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Russia’s war on Ukraine. 18.08.2023. Friday extended brief

Operational situation

The Defense Forces continue their offensive operation on the Melitopol and Berdyansk directions, consolidating their positions at achieved frontlines and engaging in counter-battery warfare. The adversary concentrates their main efforts on the Kupyansk, Lyman, Bakhmut, and Avdiivka directions.

General conclusion: 

  • Ukrainian Defense Forces continue their offensive operation on the Melitopol and Berdyansk directions, consolidating their positions at achieved frontlines.
  • The enemy lacks significant operational reserves on the Zaporizhzhia direction. The diversity of forces and resources that the enemy’s command is deploying to the Zaporizhzhia direction indicates an overall crisis within the enemy’s grouping on the theater of operations.
  • The intensive efforts of the “Vostok” Operational Grouping to retain control over settlements in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, instead of withdrawing their forces, suggest that the “Tavriya” Operational Group has substantially diminished the adversary’s combat capacity in preparation for their offensive thrust.
  • The redeployment of the 7th Air Assault Division from the “Dnieper” operational grouping to the “Vostok” operational grouping indicates a deteriorating situation within the Russian forces in Zaporizhzhia Oblast.
  • The maneuver of reserves between the operational groupings of the enemy will open up new opportunities for the development of the Defense Forces’ offensive on various fronts.
  • The enemy will be forced to retreat to their main defensive line.
  • The breakthrough of the main defensive line by the forces of the “Tavriya” Operational Grouping on any front can quickly develop into operational success.
  • Prolonged operations of the Russian Aerospace Forces without adequate rest are depleting the physical capabilities of Russian pilots, leading to an increase in losses.
  • The Russian Armed Forces predominantly employ recently manufactured precision missiles, indicating a priority on strikes against Ukraine rather than stockpiling.
  • Russian forces primarily use Shahed UAVs as decoys for the air defense system, making it easier to overcome with missiles. The significant quantity of strike UAVs will empower the Russian Aerospace Forces to neutralize the air defense capabilities of the Ukrainian Defensive Forces.
  • From a tactical perspective, Shahed UAVs might be used for strikes on civilian targets. The increased production of these UAVs in Russia indicates readiness for protracted missile and aerial assaults on Ukraine.
  • The movement on the Chonhar automobile bridge has been restored, allowing the enemy to increase transportation volumes.
  • The Ukrainian campaign to disrupt the deep rear areas of the Russian Armed Forces in southern Ukraine has the potential to temporarily disrupt Russian logistics, which are crucial for sustaining the Russian defense of critically important front sectors. The attack on the Chonhar Bridge resulted in the incapacitation of Russian logistics for 11 days.
  • The successes of the “Tavriya” Operational Grouping are tactically significant due to the structure of Russian defensive lines.

Change in the line of contact (LoC):  

  • More than 33 combat engagements took place on various fronts. 
  • On the Kupyansk direction, Russian forces carried out unsuccessful attacks near Synkivka and Bilohorivka. They are attempting to encircle Synkivka and conducted offensive operations near Zagoriyivka and Petropavlivka. Units of the 6th Army Corps seized Ukrainian positions to the southwest of Vilshana. 
  • Ukrainian Defense Forces unsuccessfully attacked near Novoselivske, Kuzmyne, Torske, and Serebryansk Forestry. They are attempting to breach the Russian defense line along the Raigorodka – Karmazynivka front.
  • On the Bakhmut direction, Ukrainian Defense Forces achieved minor successes in the southern part of Klishchiivka and conducted attacks near the E-40 Bakhmut-Slovyansk highway and Berkhivka. 
  • Russian forces repelled Ukrainian attacks near Klishchiivka, Andriivka, Berkhivka, and Zaliznyanske. The enemy’s attacks near Bohdanivka and Bila Hora did not yield results.
  • On the Avdiivka direction, enemy units repelled Ukrainian attacks near Staromykhailivka and Krasnohorivka. 
  • Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive actions near Avdiivka, Keramik, Krasnohorivka, and Maryinka.
  • Zaporizhzhia Direction: 
    • Tokmak Direction (Robotyne): The forces of the “Tavriya” Operational Grouping have advanced to the southwest of Novopokrovka, improved the tactical situation near Robotyne, launched an attack near Verbove, and conducted search-and-strike operations near Dorozhianka. The area where the “Tavriya” Operational Grouping reached the enemy’s main defense line has expanded to 3 kilometers and continues to grow. The enemy’s command is unable to resolve the tactical crisis near Robotyne. Additional forces deployed to this direction failed to improve the situation. A unit of strike UAVs “Lantset” (20-30 launches per day) has been deployed to the Robotyne area.
    • Berdyansk Direction (Velyka Novosilka): Several small assault groups of the “Tavriya” Operational Grouping, consisting of up to a platoon, continued to attack near Zavitne Bazhannia, and battles persisted near Staromayorske. Forward units of the “Tavriya” Operational Grouping established positions in Staromayorske and Urozhaine.
    • The 37th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade of the 36th Army defended against “Tavriya” Operational Grouping attacks south of Urozhaine.
    • The 60th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade has assumed defensive positions in the Zavitne Bazhannia area. It is being actively reinforced by the 136th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade of the 1st Army Corps of the 8th Army.
    • The enemy has the 34th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade, the 336th Separate Marine Brigade, and the 5th Separate Tank Brigade in reserve on this direction. They are likely to be deployed into operations to counter the advance of “Tavriya” Operational Grouping toward Staromlynivka.
    • Russian forces launched an attack on the railway station in Mezhova (46 km northeast of Velyka Novosilka) in the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast, where a train with ammunition was being unloaded.
  • Kherson Direction: Russian and Ukrainian forces continued mutual shelling across the Dnipro River in the Kherson Oblast, with fire exchanges near the Antonivskyi Bridge.
  • Russian forces repelled attempts of infiltration by several Reconnaissance Groups (DRG) of the Ukrainian Defense Forces that were trying to cross the Dnipro River near Korsunka.
  • In the Black Sea-Azov Sea operational area, the following ships were on combat duty: in the Black Sea – 4 enemy ships, in the Azov Sea – 1, in the Mediterranean – 8, of which 2 are carriers of cruise missile systems; the combined salvo of cruise missiles “Kalibr” was 24 missiles.

Change in enemy disposition:

  • On the Berdyansk direction, the enemy has the 165th Artillery Brigade of the 35th Army of the Eastern Military District in operation.
  • In the area northeast of Novoprokopivka, units of the 201st Motorized Rifle Regiment of the 2nd Army Corps of the 8th Army have been observed.

Possible operation situation developments: 

  • On the Kupyansk direction, the adversary will operate with two operational-tactical groupings: a northern one formed from the forces of the 6th Army, and a northwestern one consisting of units from the 1st Tank Army and the 11th Army Corps.
  • Shortly, the forces of the Russian 27th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade will resume intensive offensive operations northeast of Stelmakhivka. Additionally, units of the 4th Tank Division will attempt to advance from the Kolomyichikha – Dzherelne line towards the Myasozharivka – Andriivka line.
  • Changing the direction of action of the “Tavriya” Operational Grouping from Novoprokopivka to Verbove could have a pivotal significance in the adversary’s ability to hold their positions on the main defensive line.
  • On the Kherson direction, the adversary’s forces will attempt to break through from the northern outskirts of Oleshky towards Dachi village, aiming to compel the forward units of the Defense Forces to abandon their foothold on the left bank of the Dnieper River in the area of the Antonivskyi Bridge.

Russian operational losses from 24.02.22 to 18.08.23 

Personnel – almost 256,510 people (+460);

Tanks – 4,332 (+3);

Armored combat vehicles – 8,410 (+12);

Artillery systems – 5,193 (+24);

Multiple rocket launchers (MLRS) – 714 (0);

Anti-aircraft warfare systems – 486 (+1);

Vehicles and fuel tanks –7,658 (+17);

Aircraft – 315 (0);

Helicopters – 316 (+2);

UAV operational and tactical level – 4,276 (+4);

Intercepted cruise missiles – 1,406 (+2);

Boats/ships – 18 (0).


  • According to information provided by the MOD’s Situation Center, over the past day, Russian forces shelled 9 regions of Ukraine. 127 towns and villages and 89 infrastructure objects were attacked with various types of weapons. According to preliminary information, 2 people died and 4 were injured. 
  • As of the morning of August 18, around 480 civilians have been evacuated from the Kupyansk district in Kharkiv Oblast. Ukrainian authorities are in the process of establishing evacuation routes in case there is a threat of Kupyansk being occupied.
  • In the temporarily occupied territories of Luhansk Oblast, the Russian occupation authorities have mandated the issuance of passports to all teenagers aged 14 to 18 by October 1, according to a report by the Luhansk Oblast Military Administration. Inspectors from Moscow have already arrived in the self-declared “LPR” to supervise the enforcement of these coercive measures.
  • Russian occupation authorities require teachers, children and their parents in occupied territories to install the spy app “Sferum,” as the National Resistance Center of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense reported. This app is ostensibly promoted for communication purposes. The software was developed by structures related to the FSB and can spy on the phone’s owner, including transmitting data about the owner’s contacts, calls, movements and searches.
  • Ukraine is ready to exchange Russian citizens held in Ukrainian prisons for civilians who opposed the war and got prison sentences in Russia. “There are citizens who were not afraid and spoke out against the war, got real “draconian” sentences and are kept in prisons. And since we are a European democratic country, it is our duty to help these people and remind everyone that it is also about terror inside of the Russian Federation itself,” Andriy Yusov, representative of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense said.

International aspect. August 14-18, 2023

NATO Secretary-General’s Chief of Staff presumed that “ceding territory to Russia in exchange for NATO membership could be a way to end the war between the two countries.” Ukrainians flatly reject the idea, seeing it helpful only to the Kremlin’s propaganda. Before Stian Jenssen disavowed his statement due to its poorly considered nature, Dmitriy Medvedev promptly endorsed the idea, asserting that “all of – supposedly – their [Ukrainian] territories are highly disputable. And to enter the bloc [NATO], the Kiev authorities will have to give up even Kiev itself, the capital of Ancient Rus [the Russians still believe that their statehood somehow related to the Kyivan Rus].”

Ukraine’s President has consistently opposed any form of territorial “compromises” and has emphasized the urgency of expediting Ukraine’s path to NATO membership for the sake of Euro-Atlantic security. The stance of the Ukrainian government is strongly reinforced by significant public backing, as demonstrated by a recent NDI poll. A striking 81% of Ukrainians are against trading peace for territories currently unlawfully occupied by Russia. Eighty-nine per cent believe peace would be acceptable when Ukraine has liberated all its internationally recognized territories, including Crimea.

Coincidentally, Nicolas Sarkozy, in an interview with the French daily Le Figaro, suggested that Europe need to seek a compromise, for “we [Europeans] need them [Russians] and they need us.” Notably, he expressed skepticism about Ukraine’s pursuit of reclaiming Crimea. Moreover, he proposed to leave Ukraine outside the EU and NATO. Nicolas Sarkozy, the first former President in modern French history convicted of corruption and sentenced to prison, is being investigated for Russian “influence peddling” in the context of consulting activities for Reso-Garantia Group.

It was Nicolas Sarkozy who negotiated a “peace” deal between Russia and Georgia, resulting in the illegal occupation of one-fifth of Georgia’s territory by Russian forces without any binding obligations to withdraw from it. Dmitriy Medvedev prized Nicolas Sarkozy by calling him one of the “European politicians of the older generation, who had a lot more stature than those of today.” The former Russian President enjoyed the words that “Crimea was a historical part of Russia and Ukraine had no place in the EU. Statements that are both bold and accurate.”

Russia’s blockade of the Ukrainian Black Sea ports, which increases food insecurity across the globe, is one of the reasons why Russians should be kicked out of Crimea. Russia used its assets deployed in Crimea to target Ukrainian ports and agriculture-related infrastructure. Moscow has effectively initiated a blockade of Ukrainian ports by deploying its Black Sea Fleet from the unlawfully annexed peninsula. A Russian warship allegedly fired warning shots and illegally boarded SUKRU OKAN, a Turkish cargo ship bound for Ukraine, off the Turkish shore last Sunday. Turkey warned Russia “appropriately to avoid such attempts, which escalate tensions in the Black Sea.”

This week, Ukraine recommended civil cargo ships bond to or from Ukrainian ports to use an alternative route within the 12-mile territorial sea of Ukraine and neighboring countries towards the Straits of Bosphorus and Dardanelles. It would be illegal under the UN Law of the Sea for Russian warships to intercept any vessel within the territorial sea of foreign countries. The cargo ship JOSEPH SCHULTE, co-owned by a Chinese bank and flying the Hong Kong flag, has successfully reached Istanbul from Odesa using the new route without being intimidated by Russian forces.

Notably, the Russian patrol ship Vasily Bykov, which inspected the Turkish vessel, reportedly faced a drone attack. Andriy Klymenko, editor-in-chief of BlackSeaNews.com, believes that all these Black Sea problems are the result of unresolved strategic issues fueled by an irrational fear of Russia. “All these fears are greatly exaggerated, thus must be dispelled, which, in fact, the Defense Forces of Ukraine have been doing for a year and a half.” Coping with this factor will help to tame Russian behavior.

The annexation of Crimea served as a launching point for the 2022 invasion of Ukraine and logistical support for the ongoing Russian incursion in the south. The actions of the Black Sea Fleet extended beyond military objectives, encompassing civilian infrastructure as well, which poses a grave threat not only to Ukraine but to other nations along the Black Sea. The strategic importance of Crimea, including its conventional and nuclear missile capabilities, directly jeopardizes Europe’s security. The range of Kalibr missiles even extends to potential targets as distant as the British Isles.

Had Russia not illegally occupied Crimea in 2014, it might have been impossible for the Kremlin to interfere in the Syrian civil war on the side of Bashar al-Assad. The control of Crimea by Russia translates into their capability to sustain and extend their disruptive activities across the Middle East and Africa.

Liberating all Ukrainian territories carries a humanitarian imperative. The systematic erasure of Ukrainian identity, which amounts to a war crime according to international law, has become a routine practice for Russia. The illegal deportation of Ukrainian children to Russia, their illicit adaptation by Russian parents and the brainwashing programs are integral components of an RF-endorsed policy. This prompted the ICC to issue warrants against Vladimir Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova.

The initial breach of international law through the unlawful annexation of Ukrainian territories via violent means cannot be rectified, even hypothetically, by Ukraine agreeing to territorial “concessions.” Any such “concessions” would only reinforce a sense of impunity and encourage Russia to pursue additional conquests within Ukraine and potentially beyond. Reestablishing the status quo ante bellum is the sole path to eliminating impunity, ensuring just and lasting peace in Ukraine and, by extension, throughout Europe and strengthening international law.

Garry Kasparov, a Russian opposition politician, expressed his fear that the “Biden administration dreams of negotiating immoral “land for peace” deals with war criminal Putin instead of giving Ukraine all the weapons it needs to win the war quickly and save lives.” “Had the United States given Ukraine heavy weapons like tanks, jets, and ATACMS early and in large amounts, Ukraine would have had a far better chance at retaking its territory and striking at the Russian weapons that are still bombarding Ukrainian civilians daily,” he wrote in the Kyiv Post. Garry Kasparov called to make “no more hidden talks with Putin and his war criminal mafia.”

The delays in the supply of weaponry have allowed Russia to strengthen its defensive positions. Given the lack of airpower and scarcity of long-range fires, the Ukrainian Defense Forces have adopted slower tactics to minimize human costs while striving to liberate territories. This gradual advancement has rekindled doubts from chronic skeptics and proponents of “compromise.” The upcoming elections in the US and Europe are intensifying time constraints for Ukraine. In the worst-case scenario, Ukraine may face a change of heart in key nations that committed themselves for “as long as it takes” and face a harsh reality. However, even in such dire circumstances, the Ukrainian nation and its leadership would not opt for “compromises” at the expense of its territories and its future within the EU and NATO.

Anything short of liberating all illegally occupied territories of Ukraine would mean leaving international law and the European security architecture in rubbles. If Ukraine remains outside the EU and NATO, the vision of a unified, free, and peaceful Europe would remain unattainable, while Russia would continue its aggressive expansion westward.

Centre for Defence Strategies (CDS) is a Ukrainian security think tank. We operate since 2020.

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