Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, August 24
Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, August 24
Karolina Hird, Kateryna Stepanenko, George Barros, and Frederick W. Kagan
August 24, 6:30 pm ET
Click here to see ISW's interactive map of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This map is updated daily alongside the static maps present in this report.
Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu stated on August 24 that Russian forces are slowing down the overall pace of their offensive operations in Ukraine while reaffirming that Russia’s objectives in the war have not changed. At a meeting with defense ministers from member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Shoigu stated that Russian troops will be slowing down the pace of offensive operations in Ukraine in a conscious effort to minimize civilian casualties. Shoigu also reiterated that operations in Ukraine are going according to plan and that Russian forces will accomplish all their objectives, supporting ISW’s assessment that Russia’s maximalist strategic war aims in Ukraine have not changed. The Russian MoD has previously issued similar statements to account for the pace of operations in Ukraine.
Shoigu's statement may also represent an attempt by the Russian MoD to set information conditions to explain and excuse the negligible gains Russian forces have made in Ukraine in the last six weeks. Since Russian forces resumed offensive operations following a pause on July 16 Russian forces have gained about 450.84 km2 (roughly 174 square miles) of new territory, an area around the size of Andorra. Russian forces have lost roughly 45,000 km2 of territory since March 21 (the estimated date of Russian forces’ deepest advance into Ukraine), an area larger than Denmark. As ISW has previously assessed, Russian forces are unable to translate limited tactical gains into wider operational successes, and their offensive operations in eastern Ukraine are culminating. Shoigu’s statement is likely an attempt to explain away these failings.
- Russian forces have lost an area larger than Denmark since the high-water mark of their invasion of Ukraine in mid-March and gained an area the size of Andorra (one percent of what they have lost) in the last 39 days.
- Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu reaffirmed that Russia has not changed its maximalist strategic war aims.
- Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks southwest and southeast of Izyum, northeast and south of Bakhmut, and west and southwest of Donetsk City.
- Russian forces conducted a limited ground attack in northwestern Kherson Oblast.
- Ukrainian forces continued to target Russian military assets and ground lines of communication (GLOCs) in Kherson and Zaporizhia Oblasts.
- Russian occupation authorities continue to face partisan and internal challenges to the administration of occupation agendas.
- Russian proxy leadership is continuing efforts to oversee the legislative and administrative integration of occupied territories into Russian systems.
We do not report in detail on Russian war crimes because those activities are well-covered in Western media and do not directly affect the military operations we are assessing and forecasting. We will continue to evaluate and report on the effects of these criminal activities on the Ukrainian military and population and specifically on combat in Ukrainian urban areas. We utterly condemn these Russian violations of the laws of armed conflict, Geneva Conventions, and humanity even though we do not describe them in these reports.
- Main Effort—Eastern Ukraine (comprised of one subordinate and two supporting efforts);
- Subordinate Main Effort—Encirclement of Ukrainian Troops in the Cauldron between Izyum and Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts
- Supporting Effort 1—Kharkiv City
- Supporting Effort 2—Southern Axis
- Mobilization and Force Generation Efforts
- Activities in Russian-occupied Areas
Main Effort—Eastern Ukraine
Subordinate Main Effort—Southern Kharkiv, Donetsk, Luhansk Oblasts (Russian objective: Encircle Ukrainian forces in Eastern Ukraine and capture the entirety of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, the claimed territory of Russia’s proxies in Donbas)
Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks southwest and southeast of Izyum on August 24. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian troops unsuccessfully attempted to advance towards Nova Dmytrivka (25km southwest of Izyum) and conducted an unsuccessful reconnaissance-in-force attempt near Bohorodychne (25km southeast of Izyum). Russian forces also continued artillery strikes along the Izyum-Slovyansk line and near the Kharkiv-Donetsk Oblast border.
Russian forces did not conduct any confirmed ground attacks towards Siversk and continued air and artillery strikes on Siversk and surrounding settlements on August 24.
Russian forces continued ground attacks northeast and south of Bakhmut on August 24. Ukrainian and Russian sources stated that Russian troops continued fighting in the Soledar-Bakhmutske area, 10km northeast of Bakhmut. Russian sources claimed that Wagner Group mercenaries control the eastern part of Patrice Lumumba Street, which runs westward from Pokrovske to Bakhmut. The Ukrainian General Staff also reported that Russian troops conducted offensive operations near Kodema (13km southeast of Bakhmut). Russian forces conducted air and artillery strikes on Bakhmut and surrounding settlements.
Russian forces conducted ground attacks in order to advance from the western outskirts of Donetsk City on August 24. The Ukrainian General Staff stated that Russian troops attempted offensive operations in the direction of Pisky, Nevelske, and Pobieda- which form a line along the western outskirts of Donetsk City. Russian sources reported that Russian and Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) troops are continuing to push westward of positions near Pisky towards Nevelske, Pervomaiske, and Optyne and are conducting artillery strikes to support ground attacks towards Avdiivka.
Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks southwest of Donetsk City on August 24. Russian troops reportedly attempted to advance towards Novomykhailivka (25km southwest of Donetsk City), Pavlivka (45km southwest of Donetsk City), and Velyka Novosilka (75km southwest of Donetsk City). The Ukrainian General Staff additionally reported that Russian forces shelled Vuhledar, likely to continue efforts to cut ground lines of communication that run from Vuhledar to Marinka and the Donetsk City area.
Supporting Effort #1—Kharkiv City (Russian objective: Defend ground lines of communication (GLOCs) to Izyum and prevent Ukrainian forces from reaching the Russian border)
Russian forces did not conduct any confirmed ground assaults near Kharkiv City but continued shelling frontline settlements including Slatyne, Ruski Tyshky, Verkhniy Saltiv, Pryshyb, Rubizhne, and Odnorobivka. Local Kharkiv authorities reported that Russian forces struck Dokuchaievske—a suburb approximately 23 km from Kharkiv’s city center—with S-300s. Russian forces continue to strike Ukraine’s industrial base in Kharkiv City. Russian forces conducted a missile strike against the Kharkiv Shevchenko Instrument-Making Plant in southern Kharkiv City on August 23.
Supporting Effort #2—Southern Axis (Russian objective: Defend Kherson and Zaporizhia Oblasts against Ukrainian counterattacks)
Russian forces conducted a limited ground assault in northwestern Kherson Oblast on August 24 but did not make confirmed territorial gains. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled a Russian assault in the direction of Mykolaivka south of the Kherson-Dnipropetrovsk Oblast administrative border. Russian forces continued to launch airstrikes near the Ukrainian bridgehead over the Inhulets River, northwest of Kherson City, and near the Kherson-Dnipropetrovsk Oblast administrative border.
Ukrainian forces continued to target Russian ground lines of communication (GLOCs) and positions in Kherson and Zaporizhia Oblasts. Advisor to the Kherson Oblast Administration Serhiy Khlan confirmed that Ukrainian forces struck the Kakhovka Bridge over the Dnipro River on August 24. Geolocated footage also showed smoke around the Kakhovka Bridge. Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command reported that Ukrainian aviation struck Russian equipment concentration points in Novovoznesenske, Arhanhenske, and Pravdyne, all situated along the Kherson Oblast administrative border. Social media footage also reportedly showed a Ukrainian strike on a Russian ammunition depot in Tokmak, approximately 50km northeast of Melitopol.
Russian forces continued to shell and launch missiles at Zaporizhia, Dnipropetrovsk, and Mykolaiv Oblasts on August 24. Russian forces launched unspecified missiles at Zaporizhia City twice, resulting in damage to residential infrastructure. The Ukrainian Southern Operational Command reported that Russian forces launched S-300 air-defense missiles at Bereznehuvate (approximately 20km northwest of a Ukrainian bridgehead over the Inhulets River). Mykolaiv Oblast officials also reported shelling near the line of contact. Dnipropetrovsk Oblast officials reported that Russian forces targeted the Dnipro City district with two Kh-22 missiles. Russian forces continued to fire Grad MLRS systems and tube artillery at Nikopol Raion and targeted settlements in the Kryvyi Rih Raion with Uragan MLRS systems.
Russian-appointed Zaporizhia Oblast Military-Civilian Administration Head Vladimir Rogov claimed that Ukrainian forces shelled Enerhodar’s beach and the industrial area on August 24 but did not provide visual evidence. ISW cannot independently identify the claim or the party responsible for the reported shelling. Social media footage published on August 23 shows forest fires reportedly nearing Enerhodar’s southern industrial and residential sites in the city.
Mobilization and Force Generation Efforts (Russian objective: Expand combat power without conducting general mobilization)
Russian federal subjects (regions) continued to form new volunteer units to reinforce Russia’s war in Ukraine. Altai Krai announced the formation of five volunteer units: the “Kalashnikov” and “Altai” battalions, the “Skurlatova” and “Katun” companies, and the “Biya” platoon. Local outlets did not specify if Altai Krai will be offering one-time enlistment bonuses but noted advertised monthly salary ranging from 30,000 to 300,000 rubles (about $500 to $5,000). The Republic of Tatarstan local outlet Biznes Online stated that Russian authorities’ classification of such volunteer formations as "battalions” exaggerates the actual number of recruits in each volunteer unit. The outlet noted that Perm Krai’s ”Parma” Battalion has 90 people and is structurally more consistent with a motorized rifle company. The outlet noted that Russia did not previously have territory-based volunteer units as was common in the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics (DNR and LNR) since 2014 and that Russian forces may be modeling these units after DNR and LNR proxy units, such as the ”Vostok” and ”Somali” battalions.
Battalion personnel complements range in size in any military based on the specialization of the battalion, but the Russian volunteer units’ advertised complements are low, and reported fill levels are even lower. Most “battalions” (and even some “regiments”) will more likely have the size of reinforced companies. It is also noteworthy that these ad hoc volunteer battalions are not described as battalion tactical groups (BTGs) and do not appear to be structured like BTGs. It is not clear how they are being employed on the battlefield unless they are being assembled with one another or with the remnants of already deployed BTGs. It is clear that a volunteer “battalion” has nothing like the notional combat power of a battalion tactical group that invaded Ukraine in February, even discounting the inexperience and ages of many volunteers and the very limited training they receive before deploying to combat. Biznes Online also indicated that recruitment into volunteer units decreased throughout the summer and that local Russian officials are intensifying advertising efforts in certain regions. The outlet claimed that the Republic of Tatarstan had only 10-15 interested recruits at the beginning of the recruitment campaign in early June, and such numbers reportedly tripled by the end of the campaign. The outlet’s report confirmed ISW’s assessment that federal subjects began increasing one-time enlistment bonuses to increase recruitment rates in August. The outlet added that Russian federal subjects also began advertising military contracts in public transportation and other recruitment campaigns ”behind the scenes,” but noted that the Kremlin-sponsored sources have not shared such advertisements.
The Kremlin is likely attempting to shield Moscow City residents from the military recruitment campaign, which may lead to some social tensions. Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov denied any reports of the formation of the Moscow-based “Sobyaninsky Polk” volunteer regiment on July 13, shortly after Russian opposition outlet Meduza reported that Moscow City military commissariats started recruiting labor migrants and residents of different Russian regions into the regiment. Biznes Online noted that all media discourse regarding the “Sobyaninsky Polk” stopped following Peskov’s denial. The sudden change in reporting may suggest that Moscow City ceased recruitment for the “Sobyaninsky Polk” in an effort to avoid drawing Muscovite criticism of the recruitment campaign. The apparent lack of a Moscow City-based volunteer unit may also spark some criticism from other federal republics.
Activity in Russian-occupied Areas (Russian objective: consolidate administrative control of occupied areas; set conditions for potential annexation into the Russian Federation or some other future political arrangement of Moscow’s choosing)
Russian-backed occupation administrators continued to face various challenges to their authority. A Ukrainian partisan improvised explosive device (IED) attack killed the Russian-appointed head of Mykhailivka, Zaporizhia Oblast on August 24, likely part of a wider campaign of Ukrainian partisans targeting specific Russian-backed administrators who are attempting to advance the integration of occupied regions into the Russian system. The Ukrainian Resistance Center also reported that Russian forces in occupied Luhansk Oblast dispersed a rally held by the wives, mothers, and relatives of Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) forces who have been captured by Ukrainian forces. Predatory mobilization processes in the LNR and reports that the Kremlin considers DNR and LNR fighters the lowest priority in prisoner exchanges are likely exacerbating social friction in the LNR and complicating the consistent administration of occupation regimes.
Russian-backed proxy leaders continue to take measures to oversee the legislative and administrative integration of occupied territories into corresponding Russian systems. DNR Head Denis Pushilin met with Russian State Duma Deputy Vyacheslav Volodin on August 24 to discuss the intensification of efforts to harmonize the legislative institutions of the DNR with Russian legislative processes. The harmonization of the DNR’s legislative process with Russia’s will likely afford the Kremlin increased legal control and oversight of the internal legal and bureaucratic affairs of proxy republics. LNR Head Leonid Pasechnik met with a United Russia Party delegation to discuss United Russia’s provision of “comprehensive assistance” to Donbas, including educational support. Pasechnik also further confirmed that Russian authorities are engaging in the deportation of children from occupied areas in Ukraine to Russia and stated that his administration plans to identify children “in need of psychological help” and transfer them to Kislovodsk for “rehabilitation.” As ISW has previously reported, Russian authorities are likely using the guise of education camps and psychological rehabilitation in order to facilitate the transfer of children to Russia as part of a wider population replacement campaign.
Note: ISW does not receive any classified material from any source, uses only publicly available information, and draws extensively on Russian, Ukrainian, and Western reporting and social media as well as commercially available satellite imagery and other geospatial data as the basis for these reports. References to all sources used are provided in the endnotes of each update.
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