“...it will take a long time to achieve the goal formulated by the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky and throw out the Russian army,"
Ukraine’s liberation of Klishchiivka and Andriivka south of Bakhmut may have degraded the Russian defense in the area south of Bakhmut and could have rendered combat ineffective as many as three Russian brigades according to Ukrainian military officials. Ukrainian Ground Forces Commander Colonel General Oleksandr Syrskyi stated on September 18 that Klishchiivka (7km southwest of Bakhmut) and Andriivka (10km southwest of Bakhmut) were important elements of the Russian Bakhmut-Horlivka defensive line that Ukrainian forces “breached.” Ukrainian Eastern Group of Forces Spokesperson Captain Ilya Yevlash stated on September 17 that Ukraine’s liberation of Klishchiivka will allow Ukrainian forces to control Russian ground lines of communication (GLOCs) supplying the Russian force grouping in the Bakhmut area — likely referring to Ukrainian forces’ ability to establish fire control over the T0513 Bakhmut-Horlivka highway. ISW is currently unable independently to evaluate the strength and extent of the Russian defensive fortifications in the Bakhmut area, although Russian forces have likely fortified their defense lines near Bakhmut less heavily than they did in southern Ukraine. Russian forces south of Bakhmut are also likely battle-weary from the recent efforts to hold Klishchiivka and Andriivka, and the Ukrainian capture of two settlements defending a key Russian GLOC supporting Bakhmut indicates that these forces will likely struggle to replenish their combat strength and defend against any further Ukrainian offensive activity south of Bakhmut. There are no immediate indications that the liberation of Klishchiivka and Andriivka will portend a higher rate of Ukrainian advance south of Bakhmut, however, and the Russian defense of positions west of the T0513 will likely continue to present challenges for Ukrainian forces in the area.
The Ukrainian liberation of two villages that Russian forces were fighting hard to hold could correspond with the severe degradation of the Russian units defending them, as Ukrainian advances in western Zaporizhia Oblast appear to correspond with the significant degradation of defending Russian units and formations in that sector of the front.
Ukrainian counteroffensive operations may have resulted in the particularly severe degradation of critical elements of the Russian elastic defense in western Zaporizhia Oblast. Elements of the Russian 22nd and 45th Separate Spetsnaz Brigades appeared to be responsible for counterattacking against significant Ukrainian advances in the Robotyne area during the earlier phases of the counteroffensive and likely suffered heavy losses in these operations. Russian reporting and footage of the Robotyne area in recent weeks has largely omitted mention of these Spetsnaz brigades, suggesting that this degradation may have severely impacted their ability to continue counterattacking. ...Elements of the Russian 7th Guards Mountain Airborne (VDV) Division that laterally deployed to the Robotyne area in mid-August during the Ukrainian breakthrough now appear to be responsible for conducting counterattacks against the most forward advances of the Ukrainian breach. Russian sources routinely claim that VDV elements, which may include elements of the 76th Guards VDV Division that also laterally redeployed to the area, repel Ukrainian assaults and conduct counterattacks near Robotyne The degradation of the elements of the 22nd and 45th Separate Spetsnaz Brigades initially responsible for counterattacking in the Robotyne area likely prompted the Russian command to laterally redeploy these elements of the 7th and 76th VDV Divisions to assume responsibility for counterattacking. The Russian elastic defense requires one echelon of Russian forces to slow a Ukrainian tactical advance while a second echelon of forces rolls back that advance through counterattacking. Counterattacking requires significant morale and relatively high combat capabilities, and the Russian military appears to rely on relatively elite VDV units and formations for this undertaking, possibly at the expense of heavily degrading these forces.
- Ukraine’s liberation of Klishchiivka and Andriivka south of Bakhmut may have degraded the Russian defense in the area south of Bakhmut and could have rendered combat ineffective as many as three Russian brigades according to Ukrainian military officials.
- Ukrainian counteroffensive operations may have resulted in the particularly severe degradation of critical elements of the Russian elastic defense in western Zaporizhia Oblast.
- Recent Ukrainian advances south of Bakhmut may correspond with the similar degradation of defending Russian units in the area.
- Russian forces conducted a series of Shahed-131/136 drone and cruise missile strikes on coastal and rear areas of Ukraine on the night of September 17-18.
- An organization with alleged ties to Russian First Deputy Presidential Chief of Staff Sergey Kiriyenko is reportedly responsible for disseminating pro-war propaganda and false information about Ukraine to prominent figures in the Russian information space.
- Russian forces conducted offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line, in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area, and in western Zaporizhia and advanced in some areas on September 18.
- Ukrainian forces conducted offensive operations in at least two sectors of the front and advanced in western Zaporizhia on September 18.
- Some Russian sources claimed that former Wagner Group personnel are working closely with Rosgvardia (Russian National Guard) in order to return fighting in Ukraine.
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)
Russian forces continued limited ground attacks along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line on September 18 but did not make any confirmed gains. Former Ukranian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar stated that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian attacks near Novoselivske (15km northwest of Svatove). Ukrainian Eastern Group of Forces Spokesperson Captain Ilya Yevlash stated that Russian forces have slowed their offensive activity in the Kupyansk direction. Malyar stated that Russian forces conducted no assault operations near Kreminna and continued to regroup in the area. Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) Head Kyrylo Budanov stated that Russian forces deployed elements of the newly created 25th Combined Arms Army (CAA) to the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line with 80 percent of its planned manpower and only 50 percent of the necessary equipment, supporting ISW’s assessment that the 25th CAA is likely combat ineffective due to its rushed deployment.
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 continued offensive operations in the Bakhmut area on September 18 and reportedly advanced. Ukrainian Eastern Group of Forces Spokesperson Captain Ilya Yevlash stated that Ukrainian forces achieved unspecified success in the Klishchiivka (7km southwest of Bakhmut), Bakhmut, and Predtechyne (12km southwest of Bakhmut) directions, and near Andriivka (9km southwest of Bakhmut), Kurdyumivka (12km south of Bakhmut), Bila Hora (12km southwest of Bakhmut), and Opytne (3km southwest of Bakhmut), likely referring to broad tactical directions. Former Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar stated that Ukrainian forces recaptured 5.1 square kilometers of territory in the Bakhmut direction in the past week. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces continued assault operations near Klishchiivka Yevlash stated that Ukrainian forces continue efforts to consolidate positions in Klishchiivka and that fighting continues near the railway line east of the settlement. ...The Russian MoD claimed that Russian forces repelled Ukrainian assaults near Vesele (20km northeast of Bakhmut), Klishchiivka, and Mayorske (20km southwest of Bakhmut). Another Russian milblogger posted footage of unspecified elements of the Russian 106th Airborne (VDV) Division operating near Bakhmut on September 18.
Russian forces continued ground attacks on the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line on September 18 and marginally advanced. Geolocated footage published on September 18 shows that Russian forces marginally advanced north of Avdiivka. Malyar stated that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful offensive actions near Keramik (14km northwest of Avdiivka), Avdiivka, Sieverne (11km southwest of Avdiivka), Marinka (27km southwest of Avdiivka), and Novomykhailivka (36km southwest of Avdiivka). A Russian news aggregator claimed that fighting was ongoing near Opytne (4km south of Avdiivka) on September 17.