November 19, 2022
Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, November 19
Click here to see ISW’s interactive map of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This map is updated daily alongside the static maps present in this report.
Russian forces are reportedly beginning to reinforce their positions in occupied Luhansk, Donetsk, and eastern Zaporizhia oblasts with personnel from Kherson Oblast and mobilized servicemen. The Ukrainian General Staff reported an increase in Russian military personnel in Luhansk City and noted that Russian forces are housing servicemen in abandoned homes in Krasne and Simeikyne about 30km southeast of Luhansk City.[i] Luhansk Oblast Administration Head Serhiy Haidai stated that Russian forces are transferring the remnants of the Russian airborne units from right (west) bank Kherson Oblast to Luhansk Oblast.[ii] Luhansk Oblast Military Administration added that a part of redeploying Russian troops is arriving in Novoaidar, approximately 55km east of Severodonetsk.[iii] Advisor to Mariupol Mayor Petro Andryushenko also noted the arrival of redeployed personnel and military equipment to Mariupol, stating that Russian forces are placing 10,000 to 15,000 servicemen in the Mariupol Raion.[iv] Andryushenko stated that newly mobilized men are deploying to the presumably western Donetsk Oblast frontline via Mariupol. Russian forces are reportedly attempting to disperse forces by deploying some elements in the Hulyaipole direction in eastern Zaporizhia Oblast.[v] Russia will also likely commit additional mobilized forces in the coming weeks, given that mobilized units of the Russian 2nd Motorized Rifle Division of the 1st Tank Army have finished their training in Brest Oblast, Belarus.[vi] Russian forces will likely continue to use mobilized and redeployed servicemen to reignite offensive operations in Donetsk Oblast and maintain defensive positions in Luhansk Oblast.
US intelligence officials stated on November 19 that Russian and Iranian officials finalized a deal in early November to manufacture Iranian drones on Russian territory.[vii] The US officials stated that the deal could allow Russia to “dramatically increase its stockpile” of Iranian drones. The Washington Post reported that Russian forces have launched 400 Iranian kamikaze drones since first using them in the Ukrainian theater in August, and Ukrainian officials have previously stated that Ukrainian forces down 70% of drones before they can strike their targets.[viii] The US officials stated that it is unclear what assistance Russia will provide to Iran in return for the drones.[ix] The deepening relationship between Russia and Iran, specifically in the provision of long-range munitions such as kamikaze drones and precision missiles, may allow Russian forces to sustain their campaign against Ukrainian energy infrastructure for a longer period than their diminishing stockpile of munitions would otherwise allow. This report also suggests that Russia can somehow circumvent Western sanctions to acquire the microchips needed to program the drones it plans on manufacturing. A Russian milblogger claimed that the deal allows Russian officials to claim they build Russian drones—thus providing an informational win—having previously stated that the domestic manufacturing of Iranian drones on Russian territory humiliates Russia.[x]
- Russian forces are reportedly beginning to reinforce their positions in occupied Luhansk, Donetsk, and eastern Zaporizhia oblasts with personnel from Kherson Oblast and mobilized servicemen.
- US intelligence officials stated that Russian and Iranian officials finalized a deal in early November to manufacture Iranian drones on Russian territory.
- Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations on the Svatove-Kreminna line.
- Russian forces maintained their offensive operations around Bakhmut, Avdiivka, and west of Donetsk City despite reports of high losses around Bakhmut.
- Russian forces continued efforts to fortify areas around ground lines of communication in southern Ukraine while struggling with the partial loss of the use of the Kerch Strait Bridge.
- Russian media sources continued active discussions of an impending second wave of mobilization.
- The number of Russian prisoners appears to have dropped by about 6.5% since January of 2022 likely due to intensive Wagner Group recruitment.
- Russian authorities are working to establish control over the information space in occupied territories and identify Ukrainian partisans.
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.
- Ukrainian Counteroffensives—Eastern Ukraine
- Russian Main Effort—Eastern Ukraine (comprised of one subordinate and one supporting effort);
- Russian Subordinate Main Effort—Capture the entirety of Donetsk Oblast
- Russian Supporting Effort—Southern Axis
- Russian Mobilization and Force Generation Efforts
- Activities in Russian-occupied Areas
Ukrainian Counteroffensives (Ukrainian efforts to liberate Russian-occupied territories)
Eastern Ukraine: (Eastern Kharkiv Oblast-Western Luhansk Oblast)
Ukrainian forces continued their counteroffensive operations throughout the Svatove-Kreminna line on November 19. The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that Russian forces repelled Ukrainian attacks in the directions of Chervonopopivka (about 6km northwest of Kreminna) and Ploshchanka (about 20km southwest of Svatove).[xi] A Russian milblogger noted that Ukrainian forces returned to positional battles following their unsuccessful attempts to assault Russian positions in Chervonopopivka.[xii] Luhansk People’s Republic’s (LNR) Deputy Interior Minister Vitaly Kiselev claimed that Russian forces continued to repel Ukrainian attacks in the Kuzemivka area (approximately 13km northwest of Svatove), and a Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian and Russian forces are engaged in the most difficult battles west of Kuzemivka in Novoselivka.[xiii]The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces shelled settlements along the Svatove-Kreminna frontline.[xiv]
Russian Main Effort—Eastern Ukraine
Russian Subordinate Main Effort—Donetsk Oblast (Russian objective: Capture the entirety of Donetsk Oblast, the claimed territory of Russia’s proxies in Donbas)
Russian forces continued their offensive operations around Bakhmut on November 19 despite reports of high losses on the frontline. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian assaults on Bilohorivka and Zelenopillya northeast of Bakhmut and Klishchiivka southwest of Bakhmut.[xv] A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces continued to attack Ukrainian positions near Spirne, Verkhnokamianske, and Bilohorivka, all near the T1302 highway.[xvi] Geolocated footage showed that Russian forces made incremental advances toward Klishchiivka, and other footage indicated that Ukrainian forces maintained their positions near Mayorsk (about 20km southeast of Bakhmut).[xvii] Russian officials previously claimed control over Mayorsk on November 13.[xviii] The Ukrainian General Staff reported that about 500 wounded Russian servicemen arrived in Horlivka hospitals from the Mayorsk direction, which suggests that Russian forces are experiencing high casualties on this segment of the frontline.[xix] Russian milbloggers, however, claimed that Russian forces seized the southern part of the T0513 highway that starts at Mayorsk.[xx]
Russian forces continued to launch assaults west of Donetsk City and around Avdiivka on November 19. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces stopped Russian advances on Vodyane (approximately 8km west of Avdiivka) and Novomykhailivka (about 30km southwest of Donetsk City).[xxi] The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that Russian aviation, artillery, and missile forces struck a Ukrainian command point in Vodyane, and geolocated footage showed Russian forces striking Ukrainian positions in the settlement.[xxii] Russian sources claimed that Russian forces continued assault operations near Vodyane, Pervomaiske (about 4km northwest of Vodyane), and forced Ukrainian forces from their positions on the outskirts of Nevelske (about 7km southwest of Vodyane).[xxiii] Russian and Ukrainian forces continued to engage in artillery battles southwest of Donetsk City and in eastern Zaporizhia Oblast.[xxiv]
Supporting Effort—Southern Axis (Russian objective: Maintain frontline positions and secure rear areas against Ukrainian strikes)
Note: ISW will report on activities in Kherson Oblast as part of the Southern Axis in this and subsequent updates. Ukraine’s counteroffensive in right-bank Kherson Oblast has accomplished its stated objectives, so ISW will not present a Southern Ukraine counteroffensive section until Ukrainian forces resume counteroffensives in southern Ukraine.
Russian forces continued to undertake defensive measures and conduct routine shelling east of the Dnipro River in Kherson Oblast on November 19. Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command stated that Russian forces continue to establish defensive positions east of the Dnipro River and are pulling Russian forces out of the range of Ukrainian artillery.[xxv] A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces began withdrawing from Oleshky, just south of Kherson City on the left side of the river.[xxvi] Russian and Ukrainian sources reported explosions at Karantynnyy Island, just southwest of Kherson City in the Dnipro River, attributing the explosions to Russian or Ukrainian artillery strikes against a fuel depot.[xxvii] Russian forces may have struck the fuel depot to prevent Ukrainian forces from using it. Russian forces continued shelling areas on the right (west) bank of the Dnipro River, including Kherson City, Antonivka, Kozatske, and Chronobaivka.[xxviii] Russian and Ukrainian forces reported that Ukrainian forces shelled Oleshky and Nova Kakhovka on the left riverbank.[xxix]
Ukrainian forces continued targeting Russian force concentrations and military assets south of the Dnipro River. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces struck a Russian force concentration area in Mykhailivka, 38km south of Kherson City on the R57 highway, killing 60 personnel and wounding 70 personnel.[xxx] Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command reported that Ukrainian forces struck a Russian force concentration in the Kinburn Spit, killing seven personnel and destroying two armored vehicles.[xxxi]
Russian forces continued efforts to fortify areas around ground lines of communication in southern Ukraine while struggling with the partial loss of the use of the Kerch Strait Bridge. Ukrainian Mayor of Melitopol Ivan Fedorov stated that Russian authorities are forcing civilians to dig trenches and build defenses near Melitopol.[xxxii] Russian sources expressed continued concern that Ukrainian forces are concentrating along the Zaporizhia Oblast front line for a counteroffensive drive toward Melitopol.[xxxiii] Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Volodymyr Havrylov stated that Ukrainian forces could enter Crimea by the end of December.[xxxiv] Ukrainian Mariupol Mayoral Advisor Petro Andryushchenko stated that Russian forces are struggling to compensate for the loss of the Kerch Strait Bridge and posted footage of a traffic jam of cargo trucks in Mariupol.[xxxv] Russian sources reported that Russian occupation authorities placed replacement spans for the Kerch Strait Bridge and completed the installation of two of those spans; those sources reported that the bridge will be fully operational for vehicle traffic by December 20.[xxxvi] However, as ISW has previously reported, the UK Ministry of Defense assessed that the road bridge will not be fully operational until March 2023 and the rail bridge not until September 2023.[xxxvii]
Russian forces continued routine shelling west of Hulyaipole and in Mykolaiv and Dnipropetrovsk oblasts on November 19.[xxxviii] Russian and Ukrainian sources reported that Russian forces struck the Motor Sich Plant in Zaporizhzhia City with anti-air missiles and kamikaze drones.[xxxix] Mykolaiv Oblast Head Vitaly Kim stated that Russian forces struck Ochakiv, Mykolaiv Oblast with anti-air missiles.[xl] Russian forces conducted artillery and MLRS strikes against Nikopol and Marhanets, Dnipropetrovsk Oblast.[xli]
Mobilization and Force Generation Efforts (Russian objective: Expand combat power without conducting general mobilization)
The number of Russian prisoners dropped by about 6.5% since January of 2022 (not including those held in pre-trial detention centers and remanded prisoners), apparently due to intensive Wagner Group recruitment.[xlii] ISW has extensively reported on Wagner Group's recruitment of prisoners and use of prisoners on the front lines in Ukraine.[xliii] Russian investigative outlet Mediazona reported on November 18 that the number of male prisoners in Russia has decreased by 23,000 since the start of the Wagner Group’s prison-based recruitment campaigns.[xliv] This is the sharpest decrease in the Russian prison population since 2014, including during periods of amnesty.[xlv] Mediazona reported that the number of Russians in pre-trial detention centers and prison colonies stayed relatively constant, which suggests that the decrease in the number of prisoners is not due to decreased rates of arrest.[xlvi]
Russian media sources continued active discussions of an impending second wave of mobilization on November 19. Russian sources amplified reports of a woman being issued permission to travel abroad until December 31 in order to return for her husband’s mobilization summons on January 16.[xlvii] Russian sources also reported the launch of basic military training courses in Barnaul, Siberia, to ensure that those impacted by mobilization receive “all the necessary skills.” A prominent Russian Telegram channel refuted statements from Ukrainian sources that Russia will likely conduct general mobilization after the New Year’s holiday, arguing that Russia does not have the equipment, trainers, or bureaucratic structure required to provide for hypothetical newly mobilized soldiers.[xlviii] The channel contended that Russian authorities might conduct a future partial mobilization, but the Ministry of Defense (MoD) would only mobilize 100-200,000 men at a time. The channel claimed Russia needs to mobilize 1-1.5 million total soldiers to defeat Ukrainian forces.[xlix] Previous ISW analyses support the assessment that the Russian MoD does not have the capacity or resources to handle a future general mobilization.[l] Widespread reports of mobilized soldiers being required to purchase their own equipment, sleeping outside or in tents without heat while still on training grounds, receiving no or woefully inadequate training, and experiencing other poor conditions suggest the Russian MoD is unprepared to handle future rounds of partial mobilization or even provide for those currently mobilized.[li]
The Kremlin continues to selectively respond to public mobilization complaints while continuing to commit poorly trained mobilized men to the frontlines. The Russian Armed Forces relocated 130 mobilized men from Vladimir Oblast from the frontlines to the rear areas following Vladimir Oblast Governor Alexander Avdeev’s appeal to the Russian MoD regarding the deployment of poorly trained personnel to the frontlines.[lii] Avdeev noted that over 1,000 mobilized servicemen from his constituency still serve on the frontlines, and relatives of the Vladimir Oblast mobilized men recorded a third video appeal addressed to Russian President Vladimir Putin regarding their lack of adequate training.[liii] Mobilized men from Voronezh Oblast who were removed from the frontlines following a public appeal by their relatives were redeployed to frontlines in Luhansk Oblast.[liv]
Russian military officials continued covert mobilization. A Russian news channel reported that a Russian military commissariat issued a mobilization summons for November 21 to a man called in to clarify data. The resources spent on covert mobilization coupled with Russia’s ongoing fall conscription wave further degrades the ability of the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) to prepare for future waves of mobilization, as ISW reported on November 18.[lv]
Activity in Russian-occupied Areas (Russian objective: consolidate administrative control of occupied and annexed areas; forcibly integrate Ukrainian civilians into Russian sociocultural, economic, military, and governance systems)
Russian media is amplifying narratives that criminals in Russian military uniforms are terrorizing and looting local populations in occupied Ukraine. A prominent Russian news source claimed that Russian military officials in Oleshky, Kherson Oblast detained several criminals dressed in Russian uniforms while robbing civilians and making plans to kill and steal from Russian soldiers.[lvi] The source published an interview between a Russian commander and the detainees in which the detainees claimed that Ukrainian authorities released them from prison and left them without any resources.[lvii] It is unclear whether Russian efforts to amplify this narrative are a part of efforts to minimize reports of Russian looting and abuse of civilians.
Russian authorities are working to establish control over the information space in occupied territories. The Ukrainian Resistance Center reported on November 19 that Russian authorities are dispatching propagandists to occupied territories to organize TV broadcasts and launch branches of the All-Russian State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company (VDTRK).[lviii] Occupation authorities plan to use seized broadcasting property to facilitate broadcasting, including the 196-meter TV towers in Mariupol and Melitopol. Occupation authorities reportedly planned to coopt local media specialists as well but chose to import Russian personnel when Ukrainian media specialists refused to cooperate with occupation regimes.[lix]
Russian occupation authorities continue efforts to identify Ukrainian partisans. The Ukrainian Resistance Center reported on November 19 that the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) created groups with counterintelligence specialists and representatives from other Russian security services and charged them with seeking out Ukrainian partisan groups, including using internet-traffic analysis.[lx] The Ukrainian Resistance Center noted that this strategy mirrors Russian approaches used in Syria.[lxi]
Occupation authorities continue to struggle to link basic infrastructure in occupied territories to Russian systems. Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) Head Denis Pushilin announced on November 19 that occupation authorities will supply occupied eastern Ukraine with water via a to-be-constructed conduit from the Don River.[lxii] A prominent Russian milblogger also criticized occupation authorities in Kherson Oblast for the failure to link Russian railway infrastructure to Kherson City during eight months of occupation whereas Ukrainian officials reestablished the Ukrainian railway connection within ten days of recapturing the city.[lxiii][lxiv]
Note: ISW does not receive any classified material from any source, uses only publicly available information, and draws extensively on Russian, Ukrainian, and Western reporting and social media as well as commercially available satellite imagery and other geospatial data as the basis for these reports. References to all sources used are provided in the endnotes of each update.
[viii] https://www dot pravda.com.ua/articles/2022/10/24/7373160/; https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/11/19/russia-iran-drones-secret-deal/
[xiv] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02UfZm2YoP6CveLQ3uBNiAk9gViXwphx7Yo8PdcMmh9nSBX8hGCsUjhLSX6KrrHm57l; https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0XGH2CgsdWbxwRyidcjnLy2C4NW32de6nWa6RSuDNpv6wJCq8fCuLm9xV84FATvSjl
[xvii] https://twitter.com/am_misfit/status/1593870037081022465; https://twitter.com/jbajerski/status/1593892815053922304; https://twitter.com/GirkinGirkin/status/1593878124785180672; https://twitter.com/blinzka/status/1593902053180731392
[xviii] https://understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-november-13; https://understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-november-14
[xxiv] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0XGH2CgsdWbxwRyidcjnLy2C4NW32de6nWa6RSuDNpv6wJCq8fCuLm9xV84FATvSjl; https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02UfZm2YoP6CveLQ3uBNiAk9gViXwphx7Yo8PdcMmh9nSBX8hGCsUjhLSX6KrrHm57l; https://t.me/rybar/41312; https://t.me/mod_russia/21870; https://twitter.com/Cosmonaut19/status/1593898517176516609; https://t.me/DeepStateUA/14707; https://twitter.com/Cosmonaut19/status/1593898485509951488
[xxvi] https://t.me/RSaponkov/4008; https://t.me/voenacher/33700
[xxvii] https://t.me/hueviyherson/29389; https://t.me/hueviyherson/29390; https://t.me/hueviyherson/29386; https://t.me/rybar/41322 . https://t.me/voenkorKotenok/42862; https://t.me/m0sc0wcalling/14746; https://t.me/m0sc0wcalling/14744; https://t.me/milinfolive/93564
[xxviii] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02UfZm2YoP6CveLQ3uBNiAk9gViXwphx7Yo8PdcMmh9nSBX8hGCsUjhLSX6KrrHm57l; https://t.me/hueviyherson/29354; https://t.me/wargonzo/9330; https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0XGH2CgsdWbxwRyidcjnLy2C4NW32de6nWa6RSuDNpv6wJCq8fCuLm9xV84FATvSjl; https://t.me/rybar/41312; https://t.me/hueviyherson/29350; https://t.me/hueviyherson/29384
[xxx] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02UfZm2YoP6CveLQ3uBNiAk9gViXwphx7Yo8PdcMmh9nSBX8hGCsUjhLSX6KrrHm57l; https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0XGH2CgsdWbxwRyidcjnLy2C4NW32de6nWa6RSuDNpv6wJCq8fCuLm9xV84FATvSjl
[xxxviii] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid02UfZm2YoP6CveLQ3uBNiAk9gViXwphx7Yo8PdcMmh9nSBX8hGCsUjhLSX6KrrHm57l; https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0XGH2CgsdWbxwRyidcjnLy2C4NW32de6nWa6RSuDNpv6wJCq8fCuLm9xV84FATvSjl; https://t.me/rybar/41312
[xxxix] https://www.facebook.com/GeneralStaff.ua/posts/pfbid0XGH2CgsdWbxwRyidcjnLy2C4NW32de6nWa6RSuDNpv6wJCq8fCuLm9xV84FATvSjl; https://t.me/zoda_gov_ua/14819; https://t.me/starukhofficial/4235; https://t.me/kommunist/13361 ; https://t.me/kommunist/13358; https://t.me/boris_rozhin/70742; https://t.me/voenkorKotenok/42855; https://t.me/rybar/41312; https://t.me/boris_rozhin/70717
[xlii] https://www.prisonstudies.org/country/russian-federation; https://twitter.com/bayraktar_1love/status/1593682496771727361 https://zona [dot] media/article/2022/11/18/navoynu; https://meduza dot io/news/2022/11/18/mediazona-chislo-zaklyuchennyh-v-rossiyskih-koloniyah-za-dva-mesyatsa-sokratilos-na-rekordnye-23-tysyachi-chelovek
[xliv] https://twitter.com/bayraktar_1love/status/1593682496771727361 https://zona [dot] media/article/2022/11/18/navoynu; https://meduza dot io/news/2022/11/18/mediazona-chislo-zaklyuchennyh-v-rossiyskih-koloniyah-za-dva-mesyatsa-sokratilos-na-rekordnye-23-tysyachi-chelovek
[xlv] https://twitter.com/bayraktar_1love/status/1593682496771727361 https://zona [dot] media/article/2022/11/18/navoynu; https://meduza dot io/news/2022/11/18/mediazona-chislo-zaklyuchennyh-v-rossiyskih-koloniyah-za-dva-mesyatsa-sokratilos-na-rekordnye-23-tysyachi-chelovek
[xlvi] https://twitter.com/bayraktar_1love/status/1593682496771727361 https://zona [dot] media/article/2022/11/18/navoynu; https://meduza dot io/news/2022/11/18/mediazona-chislo-zaklyuchennyh-v-rossiyskih-koloniyah-za-dva-mesyatsa-sokratilos-na-rekordnye-23-tysyachi-chelovek
[xlvii] https://t.me/pogranichnyi_control/1246; https://notes dot citeam.org/mobilization-nov-17-18
[li] https://t.me/ostorozhno_novosti/12738; https://notes dot citeam.org/mobilization-nov-17-18; https://t.me/bazabazon/14526; https://t.me/readovkanews/47261; https://notes dot citeam.org/mobilization-nov-17-18; https://t.me/dovod3/7177
[lviii] https://sprotyv dot mod.gov.ua/2022/11/19/okupanty-zvozyat-na-tot-svoyih-propagandystiv-dlya-organizacziyi-movlennya-oseredkiv-svogo-telebachennya/
[lix] https://sprotyv dot mod.gov.ua/2022/11/19/okupanty-zvozyat-na-tot-svoyih-propagandystiv-dlya-organizacziyi-movlennya-oseredkiv-svogo-telebachennya/
[lx] https://sprotyv dot mod.gov.ua/2022/11/19/fsb-stvorylo-speczialni-grupy-z-poshuku-chleniv-ukrayinskogo-pidpillya/
[lxi] https://sprotyv dot mod.gov.ua/2022/11/19/fsb-stvorylo-speczialni-grupy-z-poshuku-chleniv-ukrayinskogo-pidpillya/