Ukrainian forces liberated Klishchiivka, south of Bakhmut, on September 17 and continued successful offensive operations elsewhere in the Bakhmut direction.
Geolocated footage posted on September 17 shows Ukrainian forces holding up flags in Klishchiivka (7km southwest of Bakhmut). Ukrainian Eastern Group of Forces Spokesperson Captain Ilya Yevlash later confirmed that Ukraine has liberated Klishchiivka, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky congratulated the Ukrainian 80th Air Assault Brigade, 5th Assault Brigade, 95th Air Assault Brigade, and National Police “Lyut” Assault Brigade for their role in liberating the settlement. Further geolocated footage posted on September 16 shows that Ukrainian forces have captured positions east of Orikhovo-Vasylivka (10km northwest of Bakhmut). The liberation of Klishchiivka, as well as continued Ukrainian tactical gains northwest of Bakhmut, are tactical gains of strategic significance because they are allowing Ukrainian forces to fix a considerable portion of Russian airborne (VDV) elements in the Bakhmut area, as ISW’s Daniel Mealie discusses in the September 17, 2023 special edition ( below )
Continued large-scale Ukrainian counteroffensive efforts around Bakhmut are necessary to keep Russian forces fixed in that area, as the likely recent redeployment of a detachment of one VDV separate brigade from near Bakhmut to southern Ukraine shows how eager the Russians are to recoup the combat power that the Ukrainian counteroffensive around Bakhmut is fixing there.
Ukrainian defensive and then counteroffensive operations around Bakhmut had the operationally sound effect of using the irrational Russian fixation on that town to draw a disproportionate amount of Russia’s limited mobile combat reserve there in a way that set much more favorable conditions for Ukrainian counteroffensive operations in the south than Ukraine could otherwise have expected to face. Ukrainian forces will likely have to continue to press hard around Bakhmut to keep Russian VDV forces pinned there, but that pressure will likely be worth the advantage of preventing those Russian forces from flowing quickly into southern Zaporizhia Oblast to refit and prepare to stop the decisive Ukrainian effort in that direction.
- Ukrainian forces liberated Klishchiivka, south of Bakhmut, on September 17 and continued successful offensive operations elsewhere in the Bakhmut direction.
- Russian forces launched another series of Shahed-131/136 drone and cruise missile strikes at southern Ukraine on the night of September 16-17.
- North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un concluded his trip to Russia on September 17 and received several pieces of military technical equipment from the governor of Primorsky Krai.
- The Russian Ministry of Defense’s (MoD) effort to subsume the Wagner Group is prompting Russian officials to more openly back military juntas in West Africa.
- Prolonged concern about Chechen Republic Head Ramzan Kadyrov’s health in the Russian information space highlights Russian President Vladimir Putin’s dependence on Kadyrov for continued stability in Chechnya.
- Russian forces conducted offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line, and in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast area on September 17 and advanced in some areas.
- Ukrainian forces also continued counteroffensive operations in western Zaporizhia Oblast.
- Recent Russian claims that small contingents of former Wagner Group personnel are returning to fight in Ukraine do not indicate that a fully reconstituted Wagner fighting force will return to Ukraine anytime soon if ever.
- Russian occupation administrations continue to forcibly deport Ukrainian children to Russia and erase Ukrainian cultural identity.
Media reports suggest Washington may soon grant Kyiv’s longstanding request for the Army Tactical Missile System, or ATACMS. While not a silver bullet, ATACMS would provide Ukraine with valuable additional capability and capacity to attack high-value Russian military targets in occupied territory.
ABC News, citing U.S. officials, reported last week that the Biden administration will likely soon send Ukraine ATACMS. According to Politico, Kyiv is pushing for a final decision before the U.S. and Ukrainian presidents attend the UN General Assembly next week. But U.S. officials reportedly say the White House’s verdict will almost certainly come after that meeting.
Kyiv has been asking Washington for ATACMS for well over a year. The White House initially explained its refusal by citing the risk of Russian escalation. More recently, the administration has contended that America simply has no ATACMS to spare.
However, two U.S. officials told ABC News that the Pentagon has found more ATACMS in its inventory than it originally assessed, although their serviceability and variant remains unclear.
Lockheed Martin has produced a handful of different ATACMS variants. Modern versions carry a 500-pound unitary warhead and can hit targets up to 300 kilometers away. By contrast, the earlier variants were less accurate and carried warheads containing hundreds of Anti-Personnel/Anti-Materiel (APAM) bomblets. The oldest version had a maximum range of just 165 kilometers.
A Reuters report published on Monday suggests Ukraine may receive an APAM-carrying variant. This would be particularly useful for targeting Russian air defense systems. The U.S. military employed these missiles to great effect against Iraqi air defense systems during Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Russian Subordinate Main Effort #1 – Luhansk Oblast (Russian objective: Capture the remainder of Luhansk Oblast and push westward into eastern Kharkiv Oblast and northern Donetsk Oblast)
The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces are conducting diversionary activities near the international border to fix Ukrainian forces in border areas and prevent them from deploying to other directions. The Ukrainian General Staff added that Russian forces are increasing the density of the mine-explosive barrier along the border in Belgorod Oblast. A Russian milblogger claimed that artillery and occasional combat engagements occur near Strilecha (25km northeast of Kharkiv City) on the international border.
Russian forces continued offensive operations on the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna frontline on September 17 and made limited territorial gains southwest of Kreminna. Geolocated footage published on September 17 indicated that Russian forces made slight advances south of Dibrova (5km southwest of Kreminna). Ukrainian Eastern Group of Forces Spokesperson Captain Ilya Yevlash stated that Russian forces are trying to regroup along the Kupyansk-Svatove line following failures near Novoyehorivka (15km southwest of Svatove), which has led to a decrease in Russian activity on this line. A Russian milblogger also claimed that Russian forces attacked near Kyslivka (20km southeast of Kupyansk).
Russian Subordinate Main Effort #2 – Donetsk Oblast (Russian objective: Capture the entirety of Donetsk Oblast, the claimed territory of Russia’s proxies in Donbas)
Ukrainian forces liberated Klishchiivka (7km southwest of Bakhmut) and made advances elsewhere in the Bakhmut direction on September 17. Ukrainian Eastern Group of Forces Spokesperson Captain Ilya Yevlash stated that Ukrainian forces liberated Klishchiivka, and Ukrainian forces released several videos from Klishchiivka during the day wherein they stated that they had liberated the settlement. The Ukrainian announcements of the liberation show Ukrainian forces operating freely in the settlement.] Additional geolocated footage published on September 16 indicates that Ukrainian forces made gains east of Orikhovo-Vasylivka (11km northwest of Bakhmut). Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces repelled several Ukrainian assaults on Bakhmut’s northern flank, and that fighting is ongoing near Andriivka (10km southwest of Bakhmut), which they claimed is a contested ”gray zone.”
Russian Supporting Effort – Southern Axis (Russian objective: Maintain frontline positions and secure rear areas against Ukrainian strikes)
Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast area on September 17 but did not advance. Russian sources, including the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD), claimed that Ukrainian forces continued attacks along the Novodonetske-Novomayorske line (13-19km southeast of Velyka Novosilka), near Staromayorske (10km south of Velyka Novosilka), and near Pryyutne (15km southwest of Velyka Novosilka). Several Russian sources reported that fighting in this sector has largely assumed a positional nature and claimed that some Ukrainian units are rotating in this area.