Oct 04, 2022
The following report provides an update on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with a particular focus on Ukrainian offensive advances and strategical gains. Over the last month the Ukrainian military has conducted counter-offensive operations against Russia. The offensive is mainly targeting the northern and southern parts of Kharkiv and Odessa. Ukrainian success on the battlefield has sparked motivations and potential hopes of victory. However, it is essential to note that the war is far from over and that further Ukrainian gains potentially increases the risk of additional Russian mobilization.
On Sunday 2 October, Ukraine claimed full control of the eastern logistic hub of Lyman, which marks its most significant military gain in weeks. On Monday 3 October, Ukraine advanced further into the areas Russia are trying to absorb, hence establishing further Russian military setbacks. Russian forces have withdrawn from Lyman in the Donetsk region, while Russian proxy officials in the region of Luhansk and Kherson stated that Ukrainian forces had made further advances in the region.
Russian announcement of annexation stated that they would consider all of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which includes the Donbass area of eastern Ukraine – even though Russian troops does not control them in full. The regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, claimed to be annexed as well, are also not entirely under Russian control.
Ukrainian forces have fielded High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), provided by the US, to great effect. Ukrainian forces have targeted Russian naval assets by using long-range strikes, prompting the Russian navy to relocate Kilo-class submarines from Sevastopol, Crimea to Novorossiysk, Russia.
Ukraine has also conducted special operations targeting the sabotage of infrastructure, and assassinations of government official installed by Moscow. This indicates the capability of the Ukrainian military, that it can conduct both regular and irregular operations to retake territory. Russia has mobilized a further 300,000 reservists but is struggling with both training and logistical obstacles. Both Ukrainian and Western officials and analysts have dismissed Russian short-term ability to mold its recruits, and hence into a new offensive.
Lyman, a railroad hub, was an important junction of logistics for Russia before Ukraine managed to re-capture it. Russia had been using the hub of Lyman for resupplying its forces forwards lines from Kharkiv to Kherson. Any time such a hub of operational importance is lost, it will impact one’s ability to respond quickly. From Lyman it is also possible for Ukrainian forces to establish a staging point for further advancements to both the Donetsk- and Luhansk regions. The recapturing of Lyman puts a dent in Putin’s foothold in the eastern Donetsk region and could enable further military setbacks for Russia.
In the south, Ukrainian soldiers broke through Russian defensive lines in the Kherson region, which is a gateway to the ports of Odessa. It has been further reported that further progress by Ukraine has been made along the river Dnepr, Kherson region, targeting depots and bridges, hence disrupting Russian supply.
Despite strategically Ukrainian offensives in the eastern and southern fronts, and Russian difficulties in mobilizing its reservists that have little military experience – Kyiv is far from victory. Ground combat around Kherson has prompted less progress from a Ukrainian perspective, with less territory changing hands. Ukrainian struggles to retake the Kherson region is mostly due to its open terrain. Kherson is of considerable economic, symbolic, and strategic value for Ukraine. Considering the arable land, the region is considered an agricultural powerhouse. However, the main significance of the region is military, as it serves as a gateway to the Russian-annexed Crimea and to Ukraine’s Black Sea ports to the West. Ukraine has, however, manage to progress in a number of villages in Kherson Oblast, such as the city of Vysokopillia. Russia is still holding steady in other areas such as near Bakhmut, in the Donetsk, and in the north Russian forces are shelling the town of Kupiansk.
The fight in Donbass will most likely be particularly grueling, as Russian forces are fighting from trenches they have held for several years. Ultimately, there is a lot of heavy fighting left, and despite Ukrainian strategically gains there is a long way to go.
Looming over Ukrainian gains is the threat of nuclear weapons. Despite many analysts indicating that the risk of the conflict turning nuclear is low, the possibility cannot be excluded. According to Daily Mail and The Times Russian nuclear arms have begun rolling through Russia. The freight train, which is normally used to move the military’s special equipment, is part of a nuclear weapons division in the Russian defense. According to the Daily Mail the train is being used which spars speculation of a potential escalation. Russian state media has also shown upgraded armored vehicles. All in all, this could indicate a need for a signal of capacity for further escalation.
Furthermore, according to some sources the Russian nuclear submarine Belgorod has left its base in the White Sea. The Russian threat of nuclear arms is growing. However, it is essential to note that the rhetorical threat in itself serves a purpose; as it could create a potential Western divide as some countries could tend to feel that the ‘cost would be too much’, hence prompting a de-escalation form a Western side.
The war is far from over, and recent actions from Russia and Putin suggests that they are in it for the long run. However, the current battlefield map and recent Ukrainian gains should be concerning for Putin and the Russian military leadership. Nevertheless, an increasingly pressed Russia may resort to further escalation.