September 01, 2022
Ukraine Invasion Updates August 2022
This page collects the Critical Threats Project (CTP) and the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) updates on the invasion of Ukraine for August 2022. Full list of Ukraine invasion updates are available here.
August 31, 2022 | 10:45 pm ET
Ukrainians and the West should not fall for Russian information operations portraying the Ukrainian counteroffensive in Kherson Oblast as having failed almost instantly or that depict Ukraine as a helpless puppet of Western masters for launching it at this time. The Russian Ministry of Defense began conducting an information operation to present Ukraine’s counteroffensive as decisively failed almost as soon as it was announced on August 29. Several prominent military bloggers—even bloggers who have historically been critical of the Kremlin—are promoting this message. Other milbloggers are additionally promoting the narrative that Ukraine’s Western handlers pushed Ukraine to launch the counteroffensive prematurely and/or too late for “political” reasons and because the West expected a counteroffensive. Kremlin media outlets have also centrally amplified allegations of civil-military conflict between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief Valerii Zaluzhnyi to bolster the narrative that Zelensky sought to conduct a counteroffensive for inappropriate political reasons whereas Zaluzhnyi assessed Ukrainian forces were not militarily prepared to do so.
Military operations on the scale of this counteroffensive do not succeed or fail in a day or a week. Ukrainian officials have long acknowledged that they do not have the sheer mass of mechanized forces that would have been needed to conduct a blitzkrieg-like drive to destroy the Russian defenses in Kherson Oblast or anywhere. They have instead been setting conditions for months by attacking and disrupting Russian ground lines of communication (GLOCs), Russian command and control, and Russian logistics systems throughout southwestern occupied Ukraine. The timing of the start of the counteroffensive is consistent with the observed degradation of Russian capabilities in western Kherson Oblast balanced against the need to start liberating occupied Ukrainian lands and people as soon as possible. There is no reason to suspect that the timing has been materially influenced by inappropriate considerations or tensions. Counteroffensive operations now underway will very likely unfold over the coming weeks and possibly months as Ukrainian forces take advantage of the conditions they have set to defeat particular sectors of the line they have identified as vulnerable while working to retake their cities and towns without destroying them in the process.
- The Russian Ministry of Defense and Russian milbloggers began an information operation declaring the Ukrainian counteroffensive a failure almost as soon as it was launched. It is far too soon to assess the progress of the counteroffensive operation, however, which will likely be difficult to evaluate in the short term if it relies on feints and misdirection.
- Russian occupation authorities are imposing a curriculum on Ukrainian students aimed at eliminating the notion of Ukrainian national identity, explicitly in line with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s speeches and writings falsely claiming that Ukraine is part of Russia, and that the Ukrainian identity was an invention of the Soviet period.
- The G7 Non-Proliferation Directors Group condemned Russian attempts to disconnect the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant from the Ukrainian power grid as “unacceptable” ahead of the arrival of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) delegation to the plant.
- Russian forces conducted a limited ground attack north of Kharkiv City.
- Russian forces conducted ground attacks south of Bakhmut and along the western outskirts of Donetsk City.
- Russian-appointed officials in Crimea began “reconstructing” air defense systems to counter smaller targets in response to recurring drone attacks on the peninsula. Russian officials are likely strengthening Crimean air defenses at the expense of other theaters.
- Zabaykalsky Krai announced the formation of the “Daursky” volunteer engineer-sapper battalion.
- Ukrainian partisans conducted an improvised explosive device (IED) attack against the headquarters of the “Together with Russia” political organization in Berdyansk, Zaporizhia Oblast, where occupation authorities were reportedly preparing for sham referenda.
August 30, 2022 | 10:30 pm ET
Ukrainian forces began striking Russian pontoon ferries across the Dnipro River on August 29, which is consistent with the start of the Ukrainian counteroffensive. The effects of destroying ferries will likely be more ephemeral than those of putting bridges out of commission, so attacking them makes sense in conjunction with active ground operations. Ukrainian military officials confirmed that Ukrainian forces destroyed a Russian pontoon-ferry crossing in Lvove, approximately 16km west of Nova Kakhovka on the right bank of the Dnipro River on August 29. Ukrainian and Russian sources have also reported that Ukrainian forces struck a pontoon crossing constructed out of barges near the Antonivsky Road Bridge.
Ukrainian forces have long undertaken efforts to destroy Russian ground lines of communication (GLOCs) prior to the announcement of the counteroffensive operation, which likely indicates that Ukrainian forces are committed to a long-term effort - composed of both strikes and ground assaults. Ukrainian strikes on Russian GLOCs disrupt the Russians’ ability to supply and reinforce their positions with manpower and equipment, which will assist Ukrainian ground counteroffensives. Satellite imagery shows that Russian forces are continuing to use ferries to transfer a limited amount of military equipment daily via the Dnipro River.
The Ukrainian counteroffensive is thus a cohesive process that will require some time to correctly execute. The Kremlin will likely exploit the lack of immediate victory over Kherson City or Ukrainian operational silence on the progress of the Ukrainian counteroffensive to misrepresent Ukrainian efforts as failing and to undermine public confidence in its prospects.
Russian forces are continuing to react and adjust their positions throughout southern Ukraine, likely both as a response to the ongoing Ukrainian counteroffensive and in preparation for broader Ukrainian counter-offensives further east. Russian forces are continuing to transfer large convoys of military equipment from Crimea and Melitopol. Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov also noted that Russian forces have opened up around five military bases and barracks in Melitopol and will likely continue to prepare defenses around Melitopol given its strategically vital GLOCs between Rostov Oblast and southern Ukraine. The Ukrainian Southern Operational Command reported that Russian forces in Kherson Oblast are attempting to conduct rotations of troops, likely in an effort to reinforce some vulnerable positions.
The Ukrainian counteroffensive is likely driving Russian redeployment and reprioritization throughout the theater. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces are reinforcing the grouping of forces operating west of Donetsk City area with elements of the Central Military District (CMD). ISW has previously identified that CMD units, under the command of the CMD Commander Colonel General Aleksandr Lapin, operated in the Lysychansk-Siversk area and recently concluded an operational pause in mid-August. The movement of CMD units to Donetsk City area further suggests that Russian forces are deprioritizing the Siversk advance in favor of attempting to sustain momentum around the Donetsk City area. ISW has previously reported that Russian advances around Avdiivka and the western Donetsk City area have effectively culminated following Russian limited breakthroughs around the Butivka Coal Mine ventilation shaft. The redeployment suggests that the Russian command has recognized that it cannot pursue more than one offensive operation at a time.
The Ukrainian General Staff also reported that Russian forces are deploying elements of the newly-formed 3rd Army Corps, which is at least in part composed of inexperienced volunteers, to reinforce neglected Russian positions in Kharkiv and Zaporizhia Oblasts. The deployment of the 3rd Army Corps may indicate that Russian forces seek to recoup combat power for use in offensive operations around Donetsk City or defensive operations in Kherson by replacing experienced troops with raw and poorly trained volunteer units.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is likely setting conditions for the coerced cultural assimilation of displaced Ukrainians in Russia to erase their Ukrainian cultural identity. Head of the Russian Federal Agency for Ethnic Affairs, Igor Barinov, spoke about the creation of “adaptation centers” for “migrants” living in Russia with Putin on August 29. Barinov stated that with Putin’s permission and support, the Federal Agency for Ethnic Affairs is working on programs in unspecified pilot regions to ensure that “migrants” to Russia know and respect Russian traditions, customs, and laws to prevent “migrants” from experiencing “social isolation” in Russia. Barinov claimed that there is a risk of ethnic minorities in Russia forming enclaves that will exacerbate ethnic crime within Russia, and that “adaptation centers“ would be an effective tool in maintaining the stability of migrant communities. Russian outlet Vot Tak amplified statements made by Russian migration expert Alexander Verkhovsky that such programs should structure themselves as something between refugee camps and vocational training centers for migrants. Verkhovsky also noted that over 3.5 million displaced Ukrainians have entered Russia since the full-scale invasion began on February 24. Many displaced Ukrainians in Russia are not in Russia voluntarily, and the Russian government has forcefully transferred at least 1,000 children from Mariupol to Russia. The forcible transfer of children of one group to another “with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group“ is a violation of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
The creation of so-called social adaptation programs in Russia would add a social dimension to the legal frameworks through which Putin likely seeks to forcibly culturally assimilate Ukrainians into the Russian Federation. As ISW previously reported on August 29, Putin signed two decrees on August 27 in a purported effort to assist stateless peoples and migrants from Ukraine to indefinitely live and work in the Russian Federation with certain social payments allocated to those who left Ukraine following February 18. Russian Security Council Chairman Dmitry Medvedev also stated that Russia will begin working on a bill in September for the condition of entry, exit, and stay in Russia for foreigners. Putin’s decrees and the bill alluded to by Medvedev are likely meant to set conditions for migrants from Ukraine to remain in Russia permanently, thus essentially forming the backbone of an extended campaign to at population transfer between Ukraine and Russia with the purpose of Russifying Ukraine. Programs at so-called adaptation centers would likely serve as a form of cultural reprogramming to erase Ukrainian cultural identity from displaced Ukrainian who either fled to Russia or were deported by Russian authorities.
- Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations with ground assaults and strikes against Russian GLOCs across the Dnipro River. Ukrainian forces made gains on the ground and have begun striking pontoon ferries across the river.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin is likely setting legal and social conditions for the coerced cultural assimilation of displaced Ukrainians in Russia to erase their Ukrainian cultural identity.
- Russian forces conducted a limited ground attack north of Kharkiv City.
- Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks southwest of Izyum, south of Bakhmut, and near the western outskirts of Donetsk City.
- Russian forces conducted a limited ground attack in northern Kherson Oblast.
- An anonymous senior US military official stated that the US believes that Russia is firing artillery from positions around and in the vicinity of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.
- Russian occupation authorities are continuing efforts to forcibly-integrate schools in occupied Ukraine into the Russian educational system and extending methods of social control.
- Russian forces are continuing to move military equipment into Crimea.
- Russian federal subjects (regions) are continuing to recruit and deploy volunteer battalions.
- Russian occupation authorities are taking measures to forcibly-integrate Ukrainian schools into the Russian education space in preparation for the approaching school year.
August 29, 2022 | 10:15 pm ET
Ukrainian military officials announced the start of the Ukrainian counteroffensive in Kherson Oblast on August 29. Ukrainian officials reported that Ukrainian forces have broken through the first line of defenses in unspecified areas of Kherson Oblast and are seeking to take advantage of the disruption of Russian ground lines of communication caused by Ukrainian HIMARS strikes over many weeks. Ukrainian officials did not confirm liberating any settlements, but some Russian milbloggers and unnamed sources speaking with Western outlets stated that Ukrainian forces liberated several settlements west and northwest of Kherson City, near the Ukrainian bridgehead over the Inhulets River, and south of the Kherson-Dnipropetrovsk Oblast border. The Russian Defense Ministry (MoD), Russian proxies, and some Russian milbloggers denounced the Ukrainian announcement of the counteroffensive as “propaganda.”
Many Russian milbloggers nevertheless reported a wide variety of Ukrainian attacks along the entire line of contact, and the information space will likely become confused for a time due to panic among Russian sources. Russian outlets have also vaguely mentioned evacuations of civilians from Kherson Oblast, but then noted that occupation authorities in Kherson Oblast are calling on residents to seek shelter rather than flee. ISW will report on the Ukrainian counteroffensive in a new section below.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi announced that the IAEA mission to the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) left for the plant on August 29. Grossi specified that he is leading the mission but neither he nor the IAEA specified a timeline for the investigation.
Russian sources continue to make claims likely intended to manipulate public opinion and the IAEA investigation. Several Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces shelled Enerhodar and shared photos allegedly showing the location where Ukrainian forces struck a nuclear fuel storage site on the territory of the ZNPP on August 29. Ukrainian sources reported continued Russian shelling of Enerhodar near the ZNPP. Russian sources claimed on August 29 that Ukrainian forces fired on the Khmelnitsky Nuclear Power Plant deep in western Ukraine and far from the front lines; Ukrainian authorities denied these claims. Russian authorities also alleged that several IAEA members from the current mission will remain at ZNPP permanently, but ISW cannot confirm these reports at this time.
Satellite imagery from August 29 provided by Maxar Technologies shows Russian combat vehicles apparently sheltering under ZNPP infrastructure very close to a reactor vessel.
August 28, 2022 | 8:30 pm ET
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed two decrees on August 27 in a reported effort to assist stateless peoples and residents of Donbas and Ukraine live and work in the Russian Federation. The first decree allows Donbas residents, Ukrainians, and stateless peoples to live and work in Russia indefinitely. The decree also allows Ukrainian and Donbas residents to work in Russia without a permit so long as they have acquired an identification card within 30 days of the August 27 decree. The order also requires that all Donbas and Ukrainian residents arriving to Russia undergo mandatory fingerprint registration and a medical examination for the use of drugs, psychotropic substances, infectious diseases, and HIV.
The second decree orders Russian social services to provide social payments to individuals forced to leave Ukraine and the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republic (DNR and LNR) for Russia after February 18, 2022. The decree mandates that social services provide monthly pension payments of 10,000 rubles (approximately $167) to all affected peoples, pension payments of 3,000 rubles (approximately $50) to those with disabilities or those over the age of 80, and payments of 5,000 rubles (approximately $83) to World War II veterans. The decree also orders that social services pay pregnant women 10,000 rubles during pregnancy and an additional 20,000 rubles (approximately $332) when the child is born. The decree excludes refugees and specifies that Russian Federal Republics must execute the payments to the parties.
Russian and Ukrainian forces continued to trade claims of shelling at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, including at the Tenth Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Russia blocked a proposal aimed at strengthening the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons on August 27 in objection to a clause concerning Ukrainian control of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. The Ukrainian Mission to the United Nations published a statement signed by a large proportion of NPT signatories at the last meeting of the conference that condemned Russian aggression in Ukraine, nuclear rhetoric, and provocative statements as “inconsistent with the recent P5 Leaders Joint Statement on Preventing Nuclear War and Avoiding Arms Races.”
Russia has further begun to implement strategies similar to those used by Iran in attempt to manipulate and possibly delay an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) mission to the plant in the near future. The New York Times reported on August 27 that the IAEA had assembled a mission consisting of IAEA Chief Rafael Mariano Grossi and 13 experts from “mostly neutral countries” to visit Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant for observation next week. The list notably excludes the United States and the United Kingdom, which Russia views as unfairly biased. The IAEA stated that the IAEA remained in active consultations for an upcoming mission. Ukrainian official sources have reported that Russian special forces are torturing Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant employees to prevent them from disclosing safety violations to IAEA inspectors, that Russian authorities are attempting to limit the presence of Ukrainian employees at the plant, and that occupation authorities have begun collecting signatures from Enerhodar residents demanding an end to Ukrainian shelling to present to inspectors. Manipulation of the nationality of inspectors and attacks on the “fairness” of IAEA inspections are tactics that Iran has long used to obfuscate its obstruction of IAEA inspections.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin issued two decrees in a reported effort to assist stateless peoples and residents of Donbas and Ukraine live and work in the Russian Federation.
- Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive operations northwest of Slovyansk.
- Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks southeast of Bakhmut and west and southwest of Donetsk City.
- Russian forces conducted a limited ground attack north of Kharkiv City.
- Russian forces did not conduct any reported offensive operations in Kherson or Zaporizhzhia Oblasts.
- The Kremlin likely directed a media outlet closely affiliated with Moscow to criticize the Governor of St. Petersburg Alexander Beglov for failing to incentivize recruitment to volunteer battalions within the city.
- Russian occupation authorities continued efforts to facilitate the integration of the education system in occupied territories in Ukraine according to Russian standards.
August 27, 2022 | 7:30 pm ET
The volunteer battalions constituting Russia’s 3rd Army Corps will likely deploy to Ukraine in ad hoc combined arms units to renew offensive operations, possibly on the Donetsk City axis and the Southern Axis. The volunteer battalions Russia has been forming have been divided into two general groups, as ISW has previously reported. Some battalions are deploying to the front lines as soon as they have completed their abbreviated initial training. Others have been coalescing into a new 3rd Army Corps. An analysis by Janes Intelligence Group of new images from combat training for elements of the 3rd Army Corps at the Mulino Training Ground in Nizhny Novogorod found 3rd Army Corps troops training with more modern Russian equipment such as BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles, T-80BVM and T-90M tanks, and the latest AK-12 assault rifle variants. The other Russian volunteer battalions that have fought in Ukraine, such as the North Ossetian “Alania” Battalion, have not entered combat with older equipment. The fact that the 3rd Army Corps units are training on better gear and apparently being held back to deploy in more coherent combined arms groups suggests that the Russian military intends to commit them to offensive operations and hopes to regain momentum somewhere along the front line. Elements of the 3rd Army Corps are reportedly already deploying from Nizhny Novgorod closer towards Russia’s border with Ukraine. The Georgia-based Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT) observed T-80BV and T-90M tanks that were in Mulino likely of the 3rd Army Corps deploy to Rostov Oblast on August 27. If this report is correct, it could suggest that the Russian military intends to commit the 3rd Army Corps to reinforce offensive operations near Donetsk City, where drives around Mariinka, Pisky, and Avdiivka have been stalling after making some gains. Elements of the 3rd Army Corps may also deploy to the Southern Axis. A Russian Local media outlet reported that the Khabarovsk Krai “Baron Korf” signals battalion will support the deployment of Russian field posts in Kherson Oblast and provide command and control to the new Russian 3rd Army Corps, indicating the Kremlin will likely deploy 3rd Army Corps elements to Kherson and Ukraine’s south.
3rd Army Corps elements are unlikely to generate effective combat power, however. Better equipment does not necessarily make more effective forces when the personnel are not well-trained or disciplined, as many members of the 3rd Army Corps’ volunteer units are not. Previous military experience is not required for many of 3rd Army Corps’ volunteer elements. Images of the 3rd Army Corp elements have shown the volunteers to be physically unfit and old. Analysts have also noted that Russia’s lack of experienced non-commissioned officers (NCOs) will hurt the 3rd Army Corps effectiveness. ISW has previously commented on reports of indiscipline among the personnel of the 3rd Army Corps as well.
Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command stated that a 10-person Russian sabotage and reconnaissance group attempted assault operations in Kherson Oblast on August 27, suggesting that Russian offensive capabilities in Kherson Oblast have degraded even further. A 10-person group amounts to a squad, which is too small to act effectively as a maneuver unit. If the Southern Operational Command correctly reported the size and mission of this unit, it would indicate that Russian ground forces in Ukraine have degraded to the point that they are attempting to conduct offensive operations and echelons too low to make meaningful gains. ISW has no independent confirmation of the current size of Russian assault echelons attempting ground attacks in Ukraine, but this report is consistent with the Ukrainian campaign to degrade Russian logistics capabilities in western Kherson Oblast and ISW’s prior assessments of diminished Russian military morale in Ukraine.
- Volunteer battalions that comprise Russia’s 3rd Army Corps are likely being prepared to attempt offensive combined arms operations but will likely lack sufficient combat power to make a material difference on the battlefield.
- Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command stated that a 10-person Russian sabotage and reconnaissance group attempted assault operations in Kherson Oblast, indicating that Russian offensive capabilities in Kherson Oblast have degraded further.
- Russian forces conducted a limited ground attack north of Kharkiv City.
- Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks southwest of Izyum, northeast of Siversk, northeast and south of Bakhmut, and west and southwest of Donetsk City.
- Ukrainian forces targeted Russian airborne command-and-control elements in western Kherson Oblast.
- Russian and Ukrainian sources traded accusations of shelling the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.
- Russian military leadership may be shifting to a new phase of mobilization in central Russia and have likely exhausted pools of potential recruits in more peripheral and disenfranchised regions.
- Russian authorities are intensifying law enforcement operations in occupied areas.
August 26, 2022 | 6:45 pm ET
Russian forces did not make any claimed or assessed territorial gains in Ukraine on August 26, 2022, for the first time since August 26, 2022. However, Russian forces still conducted limited and unsuccessful ground attacks on the Eastern Axis on August 18.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) stated that unspecified actors (but almost certainly Russian forces) reconnected part of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) to the Ukrainian power grid on August 26. Ukrainian nuclear operating enterprise Energoatom stated that unspecified actors reconnected one of the power units to the ZNPP and are working to add capacity to the ZNPP’s operations. Russian forces remain in full control of the plant, though it is unclear why they would have reconnected the power unit.
Russian occupation authorities remain unlikely to successfully conduct sham referenda to annex Ukrainian territory into the Russian Federation by early September, despite reports of advancing preparations for referenda. Spokesperson for Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) Vadym Skibitsky stated on August 26 that Russian authorities have completed administrative preparations for referenda and created election headquarters, drawn up voter lists, and created election commissions, which Skibitsky stated indicates that the preparatory process for referenda is “almost complete.” Russian-backed occupation authorities in Zaporizhia Oblast announced that they have already audited polling stations, analyzed voter lists, and selected candidates for work in voter precincts and territorial election commissions.
However, Russian occupation authorities are unlikely to be able to carry out referenda as they intend (with cooperation from local collaborators) by the purported September 11 deadline due to continued frictions within occupation administrations and ongoing partisan attacks. The Ukrainian advisor to the head of Kherson Oblast, Serhiy Khlan, stated on August 26 that the Kherson occupation administration is struggling to find people to head administrative units in charge of referendum preparations, likely due to a lack of willing locals and low levels of trust in Ukrainian collaborators. Khlan notably stated that Russian President Vladimir Putin may have ordered occupation administrators to avoid importing Russian administrators to fill these roles in order to make the referendum process appear like a grassroots initiative with local support. Ukrainian sources have previously reported that Ukrainian resistance and increasing partisan attacks are inhibiting preparations for the referendum. While Russian authorities could hypothetically forcibly annex Ukrainian territories on an arbitrary date, they are unlikely to do so without holding staged referenda. All observed indicators suggest that Russian authorities seek to create a veneer of local support and participation before conducting the referenda to frame them as widely supported initiatives but face ongoing setbacks that will delay any annexation effort.
- The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) stated that elements of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) reconnected to the Ukrainian power grid on August 26.
- Russian occupation authorities remain unlikely to successfully conduct sham referenda to annex Ukrainian territory into the Russian Federation by early September, despite reports of advancing preparations for referenda.
- Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks southwest of Izyum, northeast and south of Bakhmut, and on the northwestern outskirts of Donetsk City.
- Ukrainian forces continued targeting Russian ground lines of communication (GLOCS) and military infrastructure in Kherson Oblast which support operations on the west bank of the Dnipro River.
- Russian federal subjects (regions) continued additional recruitment drives for volunteer battalions, which continue to deploy to Ukraine.
- Ukrainian partisans and internal division continue to pose threats to Russian control of occupied territories.
August 25, 2022 | 6:30 pm ET
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s August 25 decree to increase the size of the Russian military starting in January 2023 is unlikely to generate significant combat power in the near future and indicates that Putin is unlikely to order a mass mobilization soon. The decree increases the nominal end strength of the Russian Armed Forces by 137,000 military personnel, from 1,013,628 to 1,150,628, starting on January 1, 2023. The Russian military likely seeks to recover losses from its invasion of Ukraine and generate forces to sustain its operation in Ukraine. The announcement of a relatively modest (yet likely still unattainable) increased end strength target strongly suggests that Putin remains determined to avoid full mobilization. The Kremlin is unlikely to generate sufficient forces to reach an end strength of over 1,150,000 soldiers as the decree stipulates. The Russian military has not historically met its end-strength targets. It had only about 850,000 active-duty military personnel in 2022 before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, for example, well shy of its nominal end strength target of over one million.
Russia would likely face serious obstacles to adding large numbers of new soldiers quickly. Apart from the challenges Russian recruiters face, Russia’s net training capacity has likely decreased since February 24, since the Kremlin deployed training elements to participate in combat in Ukraine and these training elements reportedly took causalities. Russia may use the fall conscription cycle in October 2022, which should bring in about 130,000 men, to replenish Russian losses, which reportedly number in the tens of thousands killed and seriously wounded. The Kremlin may alternatively use the additional end strength to formally subsume into the Russian military the forces of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics and/or the new Russian volunteer units that are not formally part of the Russian military. The net addition to Russia’s combat power in any such case would be very small.
The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) disconnected from the power grid for the first time in its operational history on August 25. Ukrainian nuclear operating enterprise Energoatom reported that Russian shelling caused the disconnection by starting fires at ash pits near the Zaporizhia Thermal Power Plant (ZTPP), approximately 5km from the ZNPP. Energoatom stated that the ZTPP is currently supplying the ZNPP with power and that work is ongoing to reconnect one of the ZNPP power units back to the Ukrainian power grid.
Russian sources accused Ukrainian forces of firing at the ZNPP, but Russia has not provided clear evidence of Ukrainian troops striking the plant. As ISW has previously reported, Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) stated that Russian troops deliberately conducted mortar strikes against the ash pits at the ZTPP. The GUR also has not provided clear evidence to support its claims. The Russians’ failure to provide unequivocal evidence of the extensive shelling they accuse Ukraine of conducting is more noteworthy, however, because Russia controls the ground and could provide more conclusive evidence far more easily than Ukraine could. The GUR also reported on August 20 that Russian officials had indefinitely extended the order for Ukrainian employees of the ZNPP to stay home, and there have been no reports of any rescission of that order, which means that a portion of the ZNPP’s workforce is apparently still absent on Russian orders despite the ongoing emergency. Russian forces have also heavily militarized the ZNPP since its capture, despite the fact that the facility is far from the front line and at no risk of imminent Ukrainian ground attack. This pattern of activity continues to make it far more likely that Russian forces have been responsible for kinetic attacks on and around the ZNPP than that Ukrainian forces have been.
- Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks northwest and northeast of Slovyansk, northeast and south of Bakhmut, and northwest of Donetsk City.
- Russian forces conducted a limited ground attack in northwestern Kharkiv Oblast.
- Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks in northwestern Kherson Oblast.
- Ukrainian forces continued to target Russian military assets and ground lines of communication (GLOCs) in Kherson Oblast.
- Russian federal subjects (regions) are continuing recruitment efforts for volunteer battalions, which are continuing to deploy to training grounds in Russia and to Ukraine.
- Russian occupation administrators are continuing to take measures to mitigate challenges to their authority and facilitate the economic and educational integration of occupied territories into the Russian system.
August 24, 2022 | 6:30 pm ET
Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu stated on August 24 that Russian forces are slowing down the overall pace of their offensive operations in Ukraine while reaffirming that Russia’s objectives in the war have not changed. At a meeting with defense ministers from member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Shoigu stated that Russian troops will be slowing down the pace of offensive operations in Ukraine in a conscious effort to minimize civilian casualties. Shoigu also reiterated that operations in Ukraine are going according to plan and that Russian forces will accomplish all their objectives, supporting ISW’s assessment that Russia’s maximalist strategic war aims in Ukraine have not changed. The Russian MoD has previously issued similar statements to account for the pace of operations in Ukraine.
Shoigu‘s statement may also represent an attempt by the Russian MoD to set information conditions to explain and excuse the negligible gains Russian forces have made in Ukraine in the last six weeks. Since Russian forces resumed offensive operations following a pause on July 16 Russian forces have gained about 450.84 km2 (roughly 174 square miles) of new territory, an area around the size of Andorra. Russian forces have lost roughly 45,000 km2 of territory since March 21 (the estimated date of Russian forces’ deepest advance into Ukraine), an area larger than Denmark. As ISW has previously assessed, Russian forces are unable to translate limited tactical gains into wider operational successes, and their offensive operations in eastern Ukraine are culminating. Shoigu’s statement is likely an attempt to explain away these failings.
- Russian forces have lost an area larger than Denmark since the high-water mark of their invasion of Ukraine in mid-March and gained an area the size of Andorra (one percent of what they have lost) in the last 39 days.
- Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu reaffirmed that Russia has not changed its maximalist strategic war aims.
- Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks southwest and southeast of Izyum, northeast, and south of Bakhmut, and west and southwest of Donetsk City.
- Russian forces conducted a limited ground attack in northwestern Kherson Oblast.
- Ukrainian forces continued to target Russian military assets and ground lines of communication (GLOCs) in Kherson and Zaporizhia Oblasts.
- Russian occupation authorities continue to face partisan and internal challenges to the administration of occupation agendas.
- Russian proxy leadership is continuing efforts to oversee the legislative and administrative integration of occupied territories into Russian systems.
August 23, 2022 | 8:45 pm ET
Russian government sources confirmed that Russia is bringing Ukrainian children to Russia and having Russian families adopt them. Russian federal subject (region) Krasnodar Krai’s Family and Childhood Administration posted about a program under which Russian authorities transferred over 1,000 children from Mariupol to Tyumen, Irkutsk, Kemerov, and Altay Krai where Russian families have adopted them. The Administration stated that over 300 children are still waiting to “meet their new families” and that citizens who decide to adopt these children will be provided with a one-time bonus by the state. Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) additionally reported that Russian officials transferred 30 Ukrainian children from Khartsyzk, Ilovaysk, and Zuhres in occupied Donetsk Oblast to Nizhny Novgorod under the guise of having the children participate in youth educational-training programs. The forcible transfer of children of one group to another “with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group“ is a violation of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
Russian authorities are deploying security forces to Luhansk Oblast likely in response to waning support for the war and growing unwillingness to fight among Luhansk residents. The LNR Internal Ministry reported on August 23 that LNR Internal Ministry personnel conducted joint patrols with consolidated police detachments from the Internal Ministries of St. Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast in Starobilsk, Shchastya, and Stanystia, occupied Luhansk Oblast. The LNR Internal Ministry also reported on August 22 that Rosgvardia (Russian national guard) units conducted security for Russian Flag Day celebrations in Starobilsk. Ukraine‘s Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) reported that Rosgvardia elements in Dovzhansk (formerly Sverdlovsk), Luhansk Oblast are not subordinate to the local LNR forces and that Rosgvardia conducted a search of an LNR official in Dovzhansk. The deployment of Russian security forces to police occupied areas of Luhansk Oblast supports ISW’s previous assessment that LNR residents and possibly militia forces may be unwilling to continue fighting now that they have reached the Luhansk Oblast borders. Recent intensified Russian efforts to forcibly mobilize residents in Luhansk likely exacerbated this disillusionment, and Russian authorities may be increasing Russian security forces’ presence in Luhansk to suppress any internal instability and/or because they are losing confidence in indigenous Luhansk forces.
Russian authorities’ deployment of Rosgvardia elements to security duties in occupied Luhansk Oblast diverts these forces from operations elsewhere in Ukraine, likely contributing to the broader Russian failure to translate limited tactical gains into operational successes. ISW previously assessed that Russian forces had likely exhausted their momentum from territorial gains around Avdiivka and Bakhmut, Donetsk Oblast – a very small section of the whole Ukrainian theater – partially due to their inability to allocate sufficient resources to offensive operations. LNR forces’ unwillingness to fight in the war, coupled with Rosgvardia forces’ presence in the rear instead of near the front will likely contribute to continued Russian failures to make significant territorial gains.
Russian officials may have conducted a false flag event in Donetsk City on August 23 to justify attacks against Ukrainian government buildings on August 24, Ukrainian Independence Day. Social media networks in Donetsk City reported that a strike caused damage to the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) administrative building, where DNR Head Denis Pushilin works. Pushilin was reportedly absent at the time of the strike. Russian media framed the attack as a direct Ukrainian strike on a DNR government building, potentially to set information conditions for retaliatory strikes against Ukrainian government buildings on Ukrainian Independence Day. Ukrainian government authorities previously warned government workers in Kyiv to work from home the week of August 22 to 26 and cited concerns that Russian forces will target Ukrainian government assets as part of an extended missile and artillery campaign on Independence Day. Russian-backed head of Kherson’s occupation administration Kirill Stremousov also claimed on August 22 that his administration was preparing for Ukrainian provocations on Independence Day, which could have been conditions-setting for a false-flag attack.
Unverifiable sources reported that axis commanders in Ukraine are reporting directly to Russian President Vladimir Putin, bypassing both the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) and Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov in the chain of command. Independent Russian outlet Vazhnye Istorii or iStories quoted unnamed sources within the Russian General Staff stating that Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu has lost Putin’s trust after the initial phase of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine that failed despite Shoigu’s assurances of a swift victory. The sources claimed that Putin now bypasses Shoigu and interacts directly with Commander of Central Military District Alexander Lapin who oversees of the “central” group of forces in Ukraine, and the Commander of the Russian Aerospace Forces Sergey Surovikin who commands the “southern” group of forces. ISW cannot independently verify the validity of this report, but if the report is true, it indicates that Putin is also bypassing Gerasimov.
- Russian government sources confirmed that Russian authorities are bringing Ukrainian children to Russia and having Russian families adopt them. The forcible transfer of children from one group to another “with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group“ is a violation of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
- Russian authorities are deploying security forces to Luhansk Oblast likely in response to waning support for the war and growing unwillingness to fight among Luhansk residents. This deployment diverts these forces from operations elsewhere in Ukraine, likely contributing to the broader Russian failure to translate limited tactical gains into operational successes.
- Russian officials may have conducted a false flag event in Donetsk City to justify attacks against Ukrainian government buildings on Ukrainian Independence Day.
- Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks northeast and south of Bakhmut, on the northwestern outskirts of Donetsk City, and southwest of Donetsk City.
- Russian forces made limited gains east of Mykolaiv City and in northwestern Kherson Oblast.
- Ukrainian forces continued to strike Russian military assets and ground lines of communication (GLOCs) in Kherson Oblast.
- Russian federal subjects (regions) are continuing to increase one-time enlistment bonuses for recruits, and are likely recruiting personnel with no prior military experience for specialist positions.
- Ukrainian partisan activity continues to disrupt Russian occupation activities.
August 22, 2022 | 6:15 pm ET
Russian occupation officials in Zaporizhia Oblast have obliquely declared the region’s independence from Ukraine by falsely identifying Ukrainian citizens entering the occupied region as temporary asylum seekers. Head of the Zaporizhia Oblast occupation administration Yevheny Balitsky signed an order that designates Ukrainian citizens arriving in occupied Zaporizhia Oblast as temporary asylum seekers based on Russian law. The order requires the registration of Ukrainian and Russian citizens based on their place of residence or place of arrival in the Russian-occupied parts of Zaporizhia Oblast and requires the distribution of temporary identification forms for all “stateless persons.” Ukrainians and Russians may register if they present proof of their temporary asylum application. This decree has various implications under both international law and domestic Russian law. International law states that a refugee is an individual from outside the country (or who is stateless) who is seeking “temporary asylum” in another country to escape persecution. Russian law defines a refugee as a person ”who is outside of his/her country of nationality or habitual residence.” Neither of these statuses properly apply to the majority of people crossing from unoccupied Ukraine into occupied Zaporizhia.
Russian occupation authorities are thus falsely classifying all Ukrainians entering occupied territories in Zaporizhia Oblast as refugees escaping persecution in Ukraine. The order also de facto identifies Ukraine as a separate country from the Zaporizhia Oblast entity, as defined by the occupation authority. By classifying all Ukrainians as refugees, Russian occupation authorities are establishing a new legal category that might have its own restrictions. Russian occupation authorities may use the refugee status to restrict Ukrainians who temporarily return to occupied territories after evacuating from them. The order will likely affect Ukrainian citizens traveling to occupied Kherson Oblast via the checkpoint in Vasylivka, Zaporizhia Oblast, as the order requires the registration of individuals at the point of arrival in the occupied Zaporizhia Oblast, and Vasylivka is the checkpoint serving Kherson as well as Zaporizhia Oblasts.
- Russian-backed occupation authorities in Zaporizhia Oblast have obliquely declared the independence of the occupied areas of the oblast by falsely identifying Ukrainian citizens entering from unoccupied Ukraine as temporary asylum seekers.
- Russian forces conducted localized spoiling attacks southwest and southeast of Izyum.
- Russian forces continued ground attacks southeast of Siversk and northeast and south of Bakhmut.
- Russian forces continued attempts to advance from the northern and western outskirts of Donetsk City and conducted limited ground attacks southwest of Donetsk City.
- Russian forces made marginal gains along the Mykolaiv-Kherson line.
- Ukrainian intelligence stated that the Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) will start “general mobilization” processes on September 1.
- Prymorsky Krai announced the formation of a new repair and service volunteer battalion.
- Ukrainian partisans continued to conduct attacks against Russian forces in occupied Melitopol.
August 21, 2022 | 9:30 pm ET
Russian forces’ momentum from territorial gains around Bakhmut and Avdiivka in late July is likely exhausted, and Russian attacks in eastern Ukraine are likely culminating although very small Russian advances will likely continue. Russian forces seized Novoluhanske and the Vuhlehirska Thermal Power Plant (TPP) southeast of Bakhmut on July 25 and 26, respectively, consolidating Russian control around difficult water features after many weeks of fighting. Russian sources celebrated these gains as a significant military victory without noting that Ukrainian military Ukrainian forces successfully broke contact and withdrew from the area. Russian forces also celebrated the capture of Ukrainian fortifications around the Butivka Coal Mine ventilation shaft southwest of Avdiivka, after Ukrainian forces withdrew from the area on July 30. Russian forces capitalized on these gains to a limited extent and have been attacking toward Bakhmut from the northeast and southeast, and around Avdiivka, but these attacks are now stalling. Russian forces have not made significant territorial gains around Bakhmut or Avdiivka since their advances through Novoluhanske, the power plant, the Butivka Coal Mine, and a few small settlements near those areas.
Russian forces’ failure to capitalize on prior gains around Bakhmut and Avdiivka is an example of a more fundamental Russian military problem—the demonstrated inability to translate tactical gains into operational successes. Russian forces have consistently failed to take advantage of tactical breakthroughs to maneuver into Ukrainian rear areas or unhinge significant parts of the Ukrainian defensive lines. They therefore continually give the Ukrainians time to disengage tactically and re-establish defensible positions against which the Russians must then launch new deliberate attacks. This phenomenon helps explain the extremely slow rate of Russian advances in the east and strongly suggests that the Russians will be unable to take much more ground in the coming months unless the situation develops in unforeseen ways. Russian forces will likely remain unable to commit enough resources to any one offensive operation to regain the momentum necessary for significant territorial advances that translate to operational successes. Russian forces will also need to generate and commit additional assault groups, equipment, and morale to resume even these limited territorial advances yielding small tactical gains.
Russian forces likely face issues repairing combat aircraft due to Western sanctions and may be attempting to bypass these sanctions by leveraging Belarusian connections with less severe sanctions. The Ukrainian Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) stated that the Russian and Belarusian Defense Ministries signed “urgent” contracts on August 20 to repair and restore Russian military aviation equipment on Belarusian territory reportedly for further use in Ukraine. Western sanctions against Russia have largely banned the transfer of equipment to the state of Russia as a whole, while sanctions against Belarus largely target individual Belarusian entities. Western countries have previously sanctioned Belarusian industrial-military complex entities producing radar systems, automobiles, and repairing tracked vehicles, but it is unclear to what extent the sanctions impacted Belarusian import of aviation repair parts. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces transferred some unspecified air defense equipment to Belarus from Russia on August 21. The Ukrainian General Staff also reported that Russian forces will close certain sections of Russian airspace in the Lipetsk, Voronezh, and Belgorod Oblasts from August 22-25. The Russian-Belarusian agreement may suggest that Russian officials are attempting to circumvent sanctions on Russia, as it may be easier to import repair parts to Belarus than to Russia.
- Russian offensive operations in eastern Ukraine have likely exhausted the limited momentum they gained at the end of July and are likely culminating. The Russian military has shown a continual inability to translate small tactical gains into operational successes, a failing that will likely prevent Russia from making significant territorial advances in the coming months barring major changes on the battlefield.
- Ukrainian military intelligence reports that Russia and Belarus have reached an “urgent” agreement for Belarus to repair damaged Russian aviation equipment for re-use in Ukraine. This agreement could be part of a Russian effort to use the looser sanctions regime on Belarus to circumvent sectoral sanctions on Russia.
- Russian forces attempted several unsuccessful ground assaults southwest and southeast of Izyum.
- Russian forces launched a ground attack southeast of Siversk and northeast and south of Bakhmut.
- Russian forces made limited gains west of Donetsk City but did not conduct any ground assaults on the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast administrative border.
- Russian forces attempted unsuccessful ground assaults southwest of Donetsk City and continued attacking settlements northwest and southwest of Avdiivka.
- Russian forces conducted several assaults on the Kherson-Mykolaiv frontline and made partial advances east of Mykolaiv City.
- Russian forces are likely not training new recruits in discipline, creating an entitled force engaging in disorderly conduct in Russia and illegal conduct in Ukraine.
- Russian occupation authorities intensified filtration measures and abductions in occupied territories ahead of Ukraine’s Independence Day on August 24.
August 20, 2022 | 9:30 pm ET
Russian occupation officials in Crimea reported another drone attack on the Russian Black Sea Fleet Headquarters in Sevastopol on August 20. Russian-appointed Governor of Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhaev claimed that Russian forces were unable to shoot down a drone, resulting in the drone hitting the roof of the Black Sea Fleet headquarters. Razvozhaev then retracted his initial statement and claimed that a fleet air defense post shot down the drone, which landed on the roof and caught fire. Social media footage showed a loud explosion and a cloud of smoke around the headquarters, and the drone likely detonated rather than being shot down. Some OSINT accounts have identified the drone as a commercially-available “Skyeye 5000mm Pro UAV.” Ukrainian officials did not claim responsibility for the attack as of the time of this publication. ISW has previously reported that Crimean occupation officials have obliquely accused Ukraine of orchestrating a drone attack on the headquarters on July 31 during Russia’s Navy Day.
Russian occupation officials in Crimea are likely considering strengthening security on the peninsula following the attacks on Russian military infrastructure, and such measures may draw Russian security forces away from the front lines. Razvozhaev stated that all security services in Sevastopol are operating in “high alert” mode and controlling all entrances to the city. Razvozhaev claimed that Sevastopol residents are asking the occupation administration to increase patrols in the city and establish new checkpoints, returning the peninsula to a security posture such as it had after Russia initially seized it in 2014. ISW has previously assessed that Russian forces have been using all types of security forces, including Rosgvardia, as combat forces and will likely need to divert some of these forces from the front lines and from occupation security duties elsewhere to defend occupied Crimea. Russia’s continued failures to stop attacks against occupied Crimea may also spark public discontent within Russian society. One Russian milblogger criticized Russian forces for not using more electronic warfare (EW) equipment following the first drone attack on July 31. Social media footage already shows many Russians waiting in traffic jams to leave Crimea and go to Russia, which may indicate growing public concern for the effectiveness of Russian security measures.
- Russian occupation officials in Crimea reported another drone attack on the Russian Black Sea Fleet Headquarters in Sevastopol and are likely considering strengthening security on the peninsula.
- Russian forces conducted unsuccessful assaults across the Eastern Axis.
- Russian forces attempted limited, failed assaults north of Kharkiv City.
- Russian forces failed to advance after several assaults northwest of Kherson City and east of Mykolaiv City.
- Ukrainian forces continued to strike Russian ammunition depots and positions in Kherson and Zaporizhia Oblasts.
- Russian and proxy forces are continuing mobilization efforts, including forced mobilization in occupied territories and advertising campaigns.
- Russian occupation authorities continued coercive measures to force civilian cooperation with the occupation administrations.
- Conditions in occupied territories continued to deteriorate, indicating ineffective governance.
August 19, 2022 | 7:30 pm ET
Recent Ukrainian strikes on Russian military and transportation infrastructure in Crimea and Kherson Oblast are likely reducing Russian confidence in the security of Russian rear areas. Reports from August 18 about Ukrainian strikes are affecting the Russian information space despite the fact that these reports were likely overblown. Available open-source evidence indicates that Ukrainian forces did not conduct a successful kinetic attack against either the Stary Oskol Air Base in Belgorod or Belbek Air Base in Crimea on August 18. Geolocated footage shows that a fire started at a field just south of the Stary Oskol Airfield (rather than at the airfield itself), and satellite imagery shows Russian forces transporting ammunition and military equipment to a forest close to the field. An unspecified Russian Zaporizhia Oblast occupation official reiterated that Russian air defenses near the Kerch Strait Bridge activated against a Ukrainian unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) rather than an incoming strike. There is no visual evidence of damage to either air base of as August 19. Geolocated footage shows no explosions or evidence of kinetic activity near the Belbek Air Base overnight on August 18-19, lending credence to claims that footage reportedly showing the explosion is recycled footage misattributed to the Belbek Air Base. As ISW reported on August 18, Russian sources largely reported on and disseminated these false or exaggerated reports, indicating broader Russian panic.
Russian authorities are visibly increasing security measures in Crimea, indicating growing worry among Russian authorities and civilians about the threat of Ukrainian strikes on rear areas previously believed to be secure. Russian authorities installed checkpoints to search Ukrainian cars and identify saboteurs in Sevastopol. Certain Russian milbloggers made dramatic, pessimistic assessments that Ukrainian forces used strikes on the Kerch Strait Bridge and Belbek Air Base to conduct reconnaissance on Russian air and missile defense readiness and make assessments for new attacks, particularly the feasibility of a large strike. Ukraine’s Center for Strategic Communications (UA StratCom) reported on August 19 that Russian forces are not in control of the situation in Crimea as evidenced by the blocking of the Kerch Strait Bridge and activation of air alarms in Sevastopol for the first time since the start of the invasion. UA StratCom warned that Ukrainian forces have not yet struck the Kerch Strait Bridge with full capabilities and that prior Ukrainian strikes on the bridge demonstrate that the bridge is not as safe as the Russians previously believed.
The situation at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) remained largely unchanged on August 19, despite the Russian Ministry of Defense’s August 18 claims that Ukrainian forces would stage a provocation at the ZNPP on August 19. Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces shelled the ZNPP at night on August 18-19 but did not claim that Ukrainian forces launched a large-scale attack on the facility, contrary to Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) statements on August 18. Zaporizhia Oblast Head Oleksandr Starukh emphasized on August 19 that the situation at the ZNPP remains tense but under control.
Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) reported that Russian authorities are likely preparing to hold show trials for Ukrainian soldiers in Mariupol around August 24, notably coinciding with Ukraine’s Independence Day. The GUR warned that Russian authorities intend to hold a show trial of captured fighters from the Azovstal Steel Plant in the Mariupol Philharmonic Theatre and may use the theatre to stage a false-flag attack on August 24. Mariupol Mayor Advisor Petro Andryushchenko confirmed that the Mariupol occupation administration canceled rehearsal schedules at the theatre in order to accommodate the show trials, which ISW previously reported on August 11. As ISW previously reported, these show trials will likely be orchestrated in order to create the impression for Russian domestic audiences that Russian occupation authorities are taking necessary steps to secure occupied areas as well as attempt to demoralize Ukrainian troops. Russian authorities are likely orienting the trials around Ukraine’s Independence Day in order to set further information conditions to exert law enforcement control of occupied areas.
- Recent Ukrainian strikes on Russian military and transport infrastructure in Crimea and Kherson Oblast are likely reducing Russian confidence in the security of Russian rear areas.
- The situation at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) remained relatively unchanged on August 19 despite Russian claims that Ukrainian forces would stage a provocation at the plant.
- Russian authorities are likely preparing show trials of Ukrainian defenders of Azovstal on Ukraine’s Independence Day in order to further consolidate occupational control of occupied areas of Ukraine and set conditions to demoralize Ukrainian troops.
- Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks north of Kharkiv City, southwest and southeast of Izyum, east of Siversk, and south and east of Bakhmut.
- Russian forces conducted multiple unsuccessful ground assaults on settlements on the Southern Axis.
- Russia continues to generate regional volunteer units and will likely deploy many of them to Kherson and Ukraine’s south as part of the 3rd Army Corps.
- Russian occupation authorities are strengthening their control of educational infrastructure in occupied areas in preparation for the approaching school year and may be sending Ukrainian children to Russia as part of a broader repopulation campaign.
August 18, 2022 | 7pm ET
There were no claimed or assessed Russian territorial gains in Ukraine on August 18, 2022 for the first time since July 6, 2022. Russian and Ukrainian sources did not claim any new territorial gains on August 18. However, Russian forces still conducted limited and unsuccessful ground assaults across the eastern axis on August 18.
Russian sources reported explosions across Crimea—possibly caused by Russian air defenses, Ukrainian reconnaissance, or a Ukrainian attack—the night of August 18. Three local sources told Reuters that at least four explosions struck around Belbek Airbase in Russian-occupied Crimea, near Sevastopol. The Russian-appointed governor of Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhaev, claimed that preliminary information indicated that Russian air defenses shot down a Ukrainian drone and caused no damage. Video of a large explosion that circulated on social media in the immediate aftermath of the reported explosions was from a previous engagement on August 8 and is not from the vicinity of the airbase.
Russian sources also claimed that Russian air defenses shot down a drone near the Kerch Bridge between Crimea and Russia on the night of August 18 as social media footage showed active air defenses in the area. Ukrainian Presidential Advisor Mykhailo Podolyak had tweeted on August 17 that the Kerch bridge was illegally constructed and ”must be dismantled.” The railway side of the Kerch bridge is an important target for Ukraine to disrupt Russian logistics capabilities into occupied Ukraine. Social media videos also claimed to depict active Russian air defenses at a Russian base in Nova Kakhova in southern Kherson oblast the night of August 18, suggesting a possibly coordinated series of Ukrainian attacks, if there were attacks, or drone overflights.
ISW cannot independently verify whether Russian air defenses shot down a Ukrainian UAV, or whether any UAV was present in Kerch or Belbek. A Russian social media user posted video claiming to be at Belbek on the evening of August 18, showing no apparent evidence of a strike there. Ukrainian forces will likely continue their campaign to strike Russian military targets in Russian-occupied Crimea to degrade Russian logistics capabilities and degrade Russian capabilities to sustain operations on the west bank of the Dnipro River, as ISW previously assessed. However, it is unclear at the time of publication whether the reported explosions are due to Ukrainian attacks or reconnaissance, poor Russian handling of military equipment, successful Russian air defenses, or nervous Russian defenders who are likely steeling themselves for additional attacks in areas that the Russian military had believed until now to be out of the range of Ukrainian forces.
The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) appears to be setting information conditions to blame Ukrainian forces for future false flag operations at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (NPP). The chief of Russia’s Radiation, Chemical, and Biological Defense Forces, Lieutenant General Igor Kirillov, claimed in an August 18 briefing that Ukrainian forces are preparing for a provocation at the Zaporizhzhia NPP and that the provocation is meant to coincide with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ visit to Ukraine. Kirillov accused Ukrainian forces of preparing to stage this provocation in order to blame Russia for causing a nuclear disaster and create a 30km-wide exclusion zone around the NPP. Kirillov’s briefing, which was amplified by the Russian MoD, coincides with reports that Russian authorities told Russian NPP employees to not come in to work tomorrow, August 19. Leaked footage from within the plant shows five Russian trucks very close to one of the reactors at the NPP on an unspecified date, which may indicate the Russian forces are setting conditions to cause a provocation at the plant and to shift the information narrative to blame Ukraine for any kinetic events that occur on the territory of the plant.
- There were no claimed or assessed Russian territorial gains in Ukraine on August 18, 2022 for the first time since July 6, 2022.
- Russian sources reported a series of unidentified and unconfirmed explosions across Crimea on the night of August 18.
- The Russian Ministry of Defense may be setting information conditions to blame Ukraine for a false flag attack at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.
- Russian forces conducted ground assaults south of Siversk and northeast and south of Bakhmut.
- Russian forces continued conducting offensive operations north, west, and southwest of Donetsk City.
- Russian forces conducted an unsuccessful ground assault on the Zaporizhia axis.
- Ukrainian officials confirmed additional strikes on a Russian military base and warehouse in Kherson Oblast.
- The Kremlin is likely leveraging established Cossack organizations to support Russian force generation efforts.
- Russian occupation officials continued preparations for the long-term integration of occupied territories of Ukraine into Russia.
August 17, 2022 | 8:45 pm ET
Russian military leadership is likely increasingly losing confidence in the security of Crimea following recent Ukrainian strikes on Russian military objects in Crimea. Russian sources reported on August 17 that Vice Admiral Viktor Sokolov had replaced Admiral Igor Osipov as the commander of the Crimean-based Black Sea Fleet (BSF). The Russian information space, however, was evidently eager to maintain a high level of secrecy regarding Sokolov’s appointment due to the claimed threat of “terrorist danger” in Sevastopol. Recent Ukrainian strikes (associated with Ukrainian partisans and Ukrainian Armed Forces) on Russian military assets in Crimea, including the headquarters of the BSF in Sevastopol, have likely placed Russian forces on high alert and led to restructuring of force composition, logistics, and leadership of the Russian grouping in Crimea in order to mitigate the impact of further strikes. Ukraine’s Main Military Intelligence Directorate, for example, reported that Russian forces are relocating dozens of fixed and rotary wing aircraft stationed in forward airfields in Crimea to areas deeper in the Crimean Peninsula and in mainland Russia.
Russian leadership and the Russian nationalist information space have become increasingly invested in framing recent Ukrainian strikes on Russian military assets in Crimea as acts of terrorism in order to shift the information narrative away from Russian violations of international law and calls on the West to designate Russia a state sponsor of terrorism. Russian sources inaccurately described the strikes on the BSF headquarters, an ammunition depot, and the Saki Airbase as acts of terrorism. The Russian-appointed head of occupied Crimea, Sergey Askenov, claimed on August 17 that the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) in Crimea had neutralized cells of the Hizb ut-Tahrir organization (an Islamist fundamentalist political organization that has historically been active in Central Asia and in Crimea amongst the Crimean Tatar community and is banned in Russia) in Dzhankoi and Yalta. Aksenov accused the Ukrainian government of coordinating Hizb ut-Tahrir's operations in Crimea without providing any evidence. Russian officials will likely increasingly link Ukrainian partisan attacks against occupied territories with operations conducted by organizations affiliated with Islamist extremism in an attempt to alienate the Ukrainian partisan movement from the international community and undermine Ukraine’s calls to officially designate Russia as a state-sponsor of terrorism. Attacks against legitimate Russian military targets fall well within the purview of legal use of force and are not acts of terrorism, nor is there any evidence to suggest that Islamist extremists conducted these attacks.
- Russian military leadership is falsely claiming that recent attacks on Russian military objects in Crimea are terrorist attacks to deflect calls to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism.
- Russian forces attempted several unsuccessful assaults near the Kharkiv-Donetsk Oblast border in tactically challenging forest areas.
- Russian forces continued to unsuccessfully attack settlements southeast of Siversk.
- Russian forces launched several assaults northeast and south of Bakhmut, and are likely attempting to improve tactical positions near Horlivka.
- Russian forces made limited gains northwest of Donetsk City and near the Zaporizhia-Donetsk Oblast administrative border.
- Russian forces are likely preparing to defend their ground lines of communication (GLOCs) in the Melitopol-Tokmak-Berdyansk triangle by mining settlements on the eastern Zaporizhia Oblast frontline.
- Russian federal subjects are continuing to form new volunteer units and advertise contract service, while facing recruitment challenges.
- Russian occupation authorities are struggling to increase control measures in occupied territories amidst increased partisan activity.
August 16, 2022 | 9:00 pm ET
Russian and Ukrainian sources reported explosions at an airfield and a critical Russian supply nexus in Crimea on August 16. Local reports and videos show a series of explosions at a Russian ammunition depot and a transformer substation in Dzhankoiskyi District and an airfield near Hvardiiske, Crimea. These explosions both caused significant damage to Russian resources and seriously disrupted Russian logistics. Russian forces have used Dzhankoi as a railway hub for transporting troops and equipment to occupied settlements in southern Zaporizhia Oblast, including Melitopol. Russian authorities temporarily suspended passenger rail service from Russia into Crimea following the attack.
Ukrainian forces have not officially claimed responsibility for these explosions. The New York Times reported that an anonymous senior Ukrainian official attributed the explosions in Dzhankoiskyi District to “an elite Ukrainian military unit operating behind enemy lines,” but no Ukrainian official has publicly come forward to claim responsibility. The Russian Ministry of Defense released a statement calling the explosions “a result of sabotage.”
A Ukrainian strike on logistical targets in Crimea, which is the sovereign territory of Ukraine, would not violate Ukrainian commitments to Western partners regarding Ukraine’s use of Western-supplied weapons within Ukrainian territory or stated US policy regarding Ukraine’s right to use force to regain control of all its territory including areas seized by Russia in 2014. There are no indications that Ukrainian forces used US-supplied weapons in recent strikes on Crimea, and it is unlikely that they did, since the targets are well beyond the range of the US-provided systems.
Attacks on Russian positions in and around Crimea are likely part of a coherent Ukrainian counter-offensive to regain control of the west bank of the Dnipro River. Russian supply lines from Crimea directly support Russian forces in mainland Ukraine including those in western Kherson Oblast. Ukraine’s targeting of Russian ground lines of communication and logistic and support assets in Crimea is consistent with the Ukrainian counteroffensive effort that has also targeted bridges over the Dnipro River and Russian logistical support elements in occupied Kherson Oblast. The net effects of this campaign will likely be to disrupt the ability of Russian forces to sustain mechanized forces on the west bank of the Dnipro River and to defend them with air and artillery assets on the east bank from Ukrainian counterattacks.
The Kremlin continues efforts to misrepresent its likely maximalist goals in Ukraine. ISW assesses that Russian strategic objectives remain unchanged: changing the regime change in Kyiv and securing territorial control over most of Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin omitted mention of territory outside of Donbas while describing the goals of Russia’s war in Ukraine on August 15. Putin closed his preliminary remarks to the Army-2022 forum on August 15 with the claim that Russian and Donbas forces are “doing their duty” to fight for Russia and “liberate” Donbas. Such a limited statement of Russian goals sharply contrasts with previously articulated Russian war goals to ”denazify” and ”demilitarize” all of Ukraine. Putin‘s relatively limited statement additionally is incompatible with Russian actions to integrate occupied parts of Kherson and Zaporizhia Oblasts into the Russian Federation.
- Russian forces conducted ground attacks across the Eastern Axis but failed to advance northwest of Slovyansk and east of Siversk.
- Russian forces are launching offensive operations around Bakhmut, southwest of Avdiivka, and southwest of Donetsk City.
- Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive operations in northern and northwestern Kherson Oblast.
- The Russian Defense Ministry claimed that Ukrainian forces in Nikopol are preparing to conduct provocations at the Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Plant, possibly setting information conditions for further shelling of Nikopol or provocations of its own.
- Chechen units are reportedly relocating to Kherson Oblast to police Russian military deserters.
- Russian forces struggle to recruit soldiers even for safe, prestigious jobs.
August 15, 2022 | 8:00 pm ET
Elements of the Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) militia reportedly refused to continue fighting in Donetsk Oblast and complained about the grueling pace of offensives outside of Luhansk Oblast. The emotional significance of recent Russian targets in Donetsk Oblast resonates with audiences in the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR), but not with LNR audiences tired of grueling offensives beyond their claimed borders. Several Ukrainian channels shared a video on August 15 of soldiers from LNR Battalion 2740 refusing to fight for the DNR. The soldiers claim that they celebrated victory on July 3, when LNR forces reached the borders of Luhansk Oblast, and that their work is done. At least one Russian milblogger has criticized the LNR servicemembers for desiring Russian support for their own ”liberation” and then refusing to fight in Donetsk Oblast. ISW cannot independently verify the origin or authenticity of this particular video. Its message reflects a larger trend of diminished LNR investment in and morale to support the Russian war in Ukraine, however. This trend is particularly dangerous to Russian forces seeking to recruit still more new soldiers from Luhansk Oblast to make up for recent losses. Further division within Russian-led forces also threatens to further impede the efficiency of the Russian war effort.
DNR units have previously recorded similar appeals when operating in Luhansk, Kharkiv, and Kherson Oblasts, which may indicate that proxy troops might not fully support the Kremlin’s expansive invasion plans. ISW has previously reported that servicemen of the 3rd Infantry Battalion of the DNR’s 105th Infantry Regiment complained when the unit was redeployed from Mariupol to Luhansk Oblast in late May. The 113th Regiment of the DNR also published a similar appeal from the Kherson Oblast frontlines in early June. Another serviceman of an unspecified DNR battalion complained that Russian border guards held the unit at the Belgorod Oblast border after the unit fought around Kharkiv City in mid-May to allow Russian units to withdraw first. DNR-based war correspondents have been boasting about the DNR progress around Avdiivka, but such attitudes may sour again if the DNR units are recommitted to another axis.
Russia’s annual Technical Forum and Army Games which began in Moscow on August 13 do not represent any immediate military threat to Ukraine. The forum and army games are not military exercises. The forum is the Kremlin’s premier annual military-industrial complex exposition and generates reliable arms sale revenue, which the Kremlin uses to supplement income lost due to sanctions. The Army Games are a complementary series of competitive military sporting events that the Kremlin uses to demonstrate Russian weapons systems in the field and develop relationships with foreign militaries. This year’s Army Technical Forum will be held from August 15 to August 21 and the Army Games will run from August 13 to August 27.
- A reported video of LNR servicemen refusing to fight in Donetsk Oblast suggests further division among Russian-led forces.
- Russian forces attempted several limited ground assaults northwest of Slovyansk.
- Russian forces conducted multiple offensive operations east and southeast of Siversk and northeast and southeast of Bakhmut.
- Russian forces continued conducting offensive operations northwest, west, and southwest of Donetsk City.
- Russian forces conducted a limited ground assault north of Kharkiv City.
- Russian and Ukrainian forces continued to trade accusations of shelling the Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Plant.
- Petersburg authorities officially denied summoning local men to military recruitment and enlistment centers for discussions of contract service.
- Russian occupation authorities continued preparations for the integration of occupied territories of Ukraine into Russia.
August 14, 2022 | 9:30 pm ET
Russian and proxy troops in Ukraine are likely operating in roughly six groups of forces oriented on Kharkiv City and northeastern Kharkiv Oblast; along the Izyum-Slovyansk line; the Siversk-Lysychansk area; Bakhmut; the Avdiivka-Donetsk City area; and Southern Ukraine. The Kharkiv City and Siversk-Lysychansk groups are likely built around cores drawn from the Western and Central Military Districts respectively. The Izyum-Slovyansk axis is increasingly manned by recently formed volunteer battalions that likely have very low combat power. Wagner Group private military company (PMC) soldiers are in the lead around Bakhmut, while forces drawn from the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) predominate in the Avdiivka-Donetsk City area. Troops from the Southern Military District (SMD) likely formed the original core of forces in Kherson and Zaporizhia Oblasts but have been reinforced with troops of the Eastern Military District, Airborne Forces, and Rosgvardia. None of these groupings is homogeneous—elements of various military districts, proxy forces, volunteer units, and other formations are scattered throughout the theater.
These dispositions suggest that Moscow is prioritizing the advance around Bakhmut and, possibly, toward Siversk with its Russian forces while seeking to draw on the enthusiasm of DNR forces to seize ground they have failed to take since 2014 on the Avdiivka axis. The high concentration of volunteer battalions around Izyum and Slovyansk suggests that that area is not a focus of Russian attention and may be vulnerable to Ukrainian counterattacks. The congeries of forces in and around Kherson Oblast may pose significant challenges to Russian command and control, especially if Ukrainian forces press a counteroffensive there.
Kharkiv City and northeastern Kharkiv Oblast:
Mainly Western Military District units
Russian force composition around Kharkiv City is at least in part composed of Western Military District (WMD) units. The Ukrainian General Staff has identified that Russian forces concentrated WMD units around Kharkiv City and in border areas of Russia’s Kursk and Bryansk Oblasts (northeast of the city).Russian offensive operations on this axis have generally been desultory and suggest a lack of focus, possibly reflected in more limited force deployments.
Mainly Volunteer Battalions and some Eastern Military District units
Russian forces are likely committing volunteer units and some remaining detachments of the Eastern Military District (EMD) to the Izyum-Slovyansk line and are likely deprioritizing the axis in favor of defending positions in southern Ukraine. Ukrainian military officials reported that EMD elements that had previously supported offensive operations towards Slovyansk have been redeploying to the Southern Axis in an effort to defend occupied territories in western Zaporizhia and Kherson Oblasts. Russian outlets and Telegram channels have begun identifying and announcing recruitment for volunteer units operating near Izyum around reports of Ukrainian counteroffensive preparations. Russian media outlet Readovka reported that the volunteer Cossack detachments “Yermak” and “Kuban” are recruiting reinforcements for offensive operations in Kharkiv Oblast, likely around Izyum given that Cossack units have been operating in the area since April. Kremlin-affiliated outlet Kommersant also reported that the “Don” Cossack Detachment that has been fighting around Velyka Komyshyvakha (southwest of Izyum) since April is joining volunteer and other Cossack units (including the ”Kuban” detachment). Russian war correspondent Sasha Kots reported that the “Russian Legion” is recruiting personnel to operate on the Kharkiv-Donetsk Oblast border. The “Russian Legion” has reportedly operated southeast of Izyum since entering Ukraine on May 12. Reliance on volunteer forces may explain the lack of Russian progress and some successful Ukrainian counterattacks on the Izyum-Slovyansk line.
Central Military District with some DNR and LNR units
Units of the Russian Central Military District (CMD) and some LNR and DNR units are operating on the Siversk-Lysychansk axis and have resumed their offensive operations likely following an operational pause initiated in late July. CMD Commander Colonel General Aleksandr Lapin visited Lysychansk on August 8 and likely ordered CMD troops to resume offensive operations towards Siversk during his visit. The Russian Defense Ministry identified Lapin as responsible for securing Lysychansk on July 3, and he had likely continued to command the troops in the area since then. The grouping has been consistently launching offensive operations in the Siversk area since August 8, whereas they had previously engaged in sporadic limited assaults usually at two-to-three-day intervals. Social media footage published on Twitter on August 5 showed elements of the Russian 55th Motorized Rifle Brigade of the 41st Combined Arms Army of the CMD reportedly operating in the direction of Siversk. ISW has previously reported that Russian forces also moved a CMD battalion tactical group (BTG) to the Severodonetsk-Lysychansk area in late June.
Wagner Group with LNR and some WMD units
Detachments of the Wagner Group private military company (PMC) have been active in Russian efforts to gain ground around Bakhmut and have likely contributed to recent successes in this area. Various Russian and Ukrainian sources reported that Wagner Group mercenaries were instrumental in the previous captures of Pokrovske (due east of Bakhmut), Klynove (18km southeast of Bakhmut), Novoluhanske (25km southeast of Bakhmut), and the Vuhlehirska Power Plant (about 20km southeast of Bakhmut). Russian Telegram channels lauded the work of the Wagner Group in completing the tactically complicated capture of the Vuhlehirska Power Plant on July 26, showing the approval that the Russian information space has recently awarded the Wagner Group. LNR units, such as the 6th Cossack Regiment, and other WMD detachments are operating in the Bakhmut direction as well.
The Wagner Group also reportedly maintains a headquarters in Popasna, about 40km northeast of Bakhmut. A Russian miblogger posted imagery on Telegram of his reported visit to the Wagner Group headquarters, which he claimed was in Popasna, on August 9. This location likely allows Wagner Group command to coordinate various offensive operations in northeastern Donetsk Oblast from well within Russian-occupied territory in Luhansk Oblast. Various Russian and Ukrainian sources reported that Ukrainian forces targeted and destroyed the headquarters on August 14, possibly based on geolocation of the aforementioned milblogger’s Telegram post. The strike may impact Wagner’s command and control abilities in the Bakhmut area.
DNR units, which have been operating in the area since 2014, are operating in the Avdiivka-Donetsk City area after likely having participated in operations to seize Luhansk Oblast. DNR-based milbloggers and war correspondents have been publishing footage of the DNR 1st Slavic Brigade, 5th Brigade, and the 11th Regiment making limited advances north and northwest of Donetsk City. The DNR also began advertising volunteer recruitment for the DNR 100th Guards Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade, and Ukrainian officials reported that Russian occupation authorities have begun to mobilize men from Mariupol to join DNR efforts. Readovka also identified that one unspecified Cossack detachment is operating around Mariinka, northwest of Donetsk City. ISW has previously assessed that DNR-based milbloggers have increased their coverage of small-scale progress on the Avdiivka-Donetsk City axis likely in an effort to boost morale among DNR and Russian fighters. It is likely that such coverage is aimed at recruiting more DNR fighters to support the attempted breakthroughs around Donetsk City.
The Russian force composition along the Southern Axis is relatively more diverse than that of other axes. Russian military leadership has likely rushed a mix of forces to this area to defend it against an expected Ukrainian counteroffensive, which likely explains the wide variety of force groupings in this area. ISW has observed elements of the 35th and 36th Combined Arms Armies (CAA) of the Eastern Military District (EMD), the 22nd Army Corps of the Black Sea Fleet, the 49th CAA of the Southern Military District (SMD), 76th Guards Air Assault Division, and Rosgvardia throughout Southern Ukraine.
Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command noted on August 3 that Russian forces were sending elements of the 35th CAA to northern Kherson Oblast. Various Ukrainian officials reported on August 3 that Ukrainian forces destroyed a command post of the 22nd Army Corps in Chornobaivka, on the outskirts of Kherson City. Ukrainian forces additionally targeted control points of the 76th Air Assault Division in Chornobaivka on August 5. Elements of the 49th CAA reportedly have been active on the western bank of the Dnipro River, particularly in the Snihurivka area of Mykolaiv Oblast. Deputy Chief of Ukraine’s Main Operational Department of the General Staff Oleksiy Gromov stated on August 4 that elements of Rosgvardia (Russia’s internal military force) moved to the eastern bank of Dnipro River, suggesting that Russian forces are prioritizing securing the defense of this bank.
- Russian and proxy troops in Ukraine are operating in roughly six force groupings.
- Russian forces conducted ground attacks north of Kharkiv City, northwest of Slovyansk, east of Siversk, and made unspecified gains around Bakhmut.
- Ukrainian forces reportedly struck a Wagner force concentration in Popasna, Luhansk Oblast, inflicting casualties.
- Forty-two states called on Russian forces to withdraw from the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in Enerhodar, just two to four hours before another strike hit Enerhodar.
- Ukrainian forces struck the Antonivsky road bridge, likely keeping all three road bridges to and on the right bank of the Dnipro inoperable to heavy equipment.
- Russian military recruitment and enlistment centers continue to face challenges in incentivizing Russians to sign military service contracts.
- Russian occupation authorities continued rubleization measures and civilian data collection in occupied territories to set conditions for annexation referenda.
August 13, 2022 | 8pm ET
Ukrainian forces are continuing efforts to disrupt Russian ground lines of communication (GLOCs) that support Russian forces on the right bank of the Dnipro River. Ukrainian forces struck the bridge on the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant (HPP) dam again on August 13, reportedly rendering the bridge unusable by heavy vehicles. Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command had previously reported on August 10 that the Kakhovka HPP dam bridge was unfit for use. The Kakhovka bridge was the only road bridge Russian forces could use following Ukrainian forces’ successful efforts to put the Antonivsky road bridge out of commission. The UK Defense Ministry has claimed that Russian forces now have no bridges usable to bring heavy equipment or supplies over the Dnipro River in Kherson Oblast and must rely mainly on the pontoon ferry they have established near the Antonivsky road bridge. ISW cannot confirm at this time whether Russian forces can use the Antonivsky rail bridge to resupply forces on the right bank of the Dnipro River.
Russian forces cannot support mechanized operations at scale without a reliable GLOC. Bringing ammunition, fuel, and heavy equipment sufficient for offensive or even large-scale defensive operations across pontoon ferries or by air is impractical if not impossible. If Ukrainian forces have disrupted all three bridges and can prevent the Russians from restoring any of them to usability for a protracted period then Russian forces on the west bank of the Dnipro will likely lose the ability to defend themselves against event limited Ukrainian counterattacks.
Indicators of degraded Russian supplies resulting from the disruption of Russian GLOCs over the Dnipro River would include: observed fuel and ammunition shortages among Russian forces in western Kherson Oblast; abandoned Russian vehicles; decreased intensity and, finally, cessation of Russian ground assaults and artillery attacks; possibly increased instances of Russian looting; increased reports from Russian soldiers about supply shortfalls; increased numbers of Russian prisoners of war taken by Ukrainian forces; and an observed absence of new heavy machinery transported to western Kherson. Such indicators could take days or weeks to observe depending on how much Russian forces have been able to stockpile supplies on the west bank of the Dnipro and how successful Ukrainian forces are at finding and destroying those stockpiles while keeping the bridges inoperable.
Ukrainian Mykolaiv Oblast Head Vitaly Kim reported that unspecified Russian military command elements left upper Kherson Oblast and relocated to the left bank of the Dnipro River, suggesting that the Russian military leadership is concerned about being trapped on the wrong side of the river. Ukrainian Advisor to the Minister of Internal Affairs Rostislav Smirnov also stated that Russia has deployed 90% of its air assault forces (presumably 90% of those deployed in Ukraine) to unspecified locations in southern Ukraine to augment Russian defenses or possibly prepare for Russian counteroffensives. It is unclear whether the Russian airborne units Smirnov mentioned are concentrated exclusively in Kherson Oblast or also deployed near Zaporizhia. Elements of the Russian 7th Airborne Division are known to be operating in Kherson Oblast as of at least August 10. The concentration of Russian Airborne Forces in western Kherson Oblast could indicate Russian efforts to use forces to defend against a Ukrainian counteroffensive that they are more likely to be able to exfiltrate by air if they are unable to hold the Ukrainians back or reestablish their GLOCs. Airborne forces are easier to move by aircraft than regular mechanized forces, of course, although the Russians could find it challenging and very risky to try to move forces by air given Ukrainian attacks on airfields in Kherson Oblast and Russian failure to secure air superiority.
Russian forces may be reprioritizing advances in northeastern Donetsk Oblast in order to draw attention from Ukrainian counteroffensive actions in Southern Ukraine. Russian forces had seemingly scaled back offensive actions east of Siversk and conducted sporadic and limited ground attacks while relying heavily on artillery barrages of surrounding settlements since August 6. However, since August 11, Russian forces have increased the number of limited ground attacks in the Siversk area. These attacks, along with continued assaults in the direction of Bakhmut, may constitute an effort to draw Ukrainian materiel and personnel to the Bakhmut-Siversk line in northeastern Donetsk Oblast in order to detract Ukraine’s attention from critical areas in the South, where Ukrainian troops have been conducting effective counterattacks and may be setting conditions to launch a counteroffensive. Russian forces may hope to shift both tactical and rhetorical focus away from the south in order to alleviate pressure on their own operations along the Southern Axis. ISW will continue to monitor the situation around Siversk.
- Ukrainian forces are continuing efforts to disrupt Russian ground lines of communication (GLOCs) that support Russian forces on the right bank of the Dnipro River.
- Russian forces may be reprioritizing efforts in northeastern Donetsk Oblast in order to draw Ukrainian attention away from the Southern Axis.
- Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks northwest of Slovyansk, east of Siversk, and south and east of Bakhmut.
- Russian forces conducted a limited ground assault north of Kharkiv City.
- Russian and Ukrainian authorities accused each other of shelling the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.
- Russian authorities are failing to pay Russian reservists and members of volunteer units for service in Ukraine.
- Russian-backed occupation authorities are likely dealing with internal challenges that are complicating efforts to administer occupation regimes and institute restoration projects in decimated areas of Donbas.
August 12, 2022 | 9:00 pm ET
The Kremlin is reportedly attempting to mobilize industry to support prolonged war efforts in Ukraine. The Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) reported that the Kremlin initiated the “industrial mobilization” of the defense enterprises in early August, banning some employees and the entire leadership at the Russian state industrial conglomerate company Rostec from taking vacations. The GUR added that the Military-Industrial Commission of the Russian Federation, chaired by Russian President Vladimir Putin, is preparing to change the state defense order program by early September to increase expenditures by 600-700 billion rubles (approximately $10 billion). Russian outlet Ura also reported that Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu likely visited the Uralvagonzavod factory, the largest tank manufacturer in Russia and the producer of Russia’s T-72 main battle tanks, on August 12. The GUR previously reported that Uralvagonzavod faced financial issues due to Western-enforced sanctions and failure to meet state contract obligations. If true, Shoigu’s visit could suggest that the Kremlin is attempting to restart or expand the operation of the military-industrial complex. ISW has previously reported that the Kremlin has been conducting a crypto-mobilization of the Russian economy by proposing an amendment to the federal laws on Russian Armed Forces supply matters to the Russian State Duma on June 30. The amendment obliges Russian businesses, regardless of ownership, to fulfill Russian military orders and allows the Kremlin to change work conditions for employees. Putin signed the amendment on July 14, which indicates that the Kremlin will continue to introduce more measures to expand the Kremlin’s direct control over the operations of Russia’s military-industrial complex.
- Russian forces conducted ground attacks east of Siversk and northeast and southeast of Bakhmut.
- Russian forces conducted ground attacks southwest and northwest of Donetsk City.
- Ukrainian forces destroyed the last functioning bridge Russian forces used to transport military equipment near the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant.
- Ukrainian officials confirmed additional Ukrainian strikes on Russian ammunition depots and a logistics point in Kherson Oblast.
- Russian regional officials may be misrepresenting percentage fill of newly formed volunteer battalions.
- Ukrainian partisans are likely targeting Russian occupation officials and Ukrainian collaborators who are preparing for the sham annexation referenda to disrupt the Russian annexation of occupied Ukraine.
August 11, 2022 | 9:00 pm ET
The US State Department called on Russian forces to cease all military activity surrounding the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) and support the creation of a demilitarized zone amidst new reports of shelling at the ZNPP on August 11. The US State Department also called on Russia to return control of the plant to Ukraine.
Ukrainian and Russian occupation authorities accused each other of shelling the ZNPP on August 11. Ukraine’s nuclear operating enterprise Energoatom reported that Russian shelling damaged the area of the commandant’s office, storage of radiation sources, and the nearby fire station. The fire station is approximately 5km east of the ZNPP. The Ukrainian Strategic Communications Center stated that Russian forces are deliberately staging provocations at the ZNPP and are carrying out dangerous experiments involving power lines to blame Ukrainian forces at the United Nations (UN) Security Council. Russian-appointed Zaporizhia Oblast Occupation Administration Head Yevgeniy Balitsky claimed that Ukrainian shelling damaged the ”Kakhovskaya” high-voltage power line, resulting in a fire and a large cloud of smoke seen on social media footage from the city.
Russian officials have previously accused Ukraine of striking positions of crucial significance to Ukrainians – such as the falsely-claimed HIMARS strike on the Olenivka colony in occupied Donetsk Oblast. A CNN investigation concluded that “there is almost no chance that a HIMARS rocket caused the damage to the warehouse where the prisoners were being held.” Russians may be continuing a similar narrative around the ZNPP to discourage further Western support to Ukraine. ISW cannot independently verify the party responsible for the shelling of the ZNPP.
Russia’s 64th Separate Guards Motor Rifle Brigade (64th SGMRB) of the 35th Combined Arms Army (CAA) has likely been destroyed in combat, possibly as part of an intentional Kremlin effort to conceal the war crimes it committed in Kyiv Oblast. Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty (RFEFL) investigative journalist Mark Krutov conducted an investigation into the brigade following its participation in atrocities in Bucha and concluded that after heavy fighting on the Izyum and Slovyansk axes, the brigade has largely ceased to exist. Krutov stated that out of 1,500 soldiers who were in the brigade before the war, 200 to 300 were likely killed. Krutov quoted CNA Russia Studies director Michael Kofman’s estimates that the typical ratio for those killed to those wounded in action is around 1 to 3.5, which would mean that the 64th SGMRB suffered up to 700 to 1,000 wounded in action. It is typical for Russian units that are so severely degraded during combat to be disbanded and survivors reallocated into other combat elements, but Krutov noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin cannot disband the 64th SGMRB without embarrassment. Putin had awarded the brigade the honorary ”guards” designation on April 18, following the emergence of evidence that it had committed war crimes in Bucha. The brigade was rushed back into combat in eastern Ukraine after it had CorrectionThis sentence previously incorrectly stated that the brigade completed its withdrawal from around Moscow instead of Kyiv.completed its withdrawal from around Kyiv without much time to rest, refit, receive replacements, or recover. Speculation at the time ran that the Kremlin was eager to have the brigade destroyed in combat to avoid revelation of its war crimes.
Ukrainian intelligence warned that the Kremlin is setting conditions to launch an informational attack on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in an effort to discredit him. The Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) reported that the Russian Presidential Administration approved the creation of a new informational task force within the Russian special services responsible for establishing the fake “Zelensky Foundation.” The foundation will feature an unspecified falsified proposal targeting foreign aid organizations and will operate as a ”multi-level marketing” scheme likely focusing on recruitment in European countries. The GUR noted that the main concept behind the foundation is to distribute misinformation in the European media sphere. The GUR noted that as of August 10, Russian special services had created a site for the foundation, prepared social media fake screenshots and comments, and established a network of bloggers to promote the foundation. Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar echoed similar concerns that Russia has intensified its information operations by spreading rumors in an effort to create friction between Ukrainian military and political officials.
A collection of complaints sent to the Russian military prosecutor’s office and verified by Bellingcat and the Insider included instances of Russian authorities tricking or coercing conscripts into taking combat positions, limiting the extent of information provided to the families of Russian soldiers, and failing to provide soldiers with basic food or medical care. The archive includes reports that Russian commanders have ordered soldiers to launch assaults with no equipment, refused to allow soldiers to quit or to dismiss them for clearly fileable offensives, and failed to notify soldiers’ relatives of their death. The report also highlighted complaints from residents of occupied Luhansk and Donetsk Oblasts that accused Russian forces of looting, trespassing, and firing military equipment from civilian infrastructure.
Ukrainian General Staff Main Operations Deputy Chief Oleksiy Gromov stated that Ukrainian forces were not responsible for explosions at the Zyabrovka airfield near Gomel, Belarus overnight on August 10-11. The Belarusian Ministry of Defense (MOD) claimed that an inspection run caused an engine fire at the Zyabrovka airfield and that there were no casualties. Senior Advisor to Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovkaya Franak Viacorka amplified local reports of at least eight explosions near the Zyabrovka airfield. Social media video footage showed flashes near the airfield.
- The US State Department called on Russian forces to cease all military activity surrounding the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) amidst new reports of shelling at the ZNPP.
- Russian forces conducted ground attacks east of Siversk and northeast and southeast of Bakhmut.
- Russian forces continued ground attacks on the north and southwestern outskirts of Donetsk City.
- Ukrainian officials confirmed additional Ukrainian strikes on Russian command posts and ammunition depots along the Southern Axis.
- Russia’s Khabarovsk Krai is forming two new volunteer battalions.
August 9, 2022 | 8:00 pm ET
Ukrainian officials framed the August 9 attack in Crimea as the start of Ukraine’s counteroffensive in the south, suggesting that the Ukrainian military expects intense fighting in August and September that could decide the outcome of the next phase of the war. A Ukrainian official told Politico on August 10 that “you can say this is it” when asked about the start of Ukraine’s planned counteroffensive. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky vaguely noted on August 10 that the war “began with Crimea and must end with Crimea - with its liberation.”
The Kremlin’s changing plans suggest that occupying forces will likely move up the date of the annexation referenda in occupied Ukraine. The advisor to Ukraine’s Kherson Oblast Civil Military Administration, Serhiy Khlan, claimed on August 10 that occupation forces have stopped discussing September 11 as a date for Russia’s sham referenda on the annexation of occupied Ukrainian territories. ISW previously assessed September 11, the date that polling will be held in local and regional elections across the Russian Federation, to be the most likely date for annexation referenda to be held. Khlan noted that Russian occupation forces had referred to September 11 as the date of the sham referenda, “but now the dates are again unclear.” Occupation authorities have taken measures to be able to hold sham referendums at any time—ISW reported on August 3 that Russian forces would offer easily manipulated “online voting” in the Donetsk Oblast referendum and reported on August 7 that occupation forces in occupied Zaporizhia Oblast were planning door-to-door “surveys” of the local population.
The political, military, economic, and other consequences of a prolonged Russian military occupation of southern and eastern Ukraine would be devastating to the long-term viability of the Ukrainian state. The performative drama of annexation will not change the on-the-ground realities created by the brutal Russian occupation. Forced passportization, rubleization, “filtration,” and other “integration” measures already underway in Russian-occupied areas are far more important and damaging to Ukraine than the referenda would be.
Ukrainian nuclear operating enterprise Energoatom Head Petro Kotin suggested that Ukrainian forces interrupt power lines leading to the Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) should Russian forces start disconnecting the ZNPP from the Ukrainian power system. Kotin told Reuters on August 9 that Russian forces intend to damage all power lines to the ZNPP and connect the plant to the Russian power grid, effectively stealing the ZNPP from the Ukrainians.
The Embassy of Uzbekistan in Russia cautioned the Uzbek diaspora that any form of participation in the Russian invasion of Ukraine is punishable by up to 10 years in Uzbek prison, effectively denouncing Russian volunteer recruitment efforts among Central Asian immigrants. The Embassy noted that Uzbek law prohibits all citizens from engaging in mercenary activity and warned Uzbeks to stay clear of any “provocations.” ISW has previously reported that the Chairman of the Society of Central Asian Uzbeks of Perm Krai, Jahongir Jalolov, called on Uzbek nationals living or working in Perm Krai to form a volunteer battalion in Perm Krai to support Russian forces in Ukraine. Russian propagandist Margarita Simonyan supported Jalolov’s proposal and celebrated the loyalty of the Uzbek diaspora in Russia. The Embassy statement was likely a response to Jalolov’s announcement.
Iran reportedly began training Russian forces on Iranian UAV systems in recent weeks, demonstrating the deepening military cooperation between Iran and Russia. A US official told CNN that “Russian officials conducted training in Iran as part of the agreement for UAV transfers from Iran to Russia,” citing newly declassified US intelligence. Russia launched a satellite on Iran’s behalf on August 9, likely in exchange for the drones and other military equipment and economic collaboration. Iran may leverage new Russo-Iranian aviation deals to transfer UAVs to Russia for use in Ukraine.
- Russian officials remain confused about the August 9 attack on the Saki Air Base in Russian-occupied Crimea, over 225km behind Russian lines, which destroyed at least eight Russian aircraft and multiple buildings.
- The Kremlin’s changing plans suggest that occupying forces are most likely to move up the date of the annexation referenda in occupied Ukraine. Annexation makes it harder to imagine any negotiated settlement to the war on any terms that Ukraine or the West could accept, demonstrating that the Kremlin is fundamentally unserious about ending the war on any terms short of a Ukrainian surrender.
- Iran reportedly began training Russian forces on Iranian UAV systems in recent weeks, demonstrating the deepening military cooperation between Iran and Russia.
- Russian forces conducted ground attacks west of Izyum.
- Russian forces continued limited ground assaults northeast and west of Bakhmut and likely made marginal gains in these areas.
- Russian forces made marginal gains northwest of Donetsk City and are continuing attempts to push northwestward from current footholds on the outskirts of Donetsk City.
- Russian forces conducted multiple unsuccessful offensives north and northeast of Kharkiv City.
- Russian forces conducted an unsuccessful reconnaissance-in-force operation in northwestern Kherson Oblast.
- Russia’s Oryol Oblast is reportedly forming a volunteer battalion.
August 9, 2022 | 7:45 pm ET
The Ukrainian General Staff made no mention of Izyum in its 1800 situational report on August 9, nor did other prominent Ukrainian sources despite Western sources’ claims of an ongoing Ukrainian counteroffensive in this area. This silence represents a noteworthy departure from previous Ukrainian coverage of the Kharkiv-Donetsk axis.
Russian and Ukrainian sources reported a series of large explosions deep within Russian-occupied Kherson Oblast and Crimea on August 9, but Ukrainian officials have not claimed responsibility for them as of the time of this publication. Social media users reported witnessing 12 loud explosions at the Saky airbase in Novofedorivka on the Crimean western coast. Social media footage only showed the large cloud of smoke and the aftermath of the incident. Social media footage also showed a large smoke cloud near Novooleksiivka in Henichensk district, in the vicinity of the Kherson Oblast-Crimean border. Advisor to the Kherson Oblast Administration Serhiy Khlan reported that explosions occurred on the Russian ammunition base but noted that there is no official confirmation of Ukrainian involvement in the incident.
The Russian Defense Ministry claimed that several aircraft munitions detonated in the storage areas of the Saky airbase due to poor fire protocol, rejecting reports that Ukrainian strikes or sabotage at the military facility caused the explosions. The Russian Defense Ministry added that the incident did not result in any casualties or damage to Russian aviation equipment. The Russian Health Ministry claimed that five civilians were wounded in the incident, however. Social media footage also showed firefighters extinguishing a burning plane, which also contradicts the original Russian Defense Ministry claim. Russian-appointed Head of Crimea Sergey Aksyenov claimed that Russian officials are only evacuating a few residents in homes near the airbase, but social media footage showed long traffic jams approaching the Crimean bridge and the departure of several minibusses, reportedly with evacuees. Russian propagandist Margarita Simonyan claimed that the incident was a result of sabotage rather than a missile or rocket strike. Russian milbloggers voiced differing opinions regarding the origin of the strike, with some speculating that Ukrainian forces used US-provided long-range army tactical missile systems (ATACMS). Ukrainian forces do not have the ATACMS systems, however.
The Kremlin has little incentive to accuse Ukraine of conducting strikes that caused the damage since such strikes would demonstrate the ineffectiveness of Russian air defense systems, which the Ukrainian sinking of the Moskva had already revealed. ISW does not yet have any basis independently to assess the precise cause of the explosions. The apparent simultaneity of explosions at two distinct facilities likely rules out the official Russian version of accidental fire, but it does not rule out either sabotage or long-range missile strike. Ukraine could have modified its Neptune missiles for land-attack use (as the Russians have done with both anti-shipping and anti-aircraft missiles), but there is no evidence to support this hypothesis at this time.
Russia launched an Iranian satellite into orbit on August 9 that could be used to provide military intelligence on Ukraine. Iranian Space Agency Head Hassan Salariyeh stated that the remote-sensing satellite, Khayyam, has a one-meter camera resolution. Khayyam has already begun broadcasting telemetry data. Iranian officials have denied that another state will have access to satellite feed at any point, but Western intelligence officials have claimed that Russian authorities will maintain access.
- Russian forces conducted ground attacks to the southeast of Siversk and around Bakhmut.
- Russian forces conducted ground attacks north of Donetsk City and southwest of Donetsk City near the Zaporizhia-Donetsk Oblast border.
- Several large explosions hit Russian positions near Sevastopol and north of Crimea, but Russia did not blame Ukraine for them and Ukraine has not taken credit for them.
- Russia launched a surveillance satellite for Iran.
- Western media has reported that a Ukrainian counteroffensive is underway near Izyum, but the Ukrainian General Staff was notably completely silent about the area in its evening report.
- Russian sources suggested that recently-formed volunteer battalions are responsible for much of the Izyum sector.
- Ukrainian officials claimed that Russian forces continued to fire artillery systems from the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.
- Russian officials are continuing to take prominent roles in preparing for the sham referenda in Russian-occupied regions despite Kremlin claims that Russia is not conducting the referenda.
August 8, 2022 | 7 pm ET
Western and Ukrainian outlets circulated a report, likely false, of a Russian general allegedly threatening to destroy Europe’s largest nuclear facility, the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), if Russia could not hold the plant. Multiple news outlets shared a screenshot from the Russian social networking site Vkontakte that claimed to cite the Russian head of the Zaporizhia occupation garrison, Major General Valery Vasilev, stating that Russia had mined the Zaporizhzhia NPP and that the plant would be “either Russian land or a scorched desert.” The screenshot appeared to be a news report posted in a Vkontakte group run by Russian outlet Lenta Novosti Zaporizhia. The outlet itself claimed that the screenshot was from a faked group and denied writing the report. The Russian Ministry of Defense condemned the report and screenshot as a “fake” and claimed that Vasilev was in Uzbekistan at the time he was purported to have made the statement to forces at Zaporizhzhia. Regardless of the origin (or existence) of the original post, the reporting is unreliable. It is indirect and does not claim to cite an official statement or a statement made on any official Russian news or government website.
This likely misreporting distracts from the very real risks of Russia’s militarization of the Zaporizhzhia NPP, which may include mining the plant and almost certainly includes the unsafe storage of military armaments near nuclear reactors and nuclear waste storage facilities. Bellingcat geolocated a drone video of the Zaporizhia NPP that was shared by Russian opposition outlet The Insider on August 5. The video depicts Russian military vehicles moving in and around the plant, including military trucks and armored vehicles moving around and into the building containing the first of the plant’s six nuclear reactors. Russian forces have also dug trenches in and around the plant and may have established firing positions. Russian officials claim that Ukraine has repeatedly attacked the plant, while Ukrainian officials claim that Russian forces are attacking Ukrainian positions from within the plant, preventing Ukrainian return fire and essentially using the plant as a nuclear shield. Russian forces have repeatedly shelled the nearby Ukrainian-controlled town of Nikopol, likely from positions in or around the NPP, since July. ISW continues to assess that Russian forces are likely leveraging the threat of nuclear disaster to degrade Western will to provide military support to a Ukrainian counteroffensive.
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.
- Reporting of a likely falsified Russian statement distracts from the real risks of a Russian-caused nuclear disaster at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. Russian forces continue to conduct attacks from and store military equipment near the plant’s nuclear reactors, likely to play upon Western fears of a nuclear disaster and degrade Western will to provide additional military support to Ukraine.
- Russian forces conducted ground attacks northwest of Slovyansk and northeast and southeast of Bakhmut.
- Russian forces continued ground attacks northwest and southwest of Donetsk City.
- Russian officials postponed reopening the Antonivskyi Bridge after a Ukrainian strike damaged the bridge and nearby construction equipment.
- Russian forces are deploying less-professional occupation forces and increasing pressure on Ukrainian populations in occupied areas.
August 7, 2022 | 8 pm ET
Russian occupation officials may be accelerating their preparations for illegitimate pseudo-referenda on the Russian annexation of occupied Ukrainian territory. The Ukrainian Mayor of Melitopol, Zaporizhia Oblast, Ivan Fedorov, reported on August 7 that resistance among Ukrainian residents has forced Russian authorities to “constantly” change their plans for a referendum. Fedorov claimed that occupation authorities had planned a single day of voting but are now considering seven days of “voting from home” in which armed Russian military personnel will go house to house and “interview” Melitopol residents. Fedorov claimed that only about 10% of the civilians remaining in Melitopol support Russia’s occupation and warned that Russian soldiers will threaten to shoot residents who do not vote for annexation. Ukrainian Kherson Administration Advisor Sergey Khlan noted that occupation authorities have not fully set conditions for a referendum as of August 7 but are accelerating their preparation after a three-week pause in preparations, which Khlan attributed to Ukrainian HIMARS attacks on Russian occupation logistics. Occupation authorities could also alter the timeline of their sham referenda in response to changing realities on the ground, including a Ukrainian counteroffensive. Khlan reported that the preliminary referendum date remains September 11.
By removing in-person voting options and transitioning to house-to-house surveys, Russian occupation authorities are increasing their opportunities to directly intimidate Ukrainian civilians. This effort is unnecessary to rig the vote to the outcome the Kremlin desires but does make any independent oversight of the vote nearly impossible. Occupation authorities may also turn these “surveys” into intelligence gathering operations to weed out Ukrainian opposition in occupied areas. Removing in-person polling stations removes many requirements for bureaucrats to staff those locations. Russian forces have struggled to recruit people into these positions from occupied populations. In-home voting also limits opportunities for partisan attacks on those locations.
The Kremlin may order different types of voting in different occupied locations depending on perceived local support, perceived risk of partisan attacks, and bureaucratic capacity. For example, the Ukrainian head of the Luhansk Oblast Civil-Military Administration, Serhiy Haidai, reported on August 7 that Russian occupation authorities in Luhansk Oblast have identified venues to host their sham annexation referendum in person. Haidai reported that Russian occupation authorities are actively campaigning for annexation by distributing propagandist newspapers and tying the provision of humanitarian aid including food, water, and construction materials to participation in the pseudo-referendum. Haidai said that the practice amounts to blackmail: “we [the Russians] will help you [Ukrainian civilians] meet your basic needs, while you go to the ‘referendum.’ Otherwise, die, and we will fabricate the result without you.” Russia has occupied parts of Luhansk Oblast since 2014 and likely has greater capacity to mobilize collaborators to administer polling stations than in newly occupied areas. ISW reported on August 3 that occupation authorities in Donetsk Oblast may allow in-person and online participation, providing multiple levers for Russian officials to alter the results.
The Iranian Space Agency (ISA) denied reports on August 7 that Russia will use an Iranian satellite over Ukraine for several months after Russia launches the satellite on behalf of Iran. State-run Iranian news outlet IRNA cited an ISA statement on August 7 asserting that the satellite will be controlled by and from Iran “from day one, immediately upon launch.” The ISA emphasized that “No other country will have access to such information, and rumors about satellite imagery being deployed in service of another country's military objectives are untrue.” The Washington Post cited two Western intelligence officials’ claims on August 4 that Russia would retain control of the satellite after launch to surveil Ukraine and would cede control of the satellite to Iran at an indefinite future date. ISW reported on August 3 that the Kremlin is likely continuing efforts to leverage its relationship with Tehran in order to receive drones for use in Ukraine. ISW cannot independently confirm which state will control the satellite, which Russia plans to launch from Kazakhstan on August 9.
The UK Ministry of Defense (UK MoD) confirmed ISW’s previous assessments that Russian military leadership has experienced major turn-overs due to Russian military failures in Ukraine. UK MoD reported that at least six Russian commanders have likely been dismissed from their posts since the beginning of the war in February, potentially including Eastern Military District (EMD) commander Colonel General Aleksandr Chayko and Western Military District (WMD) commander Colonel General Aleksandr Zhuravlev. UK MoD additionally stated that Army General Aleksandr Dvornikov has been removed from overall theater command of Ukraine and that Army General Sergey Surovikin has taken over the “Southern Grouping” of forces in Ukraine. UK MoD concluded that the lack of consistency in the Russian command structure and continued losses to military leadership on the battlefield are complicating command and control and the overall effectiveness of operations in Ukraine. ISW has previously reported on changes to Russian military command and continues to track the ramifications of these changes on Russian offensive capabilities.
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.
- Russian military leadership continues to experience major turnover, which is likely impacting Russian command and control efforts in Ukraine.
- Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks southwest and southeast of Izyum, east of Siversk, and to the east and south of Bakhmut.
- Russian forces have likely made incremental gains in settlements on the northwestern and southwestern outskirts of Donetsk City and continued efforts to break Ukrainian defensive lines along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line of contact.
- Russian forces unsuccessfully attempted to advance east of Mykolaiv City on August 7.
- Russian forces are forming a new 72nd Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade in Orenburg Oblast as part of the 3rd Army Corps.
August 6, 2022 | 9 pm ET
Russian and Ukrainian forces traded accusations of dangerous shelling at the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) on August 6 continuing the exchange of accusations ISW reported on August 5. ISW cannot independently determine which party is responsible for the incident. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky condemned the alleged Russian shelling as an "open, brazen crime” and “an act of terror.” He called on the international community to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism and to sanction Russia’s nuclear industry. Both sides claimed that the shelling caused a fire at the hydrogen station at the plant. The Russian-appointed head of the Zaporizhia Oblast Occupation Administration, Evgeniy Balitskyi, claimed on August 5 that Ukrainian forces “decided to put the whole of Europe on the brink of a nuclear catastrophe” by shelling the plant. The Ukrainian head of the Zaporizhia Oblast Military Administration, Oleksandr Starukh, claimed on August 6 that Russian forces are trying to “provoke” Ukrainians into shelling the NPP to make the West hesitant to provide weapons to Ukraine.
A Russian opposition outlet reported that Russian forces are storing explosives and ammunition around the nuclear power plant. The Insider reported on August 5 that a source claimed Russian forces mined the turbine room of energy block 1 of the NPP around August 2. A separate source claimed that about 500 Russian soldiers, as well as armored personnel carriers and anti-aircraft guns, were stationed within the plant and that Russian forces mined the area around the plant. The second source said that Russian forces “store mines and ammunition in the immediate vicinity of the energy blocks, under trestles, with some of the ammunition stored inside the energy block.” The second source was unsure “whether the energy block has been mined or is simply used for storing explosives.” The Insider reported that Russian forces established Grad rocket batteries near the village of Vodyane, approximately 4 km from the NPP reactors (and approximately 2 km from the spent fuel containment units at the plant). Ukrainian channels and officials had reported in mid-July that Russian forces were firing on Nikopol—the Ukrainian town just across the river from the NPP—from near the nuclear reactors at Zaporizhzhia NPP. Ukraine’s Southern Military Command has subsequently reported that Russian forces have regularly shelled Nikopol with Grad rockets, damaging 47 houses on August 5 and 6.
ISW previously assessed on August 3 that Russian forces are likely using the NPP to play on Western fears of a nuclear disaster in Ukraine in an effort to degrade Western will to provide military support to a Ukrainian counteroffensive, while also effectively using the plant as a nuclear shield to prevent Ukrainian strikes on Russian forces and equipment.
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.
- A Russian opposition outlet reported that Russian forces are storing explosives and mines in and around Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant and may have mined parts of the plant. Russian forces may also be firing rockets at Ukrainian positions from in or near the plant.
- Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks northwest of Slovyansk and east and south of Bakhmut.
- Russian forces conducted a series of ground attacks to attempt to break through Ukrainian defensive lines north, west, and south of Donetsk City.
- Russian forces did not conduct offensive operations in southern Ukraine and continued to undertake defensive measures.
- Ongoing Ukrainian partisan activity and civilian resistance are frustrating Russian occupation forces as Russian occupation authorities continue to prepare for the integration of occupied territories into the Russian Federation following their upcoming sham annexation referenda.
- Russian state media advocated for labor camps, repressions, and shooting of Ukrainian partisans and civilians that refused to cooperate with Russian-appointed officials in occupied Ukrainian territories.
August 5, 2022 | 7:30pm ET
Ukrainian officials confirmed that Russia is using Iranian-provided drones in Ukraine. Advisor to the Ukrainian President’s Office, Oleksiy Arestovych, stated on August 5 that Iran handed 46 drones over to Russia and that the Ukrainian government has already noted the use of these drones in combat in Ukraine. At least a portion of the provided drones are older-generation “Shahed 129” heavy strike drones, which Russian forces may seek to use to attack US-provided HIMARS in Ukraine. It is unclear whether the 46 drones represent all the drones that Tehran has agreed to send, or the number of Iranian drones that are currently operating in Ukraine.
- Ukrainian officials confirmed that Russian forces are using Iranian-provided drones in Ukraine.
- Russian forces conducted unsuccessful ground assaults on settlements south of Bakhmut.
- Russian and Ukrainian forces exchanged heavy artillery fire in Pisky, suggesting that Russian forces are unlikely to have full control of Pisky despite Russian claims.
- Russian forces conducted several limited ground assaults to the north, northwest, and southwest of Donetsk City.
- Russian and Ukrainian forces accused each other of firing rounds near the Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) in Enerhodar, but ISW cannot independently determine which party is responsible for the incident. Russian forces have repeatedly used artillery systems deliberately positioned within the complex to fire on targets across the Dnipro River.
- Russian forces unsuccessfully attempted to advance on Lozove, Kherson Oblast, likely targeting the Ukrainian bridgehead over the Inhulets River.
- Russian federal subjects are forming new volunteer battalions in Omsk and Samara Oblasts.
- Russian occupation authorities are likely accelerating passportization and rubleization efforts and civilian data collection in occupied territories in preparation for the upcoming pseudo-referenda on the annexation of occupied Ukrainian territory into Russia.
- The Kremlin is continuing to replace Ukrainian collaborators in Russian occupation administrations with Russian officials, likely to prepare for formal Russian governance of annexed areas.
August 4, 2022 | 9 pm ET
Ukraine is likely seizing the strategic initiative and forcing Russia to reallocate forces and reprioritize efforts in response to Ukrainian counteroffensive operations. Russian forces are increasingly transferring personnel and equipment to Kherson and western Zaporizhia Oblasts at the expense of their efforts to seize Slovyansk and Siversk, which they appear to have abandoned. Russian forces are also redeploying military equipment – artillery and aviation in particular – to Crimea from elsewhere in Ukraine. Russian forces have previously withdrawn from or suspended offensive operations on Kharkiv City and the southern axis to prioritize capturing Luhansk Oblast, but they did so on their own initiative based on the changing priorities of their commanders. Russian forces in this case appear to be responding to the Ukrainian counteroffensive threat in Kherson Oblast rather than deliberately choosing objectives on which to concentrate their efforts. Even after Ukrainian forces defeated the Russian attempt to seize Kyiv early in the war, the Russians were able to choose freely to concentrate their operations in the east. Ukraine’s preparations for the counteroffensive in Kherson and the initial operations in that counteroffensive combined with the dramatic weakening of Russian forces generally appear to be allowing Ukraine to begin actively shaping the course of the war for the first time.
The seriousness of the dilemma facing the Russian high command likely depends on Ukraine’s ability to sustain significant counteroffensive operations on multiple axes simultaneously. If Ukraine is able to press hard around Izyum as it continues rolling into the counteroffensive in Kherson, then Russian forces will begin confronting very difficult choices. They will likely need to decide either to abandon their westward positions around Izyum in favor of defending their ground lines of communications (GLOCs) further north and east or to commit more personnel and equipment to try to hold the current front line. Such forces would have to come from another axis, however, putting other Russian gains at risk.
Russian forces are likely operating in five to seven strike groups of unclear size around Bakhmut, based on the Ukrainian General Staff descriptions of Russian assaults in the area. Recent Ukrainian General Staff reports have most frequently identified Vershyna, Soledar, Kodema, Bakhmut, and Yakovlvka as the repeated targets of localized concentrated Russian efforts around Bakhmut. The Russian groups attacking these targets are reportedly operating out of the nearby settlements of Pokrovske, Streapivka, Roty, Semihirya, and Vidrozhnnya for now.
Explosions occurred near the Donetsk Drama Theater and Penal Colony #124 in occupied Donetsk City on August 4. Russian media widely publicized the explosions and blamed Ukrainian artillery, but the Ukrainian Office of the President denied any shelling of Donetsk City on August 4. The limited damage visible in the videos Russia has produced as evidence of the Ukrainian attack near the Donetsk Drama Theater appears to be inconsistent with artillery shelling. Russian officials have not provided footage of the reported attack on Penal Colony #124. Russian milbloggers widely published the Russian-provided footage of the aftermath of the explosion near the Donetsk Drama Theater and used the opportunity to harshly criticize Ukrainian forces for alleged strikes on civilian targets. Were the explosions Ukrainian shelling, they would carry further emotional weight with DNR supporters because they occurred during a farewell ceremony for an occupation forces officer KIA on August 3. Russian forces likely hope to use the emotional response of DNR audiences to such claimed Ukrainian attacks to garner support for new offenses in the Avdiivka area and further recruitment campaigns.
- Ukraine is likely seizing the strategic initiative and forcing Russia to reallocate forces and reprioritize efforts in response to Ukrainian counteroffensive operations.
- Russian forces attempted to advance northwest of Izyum.
- Ukrainian forces conducted a series of localized counterattacks between Izyum and Slovyansk and regained positions in a number of settlements.
- Russian forces continued ground attacks northeast and south of Bakhmut.
- Russian troops continued attempts to advance on Pisky and conducted a limited ground attack southwest of Donetsk City.
- Russian forces continued to transfer equipment and personnel to northeastern Kherson and western Zaporizhia Oblasts.
August 3, 2022 | 8:30 pm ET
Russian forces are likely using Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) in Enerhodar to play on Western fears of a nuclear disaster in Ukraine, likely in an effort to degrade Western will to provide military support to a Ukrainian counteroffensive. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Rafael Grossi said on August 3 that Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), which is currently occupied by Russian forces, is “completely out of control” and that “every principle of nuclear safety has been violated” at the plant. He warned that Russian forces are not respecting the physical integrity of the plant and pleaded with Russia and Ukraine to quickly facilitate a visit of IAEA monitors to the complex. Russian Zaporizhia Occupation Administration Head Evgeniy Balitskyi responded that the IAEA was welcome at the plant: “We are ready to show how the Russian military guards it today, and how Ukraine, which receives weapons from the West, uses these weapons, including drones, to attack the nuclear plant, acting like a monkey with a grenade.” Russian officials are framing Ukraine as irresponsibly using Western-provided weapons and risking nuclear disaster to dissuade Western and other allied states from providing additional military support to Ukraine’s looming southern counteroffensive.
Russian forces based around the NPP have attacked Ukrainian positions in Nikopol and elsewhere in recent weeks, intentionally putting Ukraine in a difficult position—either Ukraine returns fire, risking international condemnation and a nuclear incident (which Ukrainian forces are unlikely to do), or Ukrainian forces allow Russian forces to continue firing on Ukrainian positions from an effective “safe zone.” Ukrainian Mayor of Enerhodar Dmytro Orlov reported on August 3 that Russian forces launched rockets on Enerhodar from neighboring villages to falsely accuse Ukrainian forces of shelling Enerhodar and endangering the NPP. ISW assessed on July 21 that Russian forces may be storing heavy military equipment in the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) in Enerhodar to protect it from Ukrainian strikes. Russian forces have also likely staged false flag attacks around Enerhodar since early July, as ISW previously reported.
Russian forces likely set fire to the prison complex holding Ukrainian POWs in occupied Donetsk Oblast but blamed Ukraine for an alleged precision strike using Western-supplied military equipment, likely to deter additional Western military support to Ukraine. The Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) reported that it has determined that the Wagner Group deliberately set fire to the prison complex on July 28. This report is consistent with the damage observable in Russian-provided video of the site. The GUR reported that Wagner forces "mined” the building with unspecified flammable substances, which led to a rapid spread of fire throughout the building. Russian-provided footage and commercial satellite imagery from the colony showed that the walls of the building were burned but still standing and did not reveal shell craters or other indicators consistent with an artillery strike. ISW previously reported that imagery from the site shows that the attack only damaged one building, did not collapse the walls of that building, and did not leave any shell craters in the vicinity, very strongly suggesting that the destruction of the prison was the result of either a precision strike or an internally planted incendiary or explosive. Russian officials previously claimed that the deaths of the POWs were the result of a Ukrainian HIMARS strike, likely as a component of the ongoing Russian information operation attempting to dissuade the US from continuing to provide Ukraine with HIMARS.
The Kremlin is likely continuing efforts to leverage its relationship with Tehran in order to receive drones for use in Ukraine. Russian state-owned space agency Roscosmos announced on August 3 that Russia will launch a remote-sensing satellite (named “Khayyam”) into orbit on behalf of Iran on August 9. The Kremlin may intend this launch to encourage or repay Tehran for the provision of Iranian drones that would be employed in operations in Ukraine, and possibly other military equipment or support. Iran has a huge ballistic missile arsenal and domestic missile manufacturing capabilities that it could provide to Russia in exchange for economic and military cooperation. Iran has prioritized the development of its military space program in recent years and launched one satellite in April 2020 and one in April 2022. US and Middle Eastern officials stated as early as June 2021 that Russian officials were preparing to send a Russian-made Kanopus-V satellites to Iran, which would expand Tehran’s overall surveillance capabilities in the Middle East and beyond.As ISW reported on August 2, Russian and Iran are likely continuing to facilitate cooperation through recently signed bilateral aviation agreements in order to bolster Russian military capabilities in Ukraine and assist Tehran with sanctions mitigation.
The Russian Defense Ministry has altered the focus of its reporting after the fall of Lysychansk, likely to orient on narratives that resonate positively with milbloggers and war correspondents rather than those that draw criticism from that community. The Russian Defense Ministry has shifted its reporting style to focus on claims of declining Ukrainian morale and successful Russian strikes on Western-provided military equipment, rather than reporting on day-to-day Russian advances on the frontline.Russian forces have made limited gains around Bakhmut and Avdiivka in recent days, but the Russian Defense Ministry has not claimed territorial gains around the theater since at least the fall of Lysychansk. Milbloggers, war correspondents, and other groups have criticized the Defense Ministry and the Kremlin for exaggerated and inaccurate claims of territorial gains, undermining Moscow’s narratives and credibility. The Defense Ministry apparently flirted with the idea of suppressing or attempting to control the milblogger community, but it seems instead to have opted to adjust its own narratives.The Defense Ministry is now letting milbloggers, war correspondents, and DNR officials cover the situation unfolding in Avdiivka, Pisky, and south of Bakhmut positively without making claims of its own that might draw criticism. Milbloggers released footage from the reported capture of the Butivka Coal Mine ventilation shaft and on the southern outskirts of Pisky, where they celebrated recapturing small segments of years-long contested territory--but the Defense Ministry has made no statement on the subject. Some of the milbloggers such as Maksim Fomin (known under alias Vladelen Tatarzkiy) have previously served within DNR units and include anecdotes about their service in the Donetsk City area prior to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Such coverage of the war likely aims to boost morale among DNR and Russian fighters. The Kremlin or the Defense Ministry may have decided that the milbloggers and war correspondents are more credible sources for the constituencies it cares most about and realized that its own claims were losing credibility. They may alternatively be focusing on narratives that generate positive resonance within that community.
- Russian forces are likely using Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) in Enerhodar to play on Western fears of a nuclear disaster in Ukraine, attempting to thereby degrade the will of Western powers to provide military support to a Ukrainian counteroffensive.
- Russian forces likely set fire to the prison complex holding Ukrainian POWs in occupied Donetsk Oblast but blamed Ukraine for an alleged precision strike using Western-supplied military equipment, likely to increase US hesitancy to continue providing HIMARS to Ukraine.
- Moscow is likely continuing efforts to leverage its relationship with Tehran in order to secure drones for use in Ukraine.
- Russian forces conducted a limited ground attack northwest of Slovyansk and continued efforts to advance on Bakhmut from the northeast, east, and southeast.
- Russian forces are prioritizing frontal assaults on Avdiivka and failed to gain ground in Pisky.
- Russian forces are reportedly forming a strike group to prevent Ukrainian counteroffensives in northern Kherson Oblast or counterattack against them.
- Russian occupation authorities may allow both in-person and online voting in upcoming pseudo-referenda on the annexation of occupied Ukrainian territory into Russia, enabling more straightforward Russian vote rigging.
August 2, 2022 | 9:00 pm ET
Russian forces have likely decided to attack Avdiivka frontally from occupied Donetsk Oblast territory rather than waiting for Ukrainian forces to withdraw from their prepared defensive positions as a result of Russian envelopment operations northeast of the settlement. The Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) and Kremlin-sponsored sources have published videos suggesting that Russian forces pushed Ukrainian forces out of their positions around the Butivka Coal Mine ventilation shaft southwest of Avdiivka. Ukrainian forces have held positions around the Butivka Coal Mine ventilation shaft since 2015 and have described the location as the closest Ukrainian position to Donetsk City and a key defensive outpost for Avdiivka. Russian forces have likely captured the Ukrainian position, given the Ukrainian General Staff‘s vague reports of ”partially” successful Russian advances in the area. Russian forces are also continuing assaults on Pisky, west of Avdiivka, and will likely attempt to seize the E50 highway connecting the two settlements. Russian forces had previously attempted to break through Avdiivka’s northeastern outskirts but have not made significant progress in months.
The Russian Defense Ministry is likely trying to assuage distress that Ukraine’s effective use of the US HIMARS is causing Russian military personnel and milbloggers with inaccurate claims of destroying HIMARS launchers. Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu claimed that Russian forces have destroyed six US-provided HIMARS and other Western-supplied military equipment in Ukraine in a conference call with the Russian Armed Forces leadership on August 2. The Russian Defense Ministry also released a video claiming to have destroyed a building that housed two HIMARS launchers in Kharkiv Oblast on August 1. Ukrainian Southern Command Chief Andriy Kovalchuk said that Russian forces did not destroy any HIMARS, and an unnamed Finnish official called Russian claims ”wishful thinking.” The Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) also reported that Russian defense authorities are covering up Russian servicemember casualties by transporting wounded Russians in civilian cars and misreporting the number of casualties caused by Ukrainian HIMARS strikes in the media. Ukrainian HIMARS strikes have prompted many milbloggers and military correspondents to express concern over the effectiveness of air defense systems and the threats to Russian logistics, and these strikes are likely demoralizing Russian servicemen on the ground.
A representative of the Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) reported on August 2 that Russia has refused to provide detailed information on which Ukrainian POWs were killed or injured in the July 28 Olenivka prison attack. GUR Representative Andriy Yusov said that Russia has not responded to requests by Ukraine’s Coordinating Headquarters for the Treatment of POWs for information about casualties from the likely Russian-perpetrated attack on the Russian-controlled prison that killed at least 53 Ukrainian POWs. Yusov said that of casualties that Russia has posted online some were supposed to be in hospitals or being readied for prisoner exchanges and were not supposed to be at the Olenivka prison. Yusov noted that Ukraine cannot confirm the veracity of online casualty lists at this time, however. Ukraine’s Coordinating Headquarters for the Treatment of POWs urged families of POWs to avoid sharing personal details about themselves or their captured loved ones with individuals or unofficial organizations soliciting those details, warning that sharing information could pose a risk to surviving POWs. Deputy Ukrainian Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk said that Russia has not responded to requests to return the bodies of killed POWs to Ukraine as of August 2.
Initial and unconfirmed reports from August 2 suggest that Iran may have sent the first batch of UAVs to Russia for field testing. A US-based open-source intelligence (OSINT) Twitter account citing unofficial Iranian sources claimed that Iran sent a batch of UAVs to Russia, along with Iranian pilots and technicians who will train for the use and repair of Russian Su-35 aircraft. While ISW cannot independently confirm this claim, it is consistent with recent reports that Tehran and Moscow are pursuing greater aviation cooperation in order to circumvent international sanctions on Russia and Iran and support Russian operations in Ukraine. If true, this claim suggests that Iran may be receiving Russian Su-35 aircraft in return for the drones, which could have been part of an agreement signed by Moscow and Tehran on July 26. The agreement stipulated that Iran would increase the volume of passenger flights to Russia and additionally repair Russian aircraft. Tehran may seek to use this agreement to facilitate the acquisition of Russian combat aircraft.
A Russian missile strike reportedly damaged a Ukrainian air defense system in Lviv Oblast on August 2. The Ukrainian Air Force Command reported that Russian forces launched eight Kh-101 (Kh-555) missiles in the direction of central, southern, and western Ukrainian Oblasts from their positions in the Caspian Sea. The Ukrainian Air Force Command reported that Ukrainian air defense forces intercepted seven of the eight missiles.
- Unconfirmed social media reports suggest that Iran may have sent the first batch of drones to Russia and sent pilots and maintenance personnel to train on the Russian Su-35, potentially suggesting that Iran may seek to use recent aviation agreements to facilitate the acquisition of Russian combat aircraft.
- Russian forces conducted unsuccesful offensive operations northeast and northwest of Kharkiv City.
- Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks northwest of Slovyansk and east of Siversk.
- Russian forces made marginal gains southeast of Bakhmut and continued offensive operations to the northeast and southeast of Bakhmut.
- Russian forces made incremental advances around Avdiivka and are continuing attempts to push southwest of Avdiivka.
- Russian forces launched two assaults in northern Kherson Oblast and are continuing to redeploy troops to the Southern Axis.
- Russian federal subjects are forming new volunteer battalions in Novosibirsk, Saratov, Ulyanovsk, and Kurgan Oblasts, and are changing time periods for enlistment compensations.
- Ukrainian civilians are continuing to resist the Russian occupation with acts of civil disobedience and partisan sabotage as the Kremlin considers longer-term methods of population control in occupied Ukraine.
August 1, 2022 | 7:00 pm ET
Russian forces are reportedly continuing to transfer troops from northern Donetsk Oblast to support defensive positions in southern Ukraine and may be halting the Slovyansk campaign for the time being. The Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence (GUR) Representative Vadym Skibitsky stated that Russian forces withdrew airborne tactical groups from Donetsk Oblast and redeployed the units to occupied Kherson Oblast territories two weeks ago. Skibitsky added that Russian forces are also redeploying elements of the Eastern Military District (EMD) operating in Slovyansk to southern Ukraine and are transferring a large number of troops to Crimea to prepare to defend occupied Kherson and/or Zaporizhia Oblasts against Ukrainian counteroffensives. The UK Defense Ministry also noted that Russian forces likely identified Zaporizhia Oblast as a vulnerable front in need of reinforcement, and the Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces are regrouping in Zaporizhia Oblast. Social media footage has showed Russian forces moving equipment and personnel to both Zaporizhia and Kherson Oblasts in recent weeks.
The Russian withdrawal of some troops from northern Donetsk Oblast will deprive the Slovyansk effort of necessary combat power, in the same way that Russian forces neglected the Zaporizhia and Kherson Oblasts fronts during offensive operations in Luhansk Oblast. The withdrawal will likely create an opportunity for Ukrainian forces to launch a counteroffensive on the Izyum axis, just as Russian capture of Luhansk Oblast allowed Ukraine to set conditions for a counteroffensive in Kherson Oblast. The Russian redeployment of troops to Zaporizhia Oblast also suggests that Ukrainian counteroffensives are not confined to Kherson Oblast and will likely take place throughout the southern axis.
ISW assesses that Russian forces were responsible for the killing of 53 Ukrainian POWs in an explosion at a Russian-controlled prison in Olenivka, Donetsk Oblast on July 28. Two US officials anonymously confirmed to Politico on August 1 that no traces of US-provided High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), Ukraine’s most precise artillery system, were found at the prison site. The Kremlin alleges that Ukraine fired HIMARS and precision-guided rockets to kill Ukrainian POWs and deter Ukrainian defectors. Satellite and other imagery from the site indicate that the attack only damaged one building, did not collapse the walls of that building, and did not leave any shell craters in the vicinity, very strongly suggesting that the destruction of the prison was the result of either a precision strike or an internally planted incendiary or explosive. One US official told Politico that “the evidence showed the attack was not conducted by Kyiv.” If Ukraine had used something other than HIMARS to conduct the strike, the attack would almost certainly have left collateral damage around the facility, including craters and other damaged buildings. Given the US assessment that HIMARS were not used in the attack, ISW assesses that Russia was responsible for this attack on Ukrainian POWs in violation of the Geneva Conventions.
- ISW assesses that Russian forces were responsible for the July 28 attack on the Olenivka prison that killed 53 Ukrainian POWs; two anonymous US officials confirmed that there is no evidence that Ukrainian forces used US-provided HIMARS, some of the only munitions Ukraine has that are precise enough to do the kind of limited damage seen in satellite and other imagery, to strike the prison.
- Russian forces are transferring elements of the Eastern Military District (EMD) from the Slovyansk area to support defensive positions along the Southern Axis.
- Russian forces did not conduct any offensive operations north of Slovyansk or around Siversk.
- Russian forces conducted unsuccessful ground assaults on settlements south and southeast of Bakhmut.
- Russian proxy authorities did not claim any territorial gains near Avdiivka as Russian forces launched unsuccessful ground assaults on Avdiivka and Pisky.
- Russian regional officials are reportedly failing to provide promised payments to the “Atal” Volunteer Battalion of the Republic of Chuvashia.
- The Kremlin is likely prioritizing propaganda and sham referenda over the welfare of Ukrainian civilians in occupied Ukrainian territories.
- Russian occupation forces are likely increasing efforts to deter and suppress partisan movements in occupied territories as partisan attacks on Russian officials and Ukrainian collaborators continue.
Full list of Ukraine invasion updates are available here.