Центр оборонних стратегій

Russia’s war on Ukraine. 25.08.2023. Friday’s extended edition

Operational situation

Ukrainian Defense Forces continue their offensive operation on the Melitopol direction, consolidating their positions on the achieved frontlines and engaging in counter-battery warfare. The adversary concentrates its primary efforts on the Kupyansk, Bakhmut, Tokmak, and Berdyansk sectors.

General conclusion: 

  • Ukrainian Defense Forces continued offensive operations in at least three sections of the front, advancing in the west of Zaporizhzhia Oblast.
  • The high density of the Russian combat formations complicates troop management, providing favorable conditions for the “Tavriya” Operational Grouping to engage area targets, primarily using cluster munitions.
  • Rocade reserve movements occur only within the Melitopol operational direction, indicating not only a shortage of combat-ready reserves but also a lack of time for troop maneuvering.

Change in the line of contact (LoC):  

  • Over 35 combat engagements took place in different directions.
  • On the Kupyansk direction, Russian forces carried out unsuccessful offensive actions in the areas of Novoyehorivka, Kreminna, and Bilohorivka. They control the road to Hryhorivka. Positional battles continue near Torske and in the Serebryansk forest area.
  • The Russian military command plans to regroup and replace troops in the Lyman direction.
  • Ukrainian Defense Forces carried out offensive actions along the Kupyansk – Svatove – Kreminna line, attacked near Synkivka, Novoselivske, Novoyehorivka, Hryhorivka, Torske, Dibrova, Serebryansk Forestry, Berestove.
  • On the Bakhmut direction, Ukrainian Defense Forces advanced west of Zaliznyanske, near Klishchiivka, and captured the Russian forward positions to the west of the village.
  • Russian forces counterattacked in the area of Vesele, but did not succeed.
  • On the Avdiivka direction, Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive actions in the area south of Avdiivka.
  • Ukrainian Defense Forces continued to hold back the advance of Russian troops in the areas northeast of Novomykhailivka and Maryinka; they attacked near Nevelske.
  • Zaporizhzhia direction:
    • Tokmak direction (Robotyne): The “Tavriya” Operational grouping entered Novoprokopivka. It is moving in the direction of Verbove, i.e. the breakthrough of the first positions of the main Russian line of defense has begun. The Russian command transferred units of the 4th Military Base from the Vasylivka direction to the direction of the breakthrough.
    • Ukrainian Defense Forces attacked the command post of the 58th Army in Tokmak.
    • Berdyansk direction (Velyka Novosilka): At least two Lancet UAV units operate in this direction. The 336th Separate Marines Brigade of the Black Sea Fleet and 5th Separate Tank Brigade are deployed on the flanks of the Staromlyniv Russian defense hub. The enemy has sufficient forces and means for successful defense here.
  • Kherson direction: Ukrainian Defense Forces continued limited raids on the eastern bank of the Dnipro River in Kherson Oblast, holding positions near Oleshky and the Antoniv Bridge.
  • Russian troops struck several sabotage and reconnaissance groups of Ukrainian Defense Forces that landed on unspecified islands in the Dnipro River delta and repulsed several sabotage and reconnaissance groups that tried to land between Hola Prystan and Kardashynka.
  • In the Black Sea-Azov naval operational area, there were 4 Russian ships in the Black Sea, 2 in the Sea of Azov, including 1 cruise missile carrier, and 8 in the Mediterranean, including 2 cruise missile carriers. The total salvo is 32 Kalibr cruise missiles. 
  • During the joint special operation of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine with the support of the Ukrainian Navy, Ukrainian servicemen landed on the Crimean shore in the area of Olenivka and Mayak villages and engaged in combat with the occupying forces, inflicting casualties on the enemy. President Zelensky confirmed there were no losses on the Ukrainian side.
  • The base of the 3rd Radio Technical Regiment 31st AD division is located in the village of Mayak. Also, on the Tarkhankut peninsula, there are a radar node – the Nebo-M radar and the Kasta-2E2 radar. Air defense positions have been prepared along the perimeter.
  • The Russian Ministry of Defense announced that on the night of August 25, more than 40 drones attacked the temporarily occupied Crimean Peninsula. Reports of UAVs flying over the peninsula and explosions in Simferopol and the Simferopol district, as well as in Sevastopol, Saki, near Meganom and Tarkhankut capes were also published by the Crimean Wind telegram channel. 
  • On August 25, an attack was made on the 126th Separate Guard Brigade of the coastal defense of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation based in Perevalne village in the temporarily occupied Crimea, Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense said.
  • The situation on the Kerch Bridge is unchanged. The bridge is limited in use due to technical problems after being blown up. There are no lines, though, since people try to use alternative routes. 

Change in enemy disposition:

  • On the Tokmak direction, the Russian command is conducting defense in the first echelon with the 56th and 108th Air Assault Regiments of the 7th Air Assault Division, the 810th Separate Marines Brigade of the Black Sea Fleet, the 503rd and 201st Motorized Rifle Regiments, the 1430th and 1441st Motorized Rifle Regiments of the Territorial Troops, the 4th military base. In the second echelon, there are the 291st Motorized Rifle Regiment, the 100th Separate Reconnaissance Brigade, two BARS detachments, the 249th Separated Motorized Regiment of the Special Purpose of the National Guard (“Akhmat-Yug”), and “Tsarskie Volki” PMC (in the area of Kopani).

Possible operation situation developments: 

  • The enemy command will continue their attempts with active actions on the Kupyansk direction to compel the command of the Defense Forces to allocate a portion of their strategic reserves specifically to this direction.
  • By engaging in combat and covering their left flank from enemy attacks along the Novodonetske-Kermenchik line, effectively immobilizing the 60th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade defending in Zavitne Bazhanya, and ensuring their advance along the Urozhaine-Staromlynivka road with engineering support, the “Tavriya” Operational Grouping, benefiting from firepower superiority, could swiftly annihilate the enemy in the Staromlynivka defensive sector.
  • The success of the Russian defense on the Berdyansk direction will depend on the outcome of the battles in the area of Urozhaine – Novodonetske – Kermenchyk – Zavitne Bazhanya;
  • The command of the “Tavriya” Operational Grouping will strive to become more active on the flanks of the Staromlynivka defense area. This aims to prevent the enemy from using its available reserves concentrated in one location. To achieve this, they will launch attacks from the positions of Pryiutne-Novozlatopil and Novodonetske-Novomayorske;
  • In the event of a breakthrough by the “Tavriya” Operational Grouping into the Staromlynivka defense area, one should expect the actions of the 336t Separate Tank Brigade in the direction of Remivka – Volodyne and the 5th separate tank brigade in the direction of Novodonetske – Kermenchyk.

Russian operational losses from 24.02.22 to 25.08.23 

Personnel – almost 259,630 people (+470);

Tanks – 4,378 (+3);

Armored combat vehicles – 8,521 (+10);

Artillery systems – 5,361 (+28);

Multiple rocket launchers (MLRS) – 724 (+1);

Anti-aircraft warfare systems – 495 (+1);

Vehicles and fuel tanks –7,790 (+17);

Aircraft – 315 (0);

Helicopters – 316 (0);

UAV operational and tactical level – 4,356 (+12);

Intercepted cruise missiles – 1,409 (+3);

Boats/ships – 18 (0).


  • According to information provided by the MOD’s Situation Center, over the past day, Russian forces shelled 10 regions of Ukraine. 147 towns and villages and 70 infrastructure objects were attacked with various types of weapons. 1 person was reported killed in Kherson Oblast, and 9 people were reported injured in Donetsk and Kherson Oblasts over the past day by relevant Oblast Military State Administrations. 
  • On the night of August 24-25, Russian forces attacked Odesa Oblast twice. Two missiles targeted a port and two the city of Odesa. The Ukrainian air defense forces destroyed all missiles.
  • Over this week, specialists of the Support Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine examined and cleared more than 157 hectares of agricultural land of explosive objects, removed and neutralized 1,792 explosive objects, the press service of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported.
  • On the evening of August 24, the Kyiv District Court of the occupied Crimea sent three Crimean Tatars, Ruslan Asanov, Ametkhan Umerov and Remzi Nimetulayev, to the pretrial detention center for two months. Their houses were searched earlier in the day. They were accused of terrorist activities. Activists plead not guilty. 
  • Three more Crimean Tatars, who were also searched – Seydamet Mustafaev, Eldar Yakubov and Abdulmejit Seytumerov – came before the court on August 25. The occupiers detained 23 activists who came to the court hearings.
  • The administration of colony No. 7 in Zelenokumsk, Stavropol Territory of the Russian Federation, took away painkillers from the politically imprisoned citizen journalist from Crimea, Iryna Danylovych, and she is systematically denied medical assistance, Ukrainian ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets said.

The story of the Wagner PMC, a quintessentially Russian narrative, has reached its conclusion. Employing infernal symbolism, Vladimir Putin orchestrated the demise of Yevgeniy Prigozhin, a one-time loyal supporter turned renegade, marking the beginning of the failed mutiny two months ago. This event draws striking parallels to the assassination of Anna Politkovskaya, an independent Russian journalist and vehement critic of Vladimir Putin, who was murdered on Putin’s birthday seventeen years ago. Putin’s reputation is rooted in ruthless actions and rancour. Among those observing Kremlin affairs, few doubted that the leader of Wagner was doomed.

The tradition of absolute power runs deep in Russia’s history, tracing back to Muscovite rulers like Ivan the Terrible and even earlier. In this system, a czar holds complete authority over all subjects, treating them as possessions regardless of their social status – whether nobles with recognized rights or serfs with limited freedoms. The ruler retains the authority to bestow official positions or property as he pleases, without temporal restrictions. The ruler’s “jurisdiction” extends to the appropriation of his subjects’ possessions, freedoms, and even lives, at his sole discretion and timing. Concepts like the Magna Carta and Habeas Corpus remain foreign to Russia, up to the present day.

The FSB, a successor to the KGB, intricately blurred the lines between the state and the criminal underworld. Yevgeniy Prigozhin, a convicted criminal, has been a recurring figure in Vladimir Putin’s realm since the tumultuous 1990s. Back then, Putin, serving as an aide to the mayor of St. Petersburg, was involved in a web of corrupt dealings and more serious transgressions. After consolidating his power and dismantling the oligarchic circle around “retired” President Boris Yeltsin, Putin assumed dominion over virtually all facets of Russia—its assets, entities, and populace.

Dissenters found themselves met with a choice between assassination, incarceration, or banishment from the Russian landscape. From that juncture, the so-called oligarchs were granted the liberty to misappropriate and squander resources, exercising unrestrained control. However, they had to satisfy the actual proprietor through bribes—whether channeling funds towards his caprices at the Gelendzhik palace or endowing various opulent superyachts. Moreover, they were mandated to fund a spectrum of intelligence operations and exert influence campaigns abroad on behalf of the Kremlin. It’s important to highlight that they never held control over Putin’s decisions, which excludes them from being classified as genuine oligarchs..

The so-called Wagner Private Military Company (bearing in mind that formal mercenary endeavors are proscribed within Russia) has functioned as a valuable instrument for the Kremlin, offering a shroud of plausible deniability. Prigozhin evolved into a well-established operator in Africa with some 5,000 mercenary forces deployed across the continent. A sophisticated network of companies established and run by Yevgeniy Prigozhin generated profit from the mercenary business serving various regimes. This endeavor not only yielded financial gains but also facilitated access to coveted resources encompassing precious minerals such as gold and diamonds, as well as fossil fuels like oil and gas.

Parallel to the inflow of untraceable financial resources, the operations conducted by the Wagner PMC bolstered the Kremlin’s capacity to wield influence beyond its apparent heft, in the competitive arena of African influence vis-à-vis more resource-abundant entities from the free world and China. Before the extensive involvement in Ukraine, the Wagner PMC had already gained infamy due to its involvement in war crimes in Africa and Syria.

While the Wagner PMC momentarily captured headlines with its audacious march towards Moscow during in June, the Kremlin’s propaganda machine skillfully revealed that the company’s autonomy was less substantial than it seemed. Notably, the company received significant military contracts totaling $2 billion between May 2022 and 2023. Concurrently, a sophisticated propaganda network associated with Wagner, including entities like the Internet Research Agency (previously implicated in U.S. electoral interference), secured an astonishing $20 billion in government contracts.

The Kremlin discarded its facade of plausible deniability by orchestrating the destruction of a civilian aircraft carrying the chieftain and his key subordinates. In doing so, the Kremlin effectively eliminated former collaborators and operatives who had displayed disloyalty. It’s worth noting that Yevgeniy Prigozhin was destined for doom even without the staged mutiny, a fate shared by numerous other figures who fought in Ukraine since 2014, often portrayed in propaganda as local “miners and tractor drivers” in the so-called civil war narrative.

Speculation has arisen regarding Yevgeniy Prigozhin’s rumored possession of a collection of Kompromat, potentially containing compromising information about Vladimir Putin and other senior regime figures. This alleged leverage was reportedly intended for release in case of Prigozhin’s untimely demise. Some of his mercenary forces, motivated by loyalty, issued threats to retaliate against those deemed responsible (Vladimir Putin and/or military leadership) for the assassination of their revered chieftain.

The Russian Volunteer Corps, a military unit operating within the Ukrainian Armed Forces, extended an invitation to Wagner PMC members who had refrained from participating in war crimes during their time in Ukraine—although such instances appeared quite rare. The offer was for them to join their ranks and confront Putin and the Russian military.

Those Russians, often holding fascist and imperialistic views, who are now setting up improvised memorials for Yevgeniy Prigozhin in various Russian cities or engaged in the war have learned that the next mutiny or coup d’état must result in Vladimir Putin’s demise. He, they argue, bears responsibility for the catastrophic war in Ukraine, having breached agreements with Prigozhin. However, the feasibility of these threats remains questionable, as the Wagnerites were disarmed (heavy armaments and artillery), bereft of significant resources, and severed from their influential leader’s connections within both the ruling hierarchy and criminal circles.

While their capabilities remain restricted, it’s conceivable that dissatisfied individuals could become involved in future insurrections, especially if a coup d’état orchestrated by elements within the regime occurs, or if Russian forces experience a collapse in Ukraine leading to internal turmoil. However, these individuals might also become targets of mid and low-tier purges following actions by higher echelons of power. Russia’s non-democratic framework impedes crisis resolution through elections, and Putin’s inability for criminal-like dealings within the elite was starkly demonstrated as unviable. Putin doesn’t obey either formal agreements or his words, which is also a lesson for the Western partners willing to find a diplomatic solution to the “Ukrainian war.”

The Russian military has lost a formidable and highly effective (within Russian context) fighting force, bolstered by considerable resources. The legacy of the Wagner enterprise is now being taken up by both established and emerging loyalists. It wouldn’t be surprise if figures like Viktor Bout, dubbed the “Merchant of Death,” are positioned to secure substantial African assets—his conspicuous presence at the recent Russia-Africa summit lends credence to this prospect. Nevertheless, it’s unlikely that Putin will repeat the mistake of allowing an individual or faction to amass resources that could potentially threaten his personal authority.

Wagner’s striking ability to achieve outcomes that the conventional Armed Forces struggled with highlights the clear inefficiencies of the existing governance model. Putin, invested billions into his war apparatus and attempted reforms on multiple occasions, obsessively cultivating an image of Russia as a potent state fortified by a formidable military. Yet, the mutiny’s occurrence and its resolution exposed the limitations of Putin’s authority, eroding his portrayal as an invincible strongman—an element pivotal within Russian political culture.

The public’s support for the Wagnerites and the popularity of figures like Yevgeniy Prigozhin reveal the deep-rooted discontent prevailing within society. Escalating internal contradictions coupled with the progressively evident catastrophe triggered by the ongoing war foreshadow a monumental upheaval, unparalleled in recent Russian history. This convulsion might be catalyzed by domestic triggers or, more likely, by the inevitable successes of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Though more robust and swift support from the West to Ukraine has been dragged back by the fear of Russia’s collapse, it’s highly likely to came about. It’s better for Ukraine and its partners to turn to contingency planning.

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

We publish this brief daily. If you would like to subscribe, please send us an email at cds.dailybrief@gmail.com

The CDC Daily Brief is produced with the support of the Kyiv School of Economics https://kse.ua/

Please note, that we subscribe only verified persons and can decline or cancel the subscription at our own discretion

We are an independent, non-government, non-partisan, and non-profit organization. More at www.defence.org.ua

Our Twitter (in English) – https://twitter.com/defence_centre

Our Facebook (in Ukrainian) – https://www.facebook.com/cds.UA

Our brief is for information only and we verify our information to the best possible extent