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Don's Weekly, 18 September 2023, Part 1
There is a lot going on in this war, every single day and I often can’t ‘cover’ (and comment) everything. Or I’m ‘busy elsewhere’ and thus missing important details and events.
Donald Hill is an US-American (no, they do not have cangaroos, either) historian preparing ‘weekly summaries’ for his Facebook account since some time. Lately, the FB began curbing his posts ‘because of malicious content’, and thus he’s stopped. Have offered him my blog as a ‘new platform’ and here you are: the first ‘Don’s Weekly’ is now on Sarcastosaurus!
Just as Urkaine’s production and use of drones has increased, so has Russia’s, and Russian drones are taking a toll. In the brigades that are involved in the offensives, 50% of their vehicles are damaged or destroyed. Most of the armored vehicles can be repaired, but the soft-skinned vehicles, the trucks, ambulances and SUVs that provide so much of each unit’s logistical support cannot be repaired. They are also short on medical equipment as it’s being used faster than it can be replaced.
There’s an extreme shortage of mortar shells, as the artillery commander explains in the article below, but there are plenty of artillery shells “or else there wouldn’t be an offensive”. In the first two weeks of September, Ukraine has expended more artillery shells than in the entire month of June.
And the offensive continues. Ukraine is advancing both north and south of Bakhmut, there is little territorial gain in the Mokri Yaly Valley sector, and Ukraine closes in on Novoprokopivka. As Ukraine reduces Russia’s situational awareness in the Black Sea it increases it’s own ability to observe, and therefore control, that body of water.
In His Words (Artillery)
I wanted to highlight this interview with a high-level leader of the Ukrainian artillery. Pay attention to how many times he refers to detection. “When we detect them, we destroy them”. He also says the best defense against drones is camouflage. It comes up time and again in the interview and at one point he says he’d rather have a towed M777 than the excellent self-propelled Panzerhaubitze 2000 because it’s easier to camouflage the M777.
If you see it, and you have a weapon in range, you can kill it.
He says other things, such as accuracy is more a function of unit competency rather than the weapon used, and their levels of competence varies widely. They have plenty of ammo in general or else they wouldn’t be able to conduct on offensive, but they are short on mortar shells, by several orders of magnitude.
By 2014, most of Ukraine’s artillery skills had disappeared. By 2022, they were much improved. After the full-scale invasion, many young recruits from IT and management fields joined the artillery branch and took it to the next level as NCOs and junior leaders. Loading and firing a weapon just takes training, but fire direction and control management is key to improved effectiveness. This commander says that with their innovative battlefield management and rear area control systems used close to the front line, he’d match his soldier’s capabilities against any army in the world. Innovation is continuing at the low level and successes are then passed up the chain of command to be utilized army-wide.
The ISW map shows the Russian advances since June. The Russians deployed about a dozen of brigades for attacks in this area, and fighting has been hard at times, but: very little territory changed hands.
More details became available about the raid into Russia last week: Russian Volunteer Corps together with others units «Format 18» conducted another successful raid in the border zone. At least one FSB officer was killed and about 10 wounded. Location: Podyvot'e (Подывотье), Bryansk People Republic at 52.04608, 34.14764
A Russian vehicle was destroyed by a drone near Kreminna.
The 9M22S is a 122mm rocket that deploys 180 chunks of magnesium alloy that burn for two minutes at 3800F/2100C. They’re being used here on Ukrainian positions in the Kreminna forest.
Image of thermite elements:
Southwest of Kreminna, slow motion video of a fragment moving past French soldiers of the International Legion ZSU:
13 km southwest of Svatove and about 2 km from the front lines, a Russian BTR is destroyed by DPICM. 49.369640, 37.959621
Ukraine is pushing closer to Soledar, and thatn on a relatively wide front:
11 km north of Bakhmut, the 30th brigade clears Russian mines as part of the assault on the hamlet of Sacco and Vanzetti. 48.74722, 38.02543
A tank attacks the Russian positions before the 30th Brigade clears the treeline. The Ukrainian infantry arrives aboard an IFV that provides fire support. The log on the back of the vehicle is to help provide traction if it gets stuck in mud or soft ground. At 0:20, a Ukrainian rises to his knees to throw a grenade and a shot hits the ground in front of him. At 0:25, two Russian soldiers pop up in the top left corner of the video and the suppressive fire of the IFV prevents them from engaging the Ukrainian infantry. A drone harrasses Russian infantry and convinces one to surrender:
Last week the Ukrainians took control of the defensive positions on the railway north and south of Andriivka. Russian movement and supplies in and out of the remaining positions were interdicted by artillery. This week Ukraine pushed east of the railway to encircle the Russian positions still holding out in the village and railway. Before conducting an assault, the Ukrainians flew a drone with a loudspeaker over the positions of the 72nd Motor Rifle Brigade (MRB), announcing they were surrounded and should surrender in the next ten minutes before the attack begins. Many Russians surrendered and the rest were then wiped out.
That assault completed the destruction of Russia’s 72nd MRB. An intel officer and three battalion commanders were among the dead with two battalion commanders wounded. There’s no word on the fate of the brigade and regimental commanders but there were dozens of POWs. Over the last few months they suffered over 4,000 casualties (killed, wounded, and taken prisoner of war): Here’s a video of the survivors retreating and being shelled at 48.502853, 37.974230:
In Andriivka, the Russians fired an artillery shell on surrendering Russians and the Ukrainians that were taking them prisoners. The shell was remarkably accurate. Who walked away and who was obliterated was a product of chance:
3rd Assault ZSU conducts an early morning assault towards the railroad south of Andriivka. The Russian positions do not support their neighboring positions very well and the 3rd is able to attack each one with superior firepower. A Russian drone is shot down and mortars are the biggest threat the Ukrainians face. 48.4904301654, 37.9669103023
2 km east of Andriivka, DPICM connects with a forward depot.
3.5 km east of Andriivka, DPICM connects with another depot. And I learned that the shock waves are visible by the condensation of water vapor in the low pressure zone that trails the shock wave.
After months of fighting, what was once homes, green fields and trees is now a gray, desolate landscape. Two Ukrainian soldiers move into the rubble of Andriivka amid gunfire and mortar attacks:
Russians retreating under fire from Andriivka at 48.51852052029089, 37.97856225735643:
Ukraine doesn’t have enough night vision equipment, but it has more than Russia and that gives them an advantage at night. A Russian assault group advancing on Klischchiivka from the north at night is hit by DPICM. The crew of a supply truck run away when they hear the drone before it is destroyed. It’s easier to pick up heat signatures when the weather is cooler. The shell coming straight down is from artillery. The shell flying over the trees was fired by a tank. The Ukrainian soldier retrieving the drone at the end isn’t wearing sunglasses at night, he’s wearing ballistic glasses that have protected quite a few eyes from bullets, fragments and debris:
This video if full of bodies in what’s left of a treeline near Andriivka (for those that want that information, I understand if you don’t):
A Russian report from 14 September on troops hanging on in isolated houses in Klishchiivka.
Ukrainian artillery pounding the isolated Russian-occupied houses in Klishchiivka:
Excellent Twitter-thread by Tartarigami chronicling the 28th Brigade’s campaign towards Kurdyumivka:
A Russian vehicle is hit by a drone 3.5 km east of Kurdyumivka. No images after impact at 48.475306, 38.039389:
10 km east of Kurdyumivka a GMLRS rocket hits a Russian BM-21 MRLR (48.4685477, 38.0946623):
Ukrainian helicopters support operations around Kurdiumivka:
26 km southeast of Bakhmut, a Lancet team was destroyed. 48.420616, 38.261837
Ukraine claims to kill a tank after two drone hits.
35 km east of Bakhmut, two Buk air defense units were destroyed (at 48.615996, 38.472547):
20 km southeast of Bakhmut, two JDAM bombs his a Russian base in a firestation (48.4373711531, 38.2252883456):
On the ground:
A sudden Ukrainian attack south of the town caused a panicky Russian withdrawal from the Opytne area, which then turned into a rout. Russian drone operators saw over 200 soldiers streaming across a field and called in artillery on their own troops, killing 61 of them. Russia quickly threw reinforcements over the small river and into Opytne to hold onto it, but Ukraine is inside the village.
Russian POWs from Opytne.
9 km southeast of Avdiivka, a 203mm gun is destroyed. 48.0905578, 37.8824228
A firefight in what used to be woods.
Mokri Yaly Valley
The Russians have pushed Ukraine completely out of Pryiutne. Novodonetske is still under Ukrainian pressure from three sides and the Russians have been pushed into the souther edge of Novomaiorske.
Russia says Ukraine is in the outskirts of Novomaiorske and they've retreated to the center of the village. Ukrainian troops assaulting under artillery fire.
47.742417, 37.024617 to 47.738546, 37.029745
A Ukrainian vehicle is hit and damaged northwest of Novomaiorske. 47.750231067001, 37.01421147063333
In between the Mokri Yaly valley and Robotyne, Russian positions are hit with cluster rounds. 47.61427668924406, 36.35168166930417
7 km south of Novomaiorske, a Shilka engages a Ukrainian drone. The Russians claim they shot it down. 47.667886, 37.045819
Two Ukrainian tanks hit mines two km west of Novodonetske. 47.74834772228125, 36.926203277956084
MRAP vehicles show up to evacuate the wounded tank crews who moved to the woodline. The evacuation effort comes under heavy and accurate artillery fire. MRAPs are not invulnerable but they are designed to withstand the blasts of mines and buried bombs used as IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices).
The deployment of four Russian VDV divisions slowed and even pushed back Ukrainian advances in the last couple of weeks, but they are suffering the same attrition that the units before them endured. Ukraine has advanced into the eastern Novoprokopivka and is once again pushing to its northwest. Furthermore, Ukraine is pushing west of Robotyne.
The last couple of weeks the Russian air force was regularly deploying MPK and UMPK glide bombs to target the road between Robotyne and Orikhiv. From September 14-16, Russian Su-34s have been dropping these same bombs not just on that road, but all the local roads and villages within 5-10 km of the front line. It appears that many of them are dropped at random while others were dropped with a target in mind. Most of the bombs hit empty fields, others hit closer, intentionally or randomly, and bombs calibre 250kg (MPK) and 500kg (UMPK) are causing lots of damage – if coming down closely enough. This bombing campaign is a contributing reason why so many armored vehicles are being repaired and why so many unarmored vehicles are destroyed.
In this fashion, Russia is trying to interfere with Ukraine’s supply routes, evacuations and troop movements, just as Ukraine is doing to Russia. In order to sustain its offense, Ukraine must sustain its people and vehicles.
I’ve seen Ukrainian tanks assault isolated Russian positions around Bakhmut, but never in the south before. You have to be reasonably sure there are few AT mines and AT weapons defending the objective. After spotting Russian positions with drones, two tanks from the 116th Mechanized brigade raced into a treeline and fired, point blanc, into Russian positions. The only support they have is the overhead drone that recorded the video. At 0:33 into the video, the lead tank runs over two AP mines but these failed to immobilise it. At 2:15, an ATGM fires at the lead tank from behind at about 20 meters but misses. At 2:47, the drone operator warns of an incoming Lancet drone. Seven seconds later this missed, exploding in front of the lead tank and the drone operator celebrated. At 2:59, you can see houses along a treeline in the distance. That’s Novoprokopiva 1.5 km away. 47.421497, 35.865942
Ukraine advances towards Novoprokopivka under artillery fire that causes casualties. 47.4126885075, 35.8839721125
Russians stroll through northeast Novoprokopivka.
Starting at 47.4096538859, 35.853026669 and walking to 47.4086158264, 35.8492689011
3 DPICM and 4 HE shells destroy a Russian Strela air defense vehicle:
A Russian T-90 tank was hit and immobilized: at least one of the crew is a casualty. The Ukrainians recovered this vehicle and took it to their rear for repairs:
This video is shown T-55s of the 1430th Motor Rifle Regiment, which fought in the Novoprokopivka area, back in August. Tanks in question were last build in 1962.
On the slopes east of Novoprokopivka, south of the main Russian minefield, Ukrainian tanks can operate relatively free: without running into mines and other obstacles. This is where the ZSU destroyed most of T-55s 1430th MRR. The Armed Forces continue to advance.
UNDATED: Russians shelling Ukrainians west of Verbove. 47.4360466144, 35.9435442457
After the shell lands, a fellow soldier pulls the wounded or killed soldier into a bunker.
A Ukrainian ‘mine-resistant/ambush-protected’ (MRAP) vehicle drove over an anti-tank mine and was destroyed. The crew were seriously hurt but survived.
The remains of the vehicle:
A Ukrainian soldier in distress after a TOS-1A attack.
40 km north of Berdyansk, a BM-30 was destroyed. It can fire 12 300mm rockets 120 km. 47.379915, 36.727414 ttps://twitter.com/UAWeapons/status/1702603096256319935
9 km northeast of Polohy, a Ukrainian drone survives an air defense missile. 47.546034, 36.335346
She was a teacher before the war. After the massacre in her hometown in Bucha, she joined the army.
Russian paratroopers are not enjoying the bombing and shelling.
POWs from the Russian 76th VDV Division said they’ve suffered heavy losses due to incompetent leadership, artillery and drones.
South of Robotyne, a Leopard is used as artillery and you can see the rounds fly down range.
The men of the 47th Mechanised Brigade, ZSU, offering their impressions of their Leopards (they’re mostly fighting at night and at dawn):
The 128th Mountain Assault Brigade is fighting the Kamianske sector. This is the story of the soldier who drove Ukraine’s first kamikaze tank towards Russian lines. Spoiler alert: He has a new nickname. https://www.kyivpost.com/post/21498
Nearby, a JDAM bomb takes out a Russian position. 47.495973, 35.454874