Ukraine War, 9 September 2023: Short Update & Q&A
A ‘quick & dirty‘ update, and then some more Q&A in reaction to ‘reader’s reaction’.
‘Up front’: one correction for my report from yesterday. The Russian Predel-E over-the-horizon radar was actually hit (apparently by HIMARS/MLRS) while deployed somewhere around the coast in southern Kherson Oblast. Word is that this was the only such system in operation.
A single Iskander-M ballistic missile fired by the Russians early on 8 September has hit the city of Kriviy Rih. It wounded 72 people, damaged 79 houses, 1,956 apartments, and 52 cars. The Russians claim to have targeted a local police station. Once again, such attacks are making it clear that the PSU remains critically short on (Western) SAMs: Kyiv and Odesa might now be safe, but already areas south of Odesa – like the Port of Izmail – are not. On the contrary, cities like Kriviy Rih, not to talk about those closer to the frontline – see Dnipro and Zaporizhzhya… while the Pentagon alone is ‘sitting’ on a pile of 1,000 Patriot launchers, and who-knows-how-many missiles, and considering their ‘decommissioning’ (see: destruction), and, occasionally, it discovers its stocks of ATACMS is much bigger than known (thank you, US taxpayers….)
The newest Russian stream of Shahed LPGMs – released early on 8 September – included 20 of these: 16 were claimed shot down. For ‘details’ on the Russian production of Shaheds/Gerans, please check the Twitter thread here: it’s really full of detailed info – and, actually, would be good to check by different African- and Asian statesmen (including those from such US/British-allies like Uganda, Nigeria, and Pakistan)…. (thanks to Thibaud!).
According to reporting in the social media, the mass of VKS aircraft (9 Su-34 and Su-30SMs) and helicopters (4 Mi-8 and 7 Mi-24) was withdrawn from Belarus. Makes sense, because there’s nothing for them to do there, while, after 17 months of war, the VKS is critically short on operational airframes (and its bases are filling with non-operational aircraft, like the Su-34 on the photo below, lacking an engine, but covered with tyres for protection from Ukrainian UAVs). Actually, I’m only surprised that no MiG-31Ks are included in this report: their Kinzhals have proven to be ineffective against PAC-2/3 defended targets, thus I would expect them to be re-deployed to the south, and operate against… well, cities like Dnipro or Zaproizhzhya…
Some industrial facility in Kursk was hit by Ukrainian UAVs, the last night. Yesterday, Ukrainians have revealed their newest long-range attack UAV: Morok. Its range should be around 800km.
BTW, The Telegraph is reporting that EF-2000 Typhoons of the RAF are now patrolling the skies over the Black Sea, with the aim of protecting merchants hauling Ukrainian wheat. AFAIK, this works for two reasons: ships are loaded in the port of Izmail, and then moving down the Romanian territorial waters. And, since Romania is a NATO member, the Russians do not dare attacking ships moving within its territorial waters.
….which in turn means: actually, the RAF Typhoons in question are doing little else but what they – and other NATO fighter jets – were doing the last 19 months: protecting Romanian skies (and, now: waters, too).
BATTLE OF DONBASS
Kupyansk-Svatove-Kremina….a major Russian attack from Serhivka and Kovalivka in western and south-western direction (area between Nadila in the north and Novoiehorivka in the south) is going on for some two-three days now. This is receiving huge amounts of artillery support, and including about a dozen of Russian assault groups. So far, certain is only that the latter suffered extensive losses – foremost in BMPs, but in tanks too.
Klishchivka….in my update from yesterday, I’ve mentioned a counterattack by the Russian 61st NIB & reinforcements (apparently led by Major-General Selivestrov, who was first fired, then reinstated into his position by the Keystone Cops in Moscow). This was run about a week ago, and – along info that’s available meanwhile (most of it is from 7 September) – ended really in worst possible fashion (at least for the Russians). Read: with the 61st NIB being decimated – primarily by DCIPM-shells of the 26th Artillery Brigade and mortars of ZSU units deployed along the frontline. If this was not enough, what was left of the 61st was then hit by the 3rd Assault Brigade, into its north-western flank. What a surprise most of survivors simply fled (thus exposing themselves to yet more of Ukrainian artillery- and mortar attacks): those still around were then mopped up by the 3rd’s infantry (visible in the centre of the screen-grab below, together with one of their YPRs, visible at the bottom).
To make things even better: by now it seems, the Russians lost so badly, Ukrainians have secured additional ‘bridgeheads’ east of the railway berm. The southern two of these are flanking the Russians still holding out along the berm east of Andriivka. (To make sure: yes, ZSU lost a number of vehicles here, including at least two BMPs and two M113s.)
There are also reports indicating a Russian withdrawal from Kurdiumivka – indeed, about the liberation of the latter – further south: but, that will have to wait for a confirmation.
‘Memorandum for file’: ‘active defence’ might be the core essence of the Russian doctrine for defence operations, but with their artillery meanwhile largely consisting of obsolete towed pieces, it’s lacking manoeuvrability and suffering heavy losses to Ukrainian counter-battery fire (for example: no less than 36 VSRF artillery pieces were reported as destroyed by the ZSU yesterday alone). Under such circumstances, counterattacks of this kind are nothing but doomed to fail. Yes, they are, occasionally, causing problems and losses to the ZSU, but they’re also making things easier for it – because whenever they want to advance, the Russians have to expose themselves to Ukrainian fire…
The ZSU is still busy widening safe lanes through the massive Russian minefields. Here one of Slovak-provided Bozena de-mining vehicles in action. (Massive) De-mining efforts continue all over the former battlefields elsewhere in Ukraine, too – because lots of people are getting hurt (and, tragically, killed, too), by them, every single day. Widening the safe lanes is of critical importance in order to establish additional supply routes for troops now fighting south of the (major) Russian minefields.
Novomaiorske-Novodonetske… the latter appears to be encircled by ZSU from three sides, but there appear to be no additional advances by Ukrainians. Reportedly, both villages remain under massive artillery barrages.
Novoprokopivka…ZSU seems to be inside the northern and eastern outskirts of the village (‘again’); but its focus is on advance east and south of that village, where Ukrainians now seem to be approaching the Hill 166 from both west and south, instead of directly.
Verbove… sorry, no news right now….which, usually, is a good sign.
That said, I think I can say that I need to draw a new map of this area – alone because the Russians now have no less than four VDV divisions deployed in this area (7th, 44th, 76th, and 104th VDV).
Q: Why is the PSU deploying no, or next to no Storm Shadow and SCALP-EG stand-off precision guided munition/cruise missiles, lately?
Still trying to figure out, actually. From what I can say right now: nope, this was not caused by any kind of Russian cruise missile strikes on bases of the 7th Aviation Brigade, PSU (the unit equipped with Su-24Ms that are deploying both of above-mentioned missiles). I’m as sure because the PSU continued deploying its Su-24Ms and their missiles well after the Russian campaign of striking bases of that unit, back in late July and early August.
Thus, right now, can only deduct. it seems a lot less of missiles are delivered by the British and French, than this was the case at earlier times. Mind that it was already back in July that first ‘warnings’ were ‘released’ (in the social media) about the stocks of these getting low. Alternatively, NATO is (once again) ‘concerned’ by Ukrainian UAV-strikes deep into Russia and thus curbing their deliveries… But hey: the West is as famous for its strategic mistakes/miscalculations, as Russia.
(….if only NATO would as eagerly deliver new weapons and more ammo to Ukraine, as it’s trying to curb Ukrainian combat activities with the aim of modelling the outcome of this war….)
Q: What is a BARS unit?
BARS is the Russian abbreviation for ‘Combat Army Reserve of the Country’. Essentially, it was a reservist force, comparable to the National Guard of the US Army, for example. It was established in 2015, because already during the initial Russian invasion of Ukraine, it turned out the VSRF is critically short on infantry, and its battalion tactical groups are lacking combat endurance. Thus, the Keystone Cops in Moscow tried to solve the problem by re-recruiting volunteers fresh from the national service (usually with help of much better salaries than regular troops).
Initially, BARS-units also served as a pool for recruiting for PMCs (private military companies), or have absorbed different other volunteer units (indeed, several of BARS-units are, essentially, PMCs, or controlled by them). Nowadays, they’re receiving the mass of volunteers. This fact, plus the development of the Russian mobilisation system since the last year, is why I’m leaning towards the conclusion that the BARS-system is actually a copy of the Assadist/IRGC’s system from Syria of 2014-2016. Essentially, this is creating three classes of units:
- Volunteers: serving in BARS with a better pay (even if defectors from the VDV/VSRF and/or having no previous military experience);
- Mobiks: some assigned directly to rebuilt units, others to newly-established formations;
- Convicts: all assigned to Storm-Z units.
Some 20 BARS regiments were existent as of February 2022: meanwhile, their number should be up to 40 and the mass of troops serving in them are 40+ years old, but many have been decimated in combat of this year. For example: nominally, each BARS regiment should have three battalions with about 1,000 troops in total. However, all four BARS regiments involved in the Robotyne area are down to about 300 troops each (that’s ‘mere two companies, weak battalion at most’; i.e. by Western measures, they’ve been ‘destroyed’).
Q: Why have the Russians drastically decreased the number of their checkpoints in southern Zaporizhzhya?
Because these were under constant attacks by Atesh (Ukrainian guerrilla/partisans), and the Russians were suffering heavy losses. They couldn’t maintain safety of all the checkpoints in question. Thus, they’ve decreased the number of checkpoints to bolster the complement of those still around and thus offer them better protection. In turn, their units there are nowadays largely moving in form of protected convoys: these are ‘too much’ for Ukrainian guerrilla.
For additional details on the Atesh and the people who used to fight for it as guerrilla in the Kherson City area, check this video (thx for tip, Branislav):
Bottom line: yes, this is increasing the freedom of operations for Atesh.
Q: I do not understand Ukrainian strategy for this offensive. Why launching all the small attacks, why not launching a big one….?
1.) Despite media reports creating the illusion of Ukraine receiving ‘thousands of tanks and armoured vehicles’, actually, US/NATO have delivered FAR too little of heavy equipment for the ZSU to create big mechanised formations and then run big-style mechanised operations.
2.) When one is facing a nuclear power with characters like Pudding in charge, it would be insane to ‘put all eggs into the same basket’ – i.e. deploy massive mechanised formations and try breaching the frontline with them.
3.) Thus, and since around 10 June, instead of ‘liberating villages’, the point of this offensive became 'destroying VSRF' (and, meanwhile: 'destroy VDV', too).
Precisely that's also explained in my feature from yesterday, in form of the following example. In the Robotyne area, four ZSU manoeuvre- and one artillery brigades took something like two months to destroy/render ineffective:
- 2 Russian reinforced motor-rifle divisions (19th and 42nd) ,
- 1 naval infantry brigade (810th)
- 1 artillery brigade (291st),
- 1 rocket artillery brigade (12th), and to maul
- 2 Spetsnaz brigades (22nd and 45th),
…i.e. an equivalent of three ‘full divisions, plus’.
This is so for reasons I'm explaining all the time since March-April last year: regardless the reason (Pudding's PRBS or whatever else), the victory in this war is going to be decided on the battlefield. And - also because NATO is far too dumb while run by opportunist and war profiteers but to understand this - there is only one way for Ukraine to win: destroy the VSRF (and VDV). Destroy it. Not damage it, not disable it, nothing else but destroy it. To the last, if necessary.
Right now, and unless Ukraine gets 1,000+ tanks, 1,000+ guns, plus necessary ammo, plus electronic warfare systems, plus necessary UAVs, plus necessary air defences - i.e. unless any of idiots in charge of NATO comes to his/her senses - there is only one way of effecting this result: attacking and killing dozens of thousands of Russians by (vastly superior) Ukrainian infantry, so to expose them to blows of available artillery, snipers, anti-material rifles, and UAVs (that's something like the 'charts' of most successful/effective Ukrainian weapons systems, right now).
Q: Is the attrition rate of a) personnel and b) equipment, higher than the regenerating capabilities of the VSRF?
IMHO & AFAIK, the issue of the attrition rate is 'simple' (and I think I've explained it some 5-6 times by now): the entire VSRF can press some 15,000-20,000 mobiks into service a month. Perhaps they've improved this towards some 25,000 by now.
That's about the maximum they can equip, organise and provide with at least a minimum of training. Per month.
Along Kyiv's reporting, the ZSU is (literally) shooting away at least some 15,000 per month. The figure for August might be closer to 25,000.
So, as long as the ZSU is - literally - shooting away more Russians than the VSRF (and VDV) can press into service, the Russians are on the best way to losing.
In turn, any kind of further delays in this regards, is playing straight into Pudding’s hands: it’s enabling him to continue the war, ‘endlessly’. Correspondingly, every day the ZSU shoots away (kills/wounds, etc.) less than, say, 500 Russian troops is a ‘missed opportunity’: it’s going to extend this war and cause additional casualties. This is why it is of fundamental interest for the USA, NATO and EU (not to talk about Ukraine) to increase this rate to around 1,000 Russian troops shot away per day – and to keep it there. As long as possible.
Q: Can you say anything about the available Ukrainian reserves? Can Ukrainians support this level of pressure on the Russians for long time?
Troops-wise, the ZSU has no problems. On the contrary: it’s got more than enough troops. So much so that some of its ‘brigades’ are, actually, ‘small divisions’, meanwhile. Best example is the 3rd Assault Brigade: think it’s safe to make it known, by now, that this has more than 9,000 combatants.
Unsurprisingly, the ZSU has something like a dozen of ‘ready-to-use’ brigades, plus another dozen of new units ‘working up’ - not committed in any kind of fighting. If there is a problem in this regards, then in the quality between newly-established brigades and combat-experienced brigades (which is why such units like the 3rd Assault are attracting that many volunteers: as intelligent people, Ukrainians prefer to serve in units of proven quality).
However, the ZSU’s capability to keep the Russians under pressure depends on continuous, uninterrupted, and even increased flow of ammunition in particular – from the West. This is where, right now, Kyiv can do very little.
Q: (Short version) What are your expectations, how long can the Russians hold out in the Robotyne area?
I’M NEVER making any kind of predictions. Please, be so kind, and accept this.
At most, at most I can offer you some ‘food for thoughts. As mentioned above, over the last two weeks the Keystone Cops in Moscow have ‘re-built’ the (almost destroyed) 58th CAA by deploying four VDV divisions to southern Zaporizhzhya (though some to south-western Donetsk, too). The way I see it, the remaining calculation is then ‘simple’: as mentioned above, the ZSU took 2,5 months to destroy an equivalent of three (3) Russian divisions. Along that line, it’s going to take another 2,5 months to destroy at least three out of these four ‘fresh’ Russian divisions….
Q: Are the Cubans being recruited by Russia making an appreciable battlefield difference? Given the medical training of Cuban medical professionals, I would assume that Russia is trying to recruit folk for battlefield medic deployment and not cannon fodder.
If this would be Cuban troops from the late 1980s, and if they would start arriving in large numbers, I would say they would be a major reinforcement for the VSRF. From what I know about them, they’re too few to make difference, though. Indeed, it seems that the entire ‘first group’ that was present in Russia was already shot away by the ZSU.
Q: Given the percentage of people in the occupied oblasts that were supporting Russia in 2014, is there any indication as to whether the percentage of Russian supporters have changed since the invasion/counterattack? I'm just thinking that if Zelenskyy is able to repatriate all the oblasts/Crimea, that's great but if 80% of the people there are supporting Russia, is there any point to trying to retake those oblasts, I mean other than political statements to get support from other countries?
No idea about this (and have no means to run serious and independent studies in this regards). Sorry, too busy following other developments and doing my ‘everyday job’.
Q: Why are 50-years-old Gepards deployed by Ukrainians for air defence, but (more numerous) ZSU-23-4 Shilka self-propelled (radar-directed) anti-aircraft guns - not?
Because the radar system of the Shilka is bad at detecting Shaheds, and the ammunition of their 23mm guns lacks the effectiveness. Indeed, even ZU-23s installed on the back of Toyota pick-ups are more effective because, if for no other reason, they are much more mobile (read: faster, at least on the road) than Shilkas: means, the PSU can quickly re-deploy them depending on the tactical situation.
Another ‘for the records’-point: Rheinmetal took seven months to establish a production line for 35mm ammo for ZSU’s Gepards. The first delivery took place few days ago.
Q: Why are you not commenting about the strike on Konstantynivka market?
Because I do not know enough about this (tragic) affair to say. There is no point in me commenting about things I do not know about.
EDIT: ….or if, then all I can say about this affair is that claims according to which this was an ‘Ukrainian AGM-88 HARM anti-radar missile’ - and then, especially, ‘because the blast was similar to that of an AGM-88’ - are plain nonsense.
HARM’s seeker head is working in entirely different band of frequencies and seeking for entirely different pulse patterns, than what is emitted by civilian systems. Even more so in Ukraine, where it’s usually pre-programmed to track previously recorded emissions.
To make sure: I’m far away from being a ‘qualified electrotechnician’, and there’s alway a possibility of missile malfunctioning and then ‘crashing somewhere’. But really: such claims like ‘missile homed in on some civilian owen’ are nothing but morbid BS by characters that simply have no trace of clue about electronic warfare. It’s like claiming that an infra-red homing missile was attracted by somebody smoking a cigarette… (i.e. entirely pointless to discuss).