of War Research Methodology
ISW’s research methodology relies on both primary and secondary sources, enabling researchers to develop a comprehensive understanding of the situation on the ground. In order to analyze military and political developments in any given area, ISW’s research analysts must wholly understand the systems of enemy and friendly forces. They must also understand the population demographics, physical terrain, politics, and history of that area. This lays the analytical foundation for understanding the reasons for particular developments and fulfilling their assigned research objectives. ISW analysts also spend time in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere in order to gain a better understanding of the security and political situation and to evaluate the implementation of current strategies and policies. Our researchers compile data and analyze trends, producing a granular analysis of developments in areas of research, producing an accurate, high-resolution, timely, and thorough picture of the situation. ISW’s research methodology guarantees its success and commitment to improving the nation’s ability to execute military operations, achieve strategic objectives, and respond to emerging problems that may require the use of American military power.
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The Institute for the Study of War advances an informed understanding of military affairs through reliable research, trusted analysis, and innovative education. We are committed to improving the nation’s ability to execute military operations and respond to emerging threats in order to achieve U.S. strategic objectives. ISW is a non-partisan, non-profit, public policy research organization.
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