- Share to or
Ukrainian assault units make use of the ‘Surovikin line’ and trenches dug by Russian troops last year Here’s what’s happening at the front as Ukraine’s summer offensive draws to a close
Like our earlier reports on the combat situation in Ukraine, this article takes stock of the recent developments in the battlefield, based on open-source information. Meduza has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine from the very start, and our detailed military analyses are part of our commitment to objective reporting on a war we firmly oppose.
Our map is based exclusively on open-source photos and videos, most of them posted by eyewitnesses on social media. We collect available evidence and determine its geolocation markers, adding only the photos and videos that clear this process. Meduza doesn’t try to track the conflict in real time; the data reflected on the map are typically at least 48 hours old.
What we knew as of 3 p.m. Moscow time (1 p.m. in London, 8 a.m. in New York) on September 29, 2023
At the cost of heavy fighting, the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) managed to recapture what was left of Robotyne in the Orikhiv region of southern Ukraine, also taking back Klishchiivka and Andriivka just south of Bakhmut. After these gains, the Ukrainian offensive ground to a standstill.
Gaining these small footholds has failed to translate into a strategic breakthrough for Ukraine: it has only forced the Russian troops to move to a new set of defensive positions. To advance further, the Ukrainian army must liberate several more locations, each of which has by now been fortified by the invading Russian army.
It’s possible that the Ukrainian command might have a plan for further attempts of a breakthrough. But already next week, autumn rains forecasted in southern Ukraine will likely complicate both maneuvering and bringing supplies to the front line.
- The AFU’s offensive in this theater is stuck within the Robotyne–Novoprokopivka–Verbove triangle. While Robotyne has been liberated in late August, the assaults of Ukrainian units that reached the outskirts of Novoprokopivka have all been deflected by the Russian troops in this location. Fighting also continues on the outskirts of Verbove, where it’s been happening since August, preventing the Ukrainian troops from proceeding further east.
- The Ukrainian command has diversified its assault tactics. The offensive is mostly conducted by small infantry units that bring armored machinery to the front line before retreating into the rear. In cooperation with artillery, infantrymen try to occupy one Russian stronghold at a time to secure new positions. This fairly effective tactic has one significant disadvantage: it doesn’t permit the kind of deep breakthrough that could disrupt the enemy’s defense system. Another disadvantage is the inevitable loss of manpower. For these reasons, the AFU periodically try to break through the Russian defenses with small mechanized units, but these attacks are usually ineffective, while costly in terms of scarce equipment.
- Another problem for the Ukrainian grouping has to do with bringing supplies to the front line and evacuating the wounded. Throughout the 10-kilometer (or six-mile-wide) wedge carved out by the AFU between the southern outskirts of Orikhiv and Novoprokopivka, Ukrainian equipment cannot move unimpeded: it comes under fire from artillery, anti-tank missile systems, and drones. This prevents the Ukrainian army from accumulating sufficient forces for extending the offensive. Of course, similar problems arise with the Russian equipment in the near rear.
- The irony of the situation in this area is that Ukrainian forward positions now make ample use of the fortified “Surovikin Line,” erected by the Russian troops but captured since by the AFU. This means that the trenches and dugouts prepared by the Russian army the previous year now shelter Ukrainian assault teams.
- It’s possible that the AFU might eventually squeeze the Russian units out of Novoprokopivka and Verbove. Still, a deep breakthrough into the Russian defense remains unlikely. When the fall rains finally make the local unpaved roads unsuitable for vehicles and equipment, conducting an offensive will only get more difficult.
- After liberating Klishchiivka and Andriivka south of Bakhmut, the AFU ran into a new defense line of the Russian Armed Forces, which runs along the Horlivka–Bakhmut railway. The liberated villages themselves are located in a low-lying area between hills. This made defending them difficult for the Russian troops (whose movements were visible to the enemy, who occupied the hills to the west, even without having to use reconnaissance drones), and now Ukrainian assault groups are in a similar situation: Russian artillery, corrected by scouts from the hills east of Klishchiivka, is striking at the AFU units near the railroad.
- Judging by the published videos, Ukrainian troops are trying to get to the other side of the railroad near Andriivka. For this new offensive to have any chance of success, the Ukrainian armed forces will probably have to storm Kurdiumivka and Otradivka, the villages immediately south.
Meduza is careful in working with data, but mistakes are still possible, and perhaps even inevitable. If you spot one, please let us know by sending an email to [email protected]. Thank you!
- Share to or