Issue 193, 20 October 2022

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Situational report CAO 20OCT2022

Key takeaways

  • There were no frontline changes on Thursday;
  • Strikes on Ukrainian energy infrastructure continued on Thursday. Russia is unlikely to halt operations on Ukraine’s power grid network;
  • There were no frontline changes on Wednesday;
  • Russians attempted limited ground attacks on Ukrainian forces in the Luhansk Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts, but they did not delivery any results;
  • The situation around Bakhmut did not change; no Russian gains were reported;
  • According to Russian sources, 15,000 civilians have been evacuated from areas north of the Dnieper River.
  • We continue to see no changes in the overall posture of the Russian and Belarusian military formations.
General outlook

The frontline on Thursday remained mostly static, although both sides conducted some limited attacks. Ukrainians continue to display the initiative in the Kherson and Kharkiv/Luhansk Oblasts, while Russians are preparing for Kyiv’s counteroffensive in these directions.

Russian attacks near Bakhmut did not deliver any results over the past few days.

According to Energy Minister Herman Halushchenko, since the start of the bombing campaign on Ukraine’s energy grid on 10OCT, Russian forces have launched more than 300 strikes using drones, missiles, and artillery projectiles. Altogether, some 40% of energy infrastructure has been damaged. We expect Russians to continue these strikes to further degrade Ukraine’s ability to provide its citizens with electricity. Indeed, on Thursday, a Russian strike in the Kryvy Rih district heavily damaged unspecified energy infrastructure.

On 19OCT, planned power outages were introduced in Kyiv. The city’s residents and businesses were asked to reduce electricity consumption as much as possible between 5 PM and 11 PM . Kyiv’s electric buses will also limit their operations. Similar scheduled blackouts have been introduced in Kharkiv, Poltava and Sumy Oblasts.

On Thursday, Russians launched three missile, conducted 20 air strikes, and fired 10 MLRS projectiles on targets in Ukraine, hitting more than 20 cities and settlements. Moreover, 20 kamikaze UAVs were launched on Ukraine, of which 15 were shot down.

The frontline situation in selected directions at axes

Kharkiv/Luhansk direction

There were no changes in this direction on Thursday.

The frontline appeared relatively calm as no attacks were reported.

According to Oleh Synyehubov, the Governor of the Kharkiv Oblast, on Thursday, Russians shelled settlements in Kharkivsky, Izyumsky, Chuguevsky and Kupyansky districts. Specifically, they fired on Vovchansk, Hoptivka, Hryanikyvka, Kolodyazne, Krasne, Ohirtseve, Strilycha, Berestove, Kislivka, and Pershotravneve. As always, mostly civilian infrastructure was hit by these strikes. Sapper teams neutralised 657 unexploded items.

Synyehubov also added that 544 settlements had been liberated in Kharkiv Oblast since the start of the counteroffensive in early September. Only 32 remain under the Russian occupation northeast of Dvorchina.

The situation in the Luhansk Oblast also did not change, but Russians conducted limited attacks on Ukrainian positions. According to Ukrainian sources, Russians again tried to attack Bilohorivka, but the attempt was fruitless, and they were pushed back. As we have already stated, Ukrainian forces near Bilohorivka-Kreminna protect the right flank of UAF’s forces pushing towards Svatove. It is unlikely that these Russian efforts to dent Ukrainian lines in this region will bring any results unless the attackers are considerably reinforced.

According to Serhiy Haidai, the Luhansk Regional Military Civil Administration Head, heavy fighting occurred in the directions of Svatove and Kreminna. Terny and Torske remain difficult battle areas, but Russians cannot break through the UAF defences. In the previous issue of UCM, we mentioned the so-called Wagner Line, which stretches near the frontline in the Luhansk Oblast and aims at stopping Ukrainian armoured formations. On Thursday, the Russian ZvezdaNews channel (Russian MoD TV channel) published short footage of how the line looks like. It comprises minefields, fortified areas, dragon’s teeth, and trenches. The line resembles the light version of the Maginot Line, so its utility in the XXI century battlefield environment may prove ineffective.

In areas near the frontline, Russians evict Ukrainian residents from their homes, presumably in an effort to prepare more echeloned defensive lines. Ukrainian sources claim that there are plenty of mobilised Russian reservists in Nizhnia Duvanka and surrounding settlements.

Donetsk Oblast direction

There were no frontline changes in this direction.

Bakhmut remains under Russian pressure. The attackers also conduct daily attacks on Soledar and try to approach Kurdiumivka. Developments in Soldear have been particularly under the radar, probably because Russian forces have not been able to make even minor gains. The focus and most efforts are placed on Bakhmut.

The status of Ivanhrad and Opytne appears unclear. Despite previous Russian reports that the settlements have been captured, it seems that’s not the case.

According to Russian sources, the UAF continue to attack PMC Wagner positions, almost along the entire front line, but without any meaningful results. We assess that these attacks, if they happen, seek only to pressure Russians. It is unlikely that Ukrainians would conduct a larger counterattack in this direction at the current stage of the war.

PMC Wagner is reportedly advancing from Mykolaivka Druha towards Kurdyumivka, but this development remains unconfirmed.

On the Kupyansk and Lymansk directions, Russians conducted artillery strikes on Zarichne, Bilohorivka, Torske, Terny and Yampolivka settlements. In the Bakhmut and Avdiivka directions, Russians hit Bakhmut, Soledar, Zelenopillya and Yakovlivka. Russians did not conduct active offensive actions in the Novopavlivsk and Zaporizhzhia directions, but more than 35 settlements along the entire line of contact were shelled.

Zaporizhzhia direction

There were no changes in this direction.

Local battles continued. According to Alexander Starukh, the Head of the Regional Military Administration, Russians attacked Komyshuvakha, using missiles fired from S-300 missiles. Civil infrastructure was damaged.

Kherson direction

Thursday marked no changes in the Kherson Oblast.

Russian evacuation from Kherson continues. According to Russian sources, around 15,000 civilians have already been transported south of the Dnieper River. Russians are also reportedly leaving Berislav and Nova Kakhovka. We have not yet seen any major defensive lines being set up, especially nothing compared to the Wagner Line in the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts. It could indicate that the plan could call for a withdrawal from the right bank without much fight.

There has also been much talk about the alleged Russian plan to destroy the Nova Khakovka Dam and thus flood Ukraine-controlled territory, probably even Kherson. However, the areas most affected by such flooding would be on the left bank (south of the Dnieper). It is also possible that the dam’s destruction would affect the Crimea canal, which delivers water to the peninsula.

According to President Zelensky, despite slower attacks than the Kharkiv Oblast, there is a real chance that the UAF will recapture Kherson in the near future. But he also stated that Russians mined the Nova Khakovka Dam and the powerplant. According to the President, the Russians may conduct a provocation and blow up the dam, casting the blame on the Ukrainians. If this happens, the UAF advance will halt, and about 80 settlements and cities will be in the flood zone.

Ukrainians did not provide any information about their attacks on this direction on Thursday. However, Russian sources claimed that the UAF tried to break through Russian lines four times but without any effects. It is unclear where the attacks happened.

According to Brigadier General Alexey Hromov, chief of the Main Operational Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, for Putin, the southern direction, which includes Kherson, Zaporizhzhia and Mykolaiv, is strategically important. It preserves the land corridor to Crimea and the water supply to the peninsula. It creates a future springboard for capturing the Mykolaiv and Odesa. By reaching Odesa, Russians would also deprive Ukraine of maritime state status and establish a land bridge to Transdnistria. We believe that the plans to capture Mykolaiv, let alone, Odesa, have been shelved indefinitely. At the current juncture, chances that Russians would capture Mykolaiv and/or Odesa and remote and the current trajectory of events do not indicate this will change in the medium-term. Russian logistics capabilities and manpower shortages do not allow Moscow to effectively defend areas north of the Dnieper, which means they will not be able to conduct offensive operations either, which are more demanding from the rear support point of view.

Hromov also added that Moscow concentrated up to 45 battalion tactical groups in the Kherson direction to defend against Ukrainian counterattacks. He also claimed that Ukrainians had recently “improved their tactical positions around Blahodatne”.

Slightly diverging from the Kherson area, Hromov also stated that the threat of renewed Russian offensive on the northern front was growing. This time, the direction of the attack may move west, towards the Polish-Ukrainian border, to sever ground lines of communications and hinder the movement of Western supplies to Ukraine. However, we believe that it is too early to make this judgement. We are still uncertain what the end goal of Russian forces in Belarus and whether Belarusian involvement in the war will increase.

On Thursday, Ukrainian air defence shotdown 14 Russian UAVs, but four managed to get through and hit one of Mykolaiv’s educational institutions. The city was also hit with missiles fired from S-300s.

Ukrainian aviation launched six airstrikes, hitting Russian SAM sites. A pair of Mi-24 and Mi-8 helicopters hit the area of concentration of Russian units near Lyubomyrivka. According to Operational Command South, missile and artillery units performed 120 fire missions.

Military situation in Belarus

On 20OCT, another informational briefing linked to the regional political-military situation was organised in Belarus. This time it was hosted by Grodno Azot enterprise (one of the largest Belarusian enterprises of the chemical industry) and classically attended by Lt. Gen. Alexander Volfovich (Secretary of the State Security Council), Lt. Gen. Viktor Khrenin (Minister of Defence), Lt. Gen. Ivan Tertel (Head of the KDB), as well as Lt. Gen. Anatoly Lappo (Head of the Border Committee) and Alexander Chervyakov (Belarusian Minister of Economy).

During the meeting, the Minister of Defence stated that the western states almost openly demonstrate their readiness to unleash a military conflict against Belarus. He referred especially to the actions of the Polish Armed Forces, claiming that under the guise of fighting the migration crisis, elements of three substantial military formations (presumably divisions) were deployed near the Belarusian border. According to him, the Belarusian leadership has already proposed several peaceful initiatives, which were ignored by the West , which is doing everything to deliberately escalate the current situation. As a result, the Belarusian Armed Forces were forced to undertake strategic deterrence measures. As claimed by Khrenin, they involved: the deployment of the Belarusian forces to the border areas, enhancing the mode of performing tasks by Belarusian service members and organising the exchange of intelligence data with allies. According to the Head of MoD, all command levels of the Belarusian Army systematically conduct a comprehensive analysis of the current situation to develop options for adequate responses in the case of a potential escalation.

Besides, the Head of the KDB (KGB) Lt. Gen. Ivan Tertel, informed that his service detained a Ukrainian spy and two Belarusian citizens working for him. Tertel stated that the intensification of intelligence actions carried out by the Ukrainian Special Services is clearly visible, especially in the southern part of Belarus. This also pertains to the attempts to violate Belarusian airspace, which are getting more common

The Belarusian SB.BY news agency published an extensive interview with the Secretary of the State Security Council. During the interview, Volfovich repeated his earlier statements connected with the political-military situation around Belarus, claiming the NATO forces are actively preparing to combat actions on the Belarusian territory. This thesis can be supported by unprecedented training and reconnaissance activities of the joint NATO’s forces and the deployment of additional military assets to the countries of NATO’s eastern flank. Volfovich, also highlighted the redeployment of joint forces C2 bodies and intense expansion of military infrastructure (airfields, naval bases etc.) observed in Poland and the Baltic States. Particular attention was paid to the Polish Armed Forces’ development plans, which will form two additional mechanised divisions and acquire dozens of modern weapon systems (F-35 aicraft, Himars, Patriot, Abrams etc.). Later on, Volfovich also referred to the Belarusian volunteer formations which are currently fighting on Ukrainian soil. He stated that these formations can be considered terrorist formations, which might be used to change the regime in Minsk. In the end, the Secretary of the State Security Council repeated that there would be no mobilisation in Belarus. However, the Belarusian Armed Forces will call up Belarusian citizens to military exercises (shorter than 35 days) to reinforce the potential of the military reserve.

On Thursday, the Head of the International Military Cooperation Department, Col. Valery Revenko, took part in the accreditation meeting with the Military Attache of Vietnam Lt. Col. Nguyen Van Tien. During the meeting, parties discussed the current state and the prospects of the bilateral military relations between Belarus and Vietnam.

Moreover, the Head of the Department for the Development of Weapons Systems, Col. Sergey Sakharuk, provided some general information linked to the process of modernisation and acquiring new weapons systems in the Belarusian Armed Forces. According to Sakharuk, the current situation around the state raises the demand for increasing the number of modern weapons in the Belarusian Army. This process is realised in three ways: 1) by modernisation of existing equipment, 2) by the purchase of modern samples of military technique from the Belarusian Military Complex, and 3) by delivery of new military systems from the Russian enterprises within the framework of military-technical cooperation. Currently, much attention is paid to equipping Belarusian servicemen with UAVs of various levels and purposes. Sakharuk noted that any new weapon system entering the military service replaces the outdated equivalent, which is put into reserve and storage bases. According to him, this process is currently visible because both active and reserve equipment is transferred to Russian enterprises for modernisation purposes.

On Thursday, the Belarusian MoD informed about the dispatch of Belarusian citizens to the military formations as a part of the autumn draft. According to the official press release, the process will start on 24OCT, when about 1,000 recruits will be sent to the Special Operation Forces, 72nd Joint Training Center and Minsk Military Commandant’s Office. It should be noted that conscription will be carried out in accordance with Presidential Decree  No. 227 (4JUL) and will affect about 60,000 males who will be called up to the draft commissions. Nevertheless, only about 10 thousand of them will get to the Belarusian military formations in October and November.

Another batch of Russian forces arrived in Belarus on Thursday. It probably pertains to a  company-sized element of reservists. As claimed by the Belarusian Union of Railway Workers, Russian service members arrived with at least two wagons of ammunition removed from a storage facility in Russia’s Far East.

On 20OCT, the 72nd Joint Training Center hosted retraining classes for reserve servicemen called up from the reserve. According to the published information, they were linked to basic training and included military topography, tactics and firing.

At the same time, the elements of the 38th Air Assault Brigade conducted parachute jumps at the Brestsky Training Ground from the An-2 aircraft.

On Thursday, about six noteworthy transfers of Belarusian military equipment were observed:

  1. Two BM-30 launchers with ten trucks were moving on the M8 highway in the direction of its intersection with the M10 highway (west);
  2. Five S-300 launchers (one without containers) with 5N66 radar, a 5N63S command vehicle, as well as seven MAZ trucks, were moving from Minsk towards Shishchitsy;
  3. A single MAZ bus was moving from Minsk towards Schischiny;
  4. Two trailers and an unspecified number of fuel trucks departing from Kalinkovichi in the direction of Rechitsa;
  5. Three BTRs were moving towards Stolin from Turov;
  6. Ten covered trucks with logistic equipment, as well as an unspecified number of busses and PAZ vehicles, were moving on the R122 highway towards Mogilev;

Besides, a significant activity of the Belarusian military vehicles was reported between Minsk and M9 highway – dozens of trucks moved this way throughout the day.

It is worth noting that the Belarusian Air Force was quite active on Thursday. Precisely, about eight training flights were carried out from the Baranovichi Air Base and an unspecified number from Lida Air Base. Unofficial sources also reported at least one flight of Belarusian Mi-8 helicopter conducted from Machulischy Air Base.

Regarding the activity of the Russian Forces in Belarus, the Russian aviation component of the regional grouping of forces carried out planned patrol flights of the air borders of the Union State Airspace. The task was conducted by a single MiG-31K (with an escort of two fighters from Baranovichi Air Base), which took off from Machulishchy Air Base around 10 AM and landed there about 1,5 hour later.

Russian ground activity was limited to the movement of a few Russian trucks near Kalinkovichi and Slutsk.

Lines of advance in Ukraine


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