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Ukraine War, 21 August 2023: Hill 166
Many thanks for your patience with me. Actually, I’m still trying to enjoy a few days off: thus, here just a short review of most important news of the last few days.
17 August…the Russians released a stream of Shahed-136 LPGMs at the ports of Reni and Izmail in southern Ukraine, on the border to Romania. The PSU claimed 16 of these as shot down, but a number came through and destroyed between 2,000 and 25,000 (reports vary) of metric tons of wheat in one of terminals. According to reports like this one, earlier- and these strikes have decreased Ukrainian exports by about a third.
19 August…during the night from 18 to 19 August, the Russians released their next stream of Shahed-136s. While most were claimed as shot down by the PSU, at least one struck the Lysohirka Aviation Munition Depot, blowing up a stock of disused (and rather dangerous) old aviation bombs (like FAB-250M-46s, from the late 1940s) and rockets. With other words, as much as ‘spectacular’, and causing ‘lots of fire and smoke’, this was an entirely pointless attack.
…then, early in the morning, Ukrainians attacked the Soltsy-2 Air Base in the Novogorod region of the Russian Federation. Some 600km north of the border to Ukraine, and then – reportedly – by several quadcopters. One of UAVs hit a Tupolev Tu-22M-3 bomber while this was being refuelled, causing a conflagration: reportedly, two bombers were blown up, and a third damaged so severely that it was rendered irreparable. Latest reports are indicating 6-7 killed (including at least one pilot and four of the ground crew), and another 11 wounded. According to Russian reports, the air defences of this base were weakened: all radars and SAMs were withdrawn to bolster the defence of Moscow, and thus limited to ‘few Kalashnikovs’. Four refurbished Kh-22 missiles and one fuel truck were destroyed, too.
Around the same time, an exhibition of ‘home-made’ UAVs was to be held at the Drama Theatre in Chernihiv. The ‘fair’ was organised by Mariya Berlinskaya, and – reportedly – the location was made public ‘only few hours’ before it began. The GRU got wind of this, though and deployed a single Iskander-M quasi-ballistic missile to hit the place. Air raid alert was sounded on time, but instead of going down to the shelter, many of participants and visitors either remained upstairs or even went outside. Result: 7 killed and over 130 wounded (including 15 children and 15 police officers).
Some are now blaming the local government, others the organisers, and some are keeping quiet about what exactly was going on in the Drama Theatre, while complaining about a Russian attack on civilians…
Washington has officially ‘confirmed’ variants of MIM-104 Patriot SAMs delivered to Ukraine so far. Correspondingly, these are a mix of:
Notably, Lockheed-Martin reported that the PAC-3MSE – the ‘most advanced anti-ballistic missile sub-variant’ – was actually still undergoing testing at the time Ukrainians have shot down their first Kinzhals, back in mid-May. Thus, seems, some of older sub-variants are ‘working well’ against them, too.
BATTLE OF DONBAS
Kupyansk…the last few days, the Russians continued attacking north- and north-east of the town, but without any notable success.
Kremina….RUMINT has it that sometimes on 17 or 18 August, the Russians launched a strong attack in the northern Kremina sector. This should’ve ran into positions of the 67th Mech, partially equipped with ex-Slovenian M-55S (T-55s with that British L7 gun calibre 105mm), and…. well, the word is that they ended back on their starting positions, minus about a dozen of tanks and infantry fighting vehicles… Meanwhile, the ZSU brought in the 92nd Mech and – apparently – the Azov Brigade NG (former Azov Regiment) to the Serebryanka Forest area. Guess, that’s going to mark the end of all further Russian offensive efforts there.
Siversk… on 17 and 18 August, the Russians run another massive attack on positions of the 81st Airborne in Bilohorivka (the one on the Siversky Donets). The situation was very difficult, but Ukrainians held their positions.
Klishchivka….As reported back on 15 August, the VSRF launched a major attack on Klishchivka – which is ever since (and still) claimed by many as ‘recovered by the Russians’. Eventually, it transpired that this was a two-prong counterattack, including two assault groups of 3 T-90Ms and 9 IFVs, plus 70-80 troops each (some are citing more troops, but lets leave it at that, for the time being) – with one going for Klishchivka and the other for Andriivka (which is also widely considered as ‘grey zone/no-man’s land’ in the West). One way or the other, this affair ended in a complete failure, with mere 3 IFVs (out of 6 MBTs and 18 IFVs involved) managing it back to the starting line.
Bottom line: both Klishchivka and Andriivka remain firmly under Ukrainian control and, after days of ‘fighting for every hedge’, the ZSU is in the process of advancing its own frontline to the railway line (also because the fighting of the last few days caused several fires, which the wind then drove in direction of Russian positions). Reportedly, the Russian troops they’re facing there are now a mix of VDV, BARS (or ‘Espanyolas’ as Ukrainians call them: these are football hooligans), Akhmats, and other, similar ‘volunteer’ units.
Staromlynivka… Zavitne Bazhanya is now held by (drums!) – battered 60th MRB and 247th VDV Regiment. The HQ 5th CAA ‘reinforced’ their eastern flank with the 37th MRB, and the western flank with the 34th MRB, while the 136th MRB is further back. I doubt even one of units in question is at more than 40-45% of its nominal strength.
Around 16-17 August, the ZSU (35th and 37th Naval Infantry) attacked down the eastern side of the Mokry Yari River while, on 18-19 August, the ZSU run diversionary attacks on Dorozhyanka. In attempt of preventing the command of the 5th CAA from sending yet more troops in the same direction.
The attack in direction of Staromlynivka came forward quite well, and resulted in destruction of several Russian tanks – until, apparently: ‘unexpectedly’ – it was hit by a massive Russian artillery barrage, which should have caused ‘significant losses’. AFAIK, it is not yet sure if ‘somebody (on Ukrainian side) screwed up’ or the Russians – for once – got their business together. Nevertheless, the same afternoon, Ukrainians launched a new advance WEST of the Mokri Yaly River and also one on Novodonetske. Meanwhile, they’re back to their advance in southern direction, and attacking into north-eastern Staromlynivka, too.
Robotyne…about a week ago, the 58th CAA first stuffed the 291st MRB, 1430th and 1441st MRRs, plus a battalion of the 810th Naval Infantry Brigade into Robotyne, then withdrew most of them from into a trench complex south of the village, while bringing the 56th and 108th VDV and the 201st MRR (the latter is known as the ‘Platovsky Regiment’ or ‘Kadiev’s Cossacks’, i.e. it’s a ‘people’s militia’ unit from Luhansk) into Novoprokopivka.
For its part, sometimes on 18 or 19 August, the ZSU – after running a diversionary attack on Nestryanka (about 10km west of Robotyne) to prevent the command of the 58th CAA from deploying yet more troops into the Robotyne area - should have launched a major attack south-east of the village.
Now, there’s some confusion about exactly what units were (and still are) involved. Some are still mentioning the 47th Mech, although this is said to have been withdrawn from the line, following the loss of some 25 of its M2/M3 Bradleys destroyed and another 25 (‘or so’) badly damaged, over the last two months. Anyway, the ‘possible 47th Mech’, plus the 65th Mech, 82nd Airborne, 118th and 116th Mech (some say 117th, not 116th… could be a typo?) should have resumed their assault past the village in southern direction.
Reportedly, in the West, the 65th broke through the Russian line west of Robotyne, and should be advancing in southern direction.
In the East… well, it’s unclear who exactly, but one of Ukrainian units should’ve captured the Hill 166, on the Russian ‘1st (Big) Defence Line’, between Novoprokopivka and Verbove, defeating the BARS-3 and BARS-14 in the process.
For details on why is this hill so important, please see here: essentially, it’s the highest elevation in this part of Ukraine, overlooking everything – from Robotyne in the north, to Tokmak in the south. I doubt the battle for this hill is over: the Russians are certain to undertake everything in their powers to recover it, though. (As for why ‘Hill 166’: if they don’t know about specific names, military mappers tend to name hills by their elevation. Thus, this one is ‘Hill 166’ because it’s 166m above the sea surface.)
Finally, either ‘fierce fighting’ or ‘massive artillery barrages’ are reported from inside Novoprokopivka, south of Robotyne: either Ukrainians already breached the defences of the 56th and 108th VDV and the 201st MRR (CORRECTION: sorry, misidentified this one; correct designation is 6th MRR), or they’re shelling the place ‘like mad’ in order to prepare their attack.
Ever since, Russian contacts are reporting something like ‘collapse of their frontline’….though I’m not sure exactly where…
On the lighter side… Not everything is bad for Russia. For example, on 19 August, Luna-25, an unmanned mission by Roskosmos, scored a direct hit on the Moon – as confirmed by this satellite photograph kindly released by ACME Space Flight Inc., and showing the impact site…