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Counteroffensive by Ukrainian Armed Forces - Troops expand breach in Russian defense line

Counteroffensive by Ukrainian Armed Forces - Troops expand breach in Russian defense line Ukrainian military (photo: Vitalii Nosach, RBC-Ukraine)

Ukrainian Armed Forces fighters, after breaking through the first line of defense of Russian invaders in the Zaporizhzhia region, are expanding the breach that has formed there and are deploying more equipment and personnel to the tactical rear of this unit, reports ISW analysts.

The Ukrainian Armed Forces infantry has advanced to positions beyond the anti-tank ditches and anti-tank obstacles known as the "dragon's teeth," which form the current defensive layer of Russian troops ahead of the Ukrainian military's advance in the western part of the Zaporizhzhia region.

It appears that the Ukrainian defense forces intend to hold these positions.

However, ISW experts are not yet prepared to assess whether Ukrainian forces have breached this Russian defensive level, as there is no heavy Ukrainian military equipment present in these areas.

On geolocated images published on September 4, it is evident that Ukrainian forces have advanced to positions located on the border of the trees situated to the east of the Russian anti-tank ditches and "dragon's teeth" obstacles, which are part of the three-tiered defense immediately to the west of Verbove (18 km southeast of Orikhove).

The geolocated images from September 4 also reveal that Ukrainian light infantry has moved further towards a series of prepared Russian defensive positions along the road leading northwest to Verbove.

Other geolocation images from September 4 show that Ukrainian forces have advanced to Russian defensive positions between Robotyne (10 km south of Orikhove) and Novoprokopyvka (13 km south of Orikhove).

As stated in the report, the Ukrainian Armed Forces are expanding the breach they have already made in one of the Russian defensive lines. It is reported that they are deploying more equipment and personnel into the tactical rear of this line.

The Ukrainian forces appear to be making progress in close proximity to a yet-unbreached Russian defensive line that runs northwest of Verbove and north of Solodka Balka (20 km south of Orikhove). They are conducting infantry attacks and heavy artillery fire against Russian positions within and south of this layer.

The deployment of Ukrainian heavy equipment and larger forces in these areas, beyond what ISW has observed thus far, indicates both a breakthrough in this Russian defensive layer and an attempt to expand this breach.

Key findings:

  • Russian forces attempted to expand minefields in southern Ukraine following the start of the Ukrainian Armed Forces' counteroffensive in June.

  • Limitations on Russian artillery capabilities and the Ukrainian Defense Forces' advantages in counter-battery fire are forcing the occupiers to deviate from their own doctrine, according to RUSI.

  • During the night of September 3 to 4, Russia launched drone strikes in the Dnipropetrovsk and Odesa regions of Ukraine.

  • Russian leader Vladimir Putin confirmed Russia's reluctance to rejoin the Black Sea Grain initiative during a meeting with Türkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, as long as all significant Kremlin conditions are not met.

  • On September 4, Eric Mozer, the Chairman of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine at the United Nations, stated that the commission has not yet reached the conclusion that Russia is committing genocide in Ukraine.

  • Russian forces conducted offensive operations on September 4 along the lines of Kupшansk-Svatove-Kremшnna, near Bakhmut, along the Avdiivka-Donetsk line, in the western Donetsk region, and on the eastern border of the Zaporizhzhia region, as well as making advances in certain areas.

  • On September 4, the Ukrainian Armed Forces conducted offensive operations and made progress in the areas of Bakhmut and in the western Zaporizhzhia region.

  • On September 4, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu announced that the Russian military will not conduct the scheduled joint strategic exercises "Zapad-2023" in September.

  • The Russian occupation "authorities" continued the fifth day of early voting in the Russian regional "elections" in the occupied territories of Ukraine on September 4.

Breakthrough of the Russian defense line

The spokesperson for the Joint Press Center of the Defense Forces of the Tavriya Direction, Oleksandr Shtupun, stated on September 4 that the second defense line of the Russian forces has a lower density of minefields than the already breached first line and may contain a network of underground tunnels. However, the officer noted that the second defensive line of the enemy is quite formidable.

Prior to this, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) had pointed out that the Russian occupiers likely did not conduct as complex preparations for subsequent defensive layers, especially regarding the density of minefields.