The “partial mobilization” has set off a panic from those who do not want to be conscripted into the Russian armed forces. Russians are being plucked from villages for military service.
Russia and Ukraine conducted their largest prisoner exchange of the conflict, with both Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan serving as mediators.
- The Kremlin’s heavy-handed approach to partial mobilization may successfully meet the Kremlin’s internal quota of mobilized personnel, but is unlikely to generate effective soldiers and is prompting significant domestic backlash for little gain.
- The Kremlin is openly not adhering to its promised conditions for partial mobilization.
- Kremlin quotas will likely force local officials to mobilize men regardless of their military status and will likely incentivize the mobilization of ethnically non-Russian and immigrant communities at a disproportionate rate.
- The Kremlin likely attempted to downplay a prisoner swap with Ukraine that is deeply unpopular among Russian nationalists and milbloggers by undertaking the swap the same day Putin announced partial mobilization.
- IAEA negotiations around the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant are unlikely to significantly improve the situation at the plant and may provide an opportunity for Russian forces to stage provocations.
- Ukrainian forces likely continued limited counteroffensive operations along the Kharkiv-Luhansk Oblast border and continued attacks toward Lyman on September 22.
- Ukrainian military officials maintained their operational silence regarding Ukrainian ground attacks in Kherson Oblast on September 22 and reiterated that Ukrainian forces are conducting an operational-level interdiction campaign in Kherson Oblast.
- Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks along the frontlines in Donetsk Oblast on September 22.
- Russian forces did not conduct any confirmed ground attacks west of Hulyaipole on September 22 and continued routine strikes throughout western Zaporizhia Oblast.
- Russian occupation forces are hurriedly setting conditions to hold sham annexation referenda across occupied Ukraine from September 23-27.
- Russian officials created polling stations in parts of Russia, ostensibly to enable displaced (in many cases meaning kidnapped) Ukrainian residents of occupied territories to “vote.”
- Russian occupation officials in Ukraine likely expect to be forced to provide personnel to meet Russian regional mobilization quotas after the Kremlin illegally annexes occupied Ukrainian territories.
Eastern Ukraine: (Vovchansk-Kupyansk-Izyum-Lyman Line)
Ukrainian forces likely continued limited counteroffensive operations along the Kharkiv-Luhansk Oblast border on September 22. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian troops repelled a Russian attack on Kupyansk (northeastern Kharkiv Oblast, near the Kharkiv-Luhansk Oblast border). The General Staff report is consistent with Russian milblogger claims that Ukrainian troops succeeded in breaking Russian defenses along a line that runs between Dvorichna (15km northeast of Kupyansk) to bypass Kupyansk from the north and cross the Oskil River to threaten Russian positions just east of this area. The Russian milblogger also indicated that Ukrainian forces have taken ground east of Dvorichna and are fighting in Tavlizhanka, which is reportedly still contested territory. While ISW cannot independently confirm these Russian claims, they are consistent with previous reporting on continued Ukrainian efforts to penetrate the current Russian defensive lines that run along the Oskil River and push eastward.
Ukrainian forces likely continued attacks toward Lyman on September 22. Several Russian sources reported fighting to the northwest of Lyman and claimed that Ukrainian troops penetrated Russian defenses in Ridkodub and Karpivka, both 20km north of Lyman. Russian sources also stated that Ukrainian forces broke through at Korovii Yar (22km northwest of Lyman) and are continuing attacks in Drobysheve (just west of Lyman). The Ukrainian General Staff seemingly confirmed that Ukrainian troops have made additional advances north of Lyman and stated that Russian troops shelled Yatskivka (25km northwest of Lyman) and Korovii Yar, indicating that Russian forces are targeting newly captured Ukrainian positions in this area.
Russian Subordinate Main Effort—Donetsk Oblast (Russian objective: Capture the entirety of Donetsk Oblast, the claimed territory of Russia’s proxies in Donbas)
Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks along the frontlines in Donetsk Oblast on September 22. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled attacks south of Bakhmut in Zaitseve (8km southeast of Bakhmut) and Odradivka (10km south of Bakhmut along the T0513 highway). Russian sources additionally indicated that Russian troops are fighting in both Zaitseve and Odradivka, making continued attempts to press northward on Bakhmut. The Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) Territorial Defense Force claimed that DNR troops took control of Zhovanka, 20km south of Bakhmut on the northern outskirts of Horlivka. Russian milbloggers also claimed that Ukrainian troops conducted a controlled withdrawal from the eastern outskirts of Bakhmut and posted imagery reportedly of a bridge over the Bakhmutka River in eastern Bakhmut that Ukrainian forces blew up as they withdrew. The Ukrainian General Staff reported a limited Russian ground attack in western Donetsk Oblast and stated that Russian troops conducted an assault on Novomykhailivka, about 25km southwest of Donetsk City. Russian forces continued routine strikes along the line of contact around Bakhmut, the Avdiivka-Donetsk City area, western Donetsk Oblast, and eastern Zaporizhia Oblast.
Supporting Effort—Southern Axis (Russian objective: Maintain frontline positions and secure rear areas against Ukrainian strikes)
Russian forces did not conduct any confirmed ground attacks west of Hulyaipole on September 22 and continued routine strikes throughout western Zaporizhia Oblast. Ukraine’s State Security Service (SBU) stated that SBU special forces conducted a likely series of raids in an unspecified location of Zaporizhia Oblast and destroyed Russian equipment, ammunition stores, and positions over the last several days, suggesting that Ukrainian troops continue to threaten Russian positions and assets in Zaporizhia Oblast. Russian troops continued routine strikes throughout Dnipropetrovsk and Mykolaiv Oblasts, and reportedly utilized an Iranian Shahed-136 drone to attack civilian infrastructure in Kryvyi Rih. Russian-appointed officials in Crimea claimed that Russian air defense systems shot down Ukrainian drones over Dzhankoi, Crimea on September 22.
The Kremlin likely attempted to downplay a prisoner swap with Ukraine that is deeply unpopular among Russian nationalists and milbloggers by undertaking the swap the same day Putin announced partial mobilization. The Kremlin exchanged 215 Ukrainian prisoners of war (POWs), including captured foreign nationals and Azov Battalion leaders, for at least 55 Russian POWs and political prisoners, including Putin’s personal friend, Ukrainian billionaire Viktor Medvechuk, on September 21. The Russian Ministry of Defense claimed on September 22 that Russian and DNR and LNR POWs were in “mortal danger” in Ukrainian custody. Far-right Russian milbloggers criticized the exchange and asked if the Kremlin had given up on the ”de-Nazification” of Ukraine, one of the stated goals of the Russian invasion. Kremlin propagandists had heavily publicized the capture and planned prosecution of Azov personnel, accusing them of being Ukrainian Nazis. Other milbloggers criticized the Kremlin for enabling what they called Ukrainian information operations and ”allowing Kyiv to manipulate the mood in Russia.” Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov described the exchange as ”incomprehensible,” implied that Chechen forces tortured Azov prisoners in captivity, and implied that Russian forces who capture ”Nazis” should kill them rather than take them as POWs if they will be traded back to Ukraine. Torturing or killing POWs is a war crime and violates the Geneva Conventions.
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The Biden administration generally has decided to keep warnings about the consequences of a nuclear strike deliberately vague, so the Kremlin worries about how Washington might respond, the officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive deliberations.
The attempt by the White House to cultivate what’s known in the nuclear deterrence world as “strategic ambiguity” comes as Russia continues to escalate its rhetoric about possible nuclear weapons use amid a domestic mobilization aimed at stanching Russian military losses in eastern Ukraine.