Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, November 18, 2023
Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, November 18, 2023
Riley Bailey, Christina Harward, Angelica Evans, Kateryna Stepanenko, and Frederick W. Kagan
November 18, 2023, 5pm 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.
Click here to see ISW’s 3D control of terrain topographic map of Ukraine. Use of a computer (not a mobile device) is strongly recommended for using this data-heavy tool.
Click here to access ISW’s archive of interactive time-lapse maps of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. These maps complement the static control-of-terrain map that ISW produces daily by showing a dynamic frontline. ISW will update this time-lapse map archive monthly.
Note: The data cut-off for this product was 12:45pm ET on November 18. ISW will cover subsequent reports in the November 19 Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment.
Russian forces conducted a series of drone strikes against Ukraine on the night of November 17 to 18. Ukrainian military sources reported on November 18 that Ukrainian air defenses downed 29 of 38 Russian-launched Shahed-131/136 drones over multiple unspecified oblasts. The Ukrainian Southern Operational Command reported that Russian Shaheds struck an energy infrastructure facility and administrative building in Odesa Oblast. The Ukrainian Northern Operational Command reported that Russian Shaheds also damaged infrastructure facilities in Chernihiv Oblast. Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces struck an oil depot in Altestove, Odesa Oblast, the Starokostyantyniv airfield in Khmelnytskyi Oblast, and Kyiv City, Kyiv Oblast.
A Kyrgyzstan government official called on the Russian government to help Kyrgyz migrants in Russia against the backdrop of recent proposals from Russian government officials to decrease migrant work opportunities in Russia. Deputy Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan Edil Baisalov met with Russian Deputy Prime Minister for Social Policy, Labor, Health, and Pension Provision Tatyana Golikova on November 17 and reiterated the importance of Russia providing families of Kyrgyz citizens working in Russia with compulsory health insurance in accordance with Eurasian Economic Union standards. Baisalov stated that this would help create favorable conditions for Kyrgyz citizens in Russia. Prominent voices in the Russian ultranationalist information space responded to Baisalov’s statements by complaining that the Russian government’s migrant policy is too lenient and that Russian government officials either are not aware of the problem or do not want to fix it.
Russian federal subjects and government officials have been increasingly introducing and proposing bills restricting migrants’ rights in the fall of 2023. Deputy Chairperson of the Russian State Duma Pyotr Tolstoy proposed a measure on November 14 that would restrict work opportunities for migrants from countries that have not designated Russian as a state language. Russian political party A Just Russia-For Truth introduced three bills to the Duma on November 15 that would abolish work certificates for foreign workers, require Russian organizations to obtain permission from the Russian government to hire foreign workers, and require foreign workers to acquire a separate Russian work permit. A Just Russia head Sergei Mironov stated that these measures will create order and ensure that the government “clearly understand[s] who is on the territory of the Russian Federation and why they are there.” Several Russian federal subjects have banned migrants from driving minibuses and taxis, offering catering services, and selling alcohol and tobacco in Russia.
Courts in the Republic of Dagestan reportedly continue to charge participants of the October 29 antisemitic riots with minor administrative crimes, while select Russian ultranationalists call for increased government control in order to curb the alleged spread of Islamic extremism in Dagestan. Russian authorities have reportedly charged 412 people for violating various articles of the Russian Administrative Code, including 394 people charged with violating procedures on holding assemblies and 18 people charged with organizing a mass gathering in public places. A prominent Russian milblogger claimed on November 17 that a radical Salafi preacher spoke about the unrest in Dagestan and alleged that there are over 100,000 supporters of Salafism in Dagestan – an allegation that the milblogger rejected. The milblogger also claimed that radical ideologues have become more active on the internet following the riots in Dagestan and that extremists are attempting to take advantage of the confusion caused by the spontaneity of the unrest. Another Russian milblogger added that the Russian government needs to establish strict control over Dagestan in order to curb future unrest. ISW previously assessed that the Russian leadership is likely avoiding more serious punishments for antisemitism in the North Caucasus out of concerns that they will inflame discontent towards the Kremlin. Russian authorities also recently detained a Dagestani government official on corruption charges, likely in an effort to placate those calling for an increased federal government response to the unrest.
The Russian government continues efforts to restrict citizens’ access to the internet and to strengthen its control over the Russian information space. Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin signed a decree on November 17 allowing the Russian Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology, and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor) to block sites that publish information about methods to bypass sites blocked by the Russian government. The Russian State Duma previously adopted a bill on October 17 that stipulates that presidential election campaign materials cannot be shown on sites restricted by Roskomnadzor, and the November 17 decree is likely in part related to controlling the Russian information space before the 2024 presidential elections.
The European Commission will reportedly include sanctions on the sale of petroleum tankers to Russia in an upcoming sanctions package in an effort to curb Russian schemes to skirt the G7 price cap on Russian crude oil and petroleum products. Reuters reported on November 17 that the European Union’s upcoming sanctions package against Russia will ban the sale to Russia of tankers for crude oil and other petroleum products and will stipulate contractual clauses in the sale of tankers to third countries prohibiting the re-sale of tankers to Russia and the transfer of Russian crude oil and petroleum products that violate the G7’s price cap. The Financial Times reported on November 14 that Western officials stated that Russia is likely currently selling almost all of its crude oil at or above the G7’s $60 per barrel price cap. The Financial Times added that Russian export data for crude oil suggests that Russia sold crude oil at an average of roughly $80 a barrel in October. Only 37 of the 134 vessels that reportedly ship Russian oil held insurance from Western countries, and Russia has reportedly increasingly relied on aging oil tankers with obscure ownership to build a ”shadow fleet” to sell crude oil and petroleum products above the G7 price cap. European economic think tank Bruegel reported on October 11 that by July 2023 over 60 percent of tankers carrying Russian crude oil were covered by insurance from an unknown country of origin, whereas less than 20 percent of the tankers carrying Russian crude oil had been covered by unknown insurance at the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
- Russian forces conducted a series of drone strikes against Ukraine on the night of November 17 to 18.
- A Kyrgyzstan government official called on the Russian government to help Kyrgyz migrants in Russia against the backdrop of recent proposals from Russian government officials to decrease migrant work opportunities in Russia.
- Courts in the Republic of Dagestan reportedly continue to charge participants of the October 29 antisemitic riots with minor administrative crimes, while select Russian ultranationalists call for increased government control in order to curb the alleged spread of Islamic extremism in Dagestan.
- The Russian government continues efforts to restrict citizens’ access to the internet and to strengthen its control over the Russian information space.
- The European Commission will reportedly include sanctions on the sale of petroleum tankers to Russia in an upcoming sanctions package in an effort to curb Russian schemes to skirt the G7 price cap on Russian crude oil and petroleum products.
- Russian forces continued offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, near Avdiivka, west and southwest of Donetsk City, in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area, and in western Zaporizhia Oblast and advanced near Avdiivka and Donetsk City.
- Russia has reportedly frozen prisoner of war (POW) exchanges with Ukraine since the summer of 2023.
We do not report in detail on Russian war crimes because these 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 the Ukrainian population and specifically on combat in Ukrainian urban areas. We utterly condemn Russian violations of the laws of armed conflict and the Geneva Conventions and crimes against humanity even though we do not describe them in these reports.
- Russian Main Effort – Eastern Ukraine (comprised of two subordinate main efforts)
- Russian Subordinate Main Effort #1 – Capture the remainder of Luhansk Oblast and push westward into eastern Kharkiv Oblast and encircle northern Donetsk Oblast
- Russian Subordinate Main Effort #2 – Capture the entirety of Donetsk Oblast
- Russian Supporting Effort – Southern Axis
- Russian Mobilization and Force Generation Efforts
- Russian Technological Adaptations
- Activities in Russian-occupied areas
- Russian Information Operations and Narratives
Russian Main Effort – Eastern 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 conducted offensive operations along the Kupaynsk-Svatove-Kreminna line but did not make any confirmed gains on November 18. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces unsuccessfully attacked in the Kupyansk direction near Synkivka (8km northeast of Kupyansk), Petropavlivka (7km east of Kupyansk), and Ivanivka (20km southeast of Kupaynsk) and in the Lyman direction near Torske (15km west of Kreminna) and north of Serebryanka (10km southwest of Kreminna). A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces successfully established a foothold near Tymkivka (20km southeast of Kupyansk). Luhansk Oblast Military Administration Head Artem Lysohor stated that Russian forces are decreasing their use of armored vehicles along the Kupaynsk-Svatove-Kreminna line due to poor weather conditions.
The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted unsuccessful attacks along the Kupayansk-Svatove-Kreminna line near Synkivka, Dibrova (7km southwest of Kreminna), and Hrekivka (22km southwest of Svatove) on November 18.
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 launched assaults near Bakhmut on November 18 but did not make any claimed or confirmed advances. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces continued assault actions in the Bakhmut direction. The Russian MoD claimed that elements of the Russian Southern Grouping of Forces repelled two Ukrainian assaults near Kurdyumivka (12km southwest of Bakhmut).
Russian forces continued to attack north and south of Bakhmut on November 18 but did not make confirmed advances. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian assaults near Vasyukivka (16km north of Bakhmut), Klishchiivka (7km southwest of Bakhmut), and Andriivka (10km southwest of Bakhmut). Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces are continuing to advance on Klishchiivka’s outskirts and successfully pushed Ukrainian forces out of positions in the direction of Bohdanivka (5km northwest of Bakhmut). One Russian milblogger claimed on November 17 that Russian forces are advancing and clearing areas near the Berkhivka reservoir north of Bakhmut. Another Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces marginally advanced west of the railway near Klishchiivka over the past few days and claimed that Ukrainian sources are reporting about the loss of the Klishchiivka railway station.
Russian forces continued offensive operations around Avdiivka on November 18 and made marginal confirmed territorial gains. Geolocated footage published on November 18 indicates that Russian forces marginally advanced north of the Avdiivka Coke Plant and in the industrial zone on Avdiivka’s southeastern outskirts. Russian milbloggers continued to claim that Russian forces control 60 percent of the industrial zone and that part of the Avdiivka Coke Plant is increasingly becoming a contested “gray zone” due to claimed Ukrainian retreats and Russian advances. Russian milbloggers also claimed that Russian forces seized several positions near the “Tsarska Okhota” restaurant south of Avdiivka and are continuing assaults south of the waste heap just northeast of Avdiivka. A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces are developing successes near the railway north of Avdiivka and are consolidating control over positions near Stepove (3km northwest of Avdiivka) and noted that Ukrainian forces have not retreated from the industrial zone southeast of Avdiivka. Another Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces continued their efforts to assault Sieverne (6km west of Avdiivka) and are advancing towards Tonenke (7km northwest of Avdiivka). Russian milbloggers claimed that fighting is primarily ongoing in the direction of Ocheretyne (15km northwest of Avdiivka), Novokalynove (11km northwest of Avdiivka), and the Avdiivka Coke Plant. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian assaults east of Novobakhmutivka (9km northwest of Avdiivka), Stepove, and Avdiivka; south of Tonenke; and near Keramik (14km northwest of Avdiivka).
Ukrainian Tavriisk Group of Forces Spokesperson Colonel Oleksandr Shtupun reported that Ukrainian forces are anticipating that Russian forces will launch a third wave of assaults on Avdiivka and may soon intensify artillery preparations for the assaults. Shtupun observed that Russian forces have not actively used heavy military equipment in the Avdiivka direction over the past two days, have decreased aviation use in the area, and are increasingly using infantry. Shtupun added that Russian “Storm” and “Storm-Z” assault elements are continuing to suffer significant losses and only about 10 to 15 percent of some detachments’ original personnel remain.
Russian forces recently marginally advanced west and southwest of Donetsk City in Marinka (a settlement just west of Donetsk City). Geolocated footage published on November 17 indicates that Russian forces made limited territorial gains in the northwestern part of Marinka. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian assaults near Marinka and Novomykhailivka (9km southwest of Donetsk City). The Ukrainian General Staff also noted that Ukrainian forces repelled an attack south of Vodyane (5km northeast of Vuhledar).
The Russian MoD claimed on November 18 that the Russian Eastern Group of Forces repelled a Ukrainian attack near Novomykhailivka.
Russian Supporting Effort – Southern Axis (Russian objective: Maintain frontline positions and secure rear areas against Ukrainian strikes)
A Russian news aggregator claimed that Russian forces repelled Ukrainian assaults in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area near Urozhaine (9km south of Velyka Novosilka) on November 17.
Russian forces unsuccessfully attacked in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area on November 18. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces conducted unsuccessful attacks near Staromayorske (9km south of Velyka Novosilka). The Russian “Vostok” Battalion claimed that poor weather conditions are impeding ground operations in the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border area and that most of the activity in this sector is between drones and anti-drone equipment.
Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations in western Zaporizhia Oblast on November 18 but did not make any claimed or confirmed advances. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations in the Melitopol (western Zaporizhia Oblast) direction. The Russian MoD claimed that Russian forces repelled four Ukrainian attacks near Robotyne. Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted an unsuccessful armored assault near Novoprokopivka (just south of Robotyne) and continued infantry assaults near Verbove (10km east of Robotyne). Another Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces also attacked between Novofedorivka (14km northeast of Robotyne) and Verbove. Russian milbloggers claimed that poor weather conditions are also contributing to decreased ground operations in western Zaporizhia Oblast.
Russian forces counterattacked in western Zaporizhia Oblast on November 18 but did not make any confirmed advances. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces unsuccessfully attacked near Robotyne and Novoprokopivka and west of Verbove. A prominent Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces unsuccessfully counterattacked west of Robotyne and from Verbove. A Russian milblogger claimed that elements of the Russian 291st Motorized Rifle Regiment (42nd Motorized Rifle Division, 58th Combined Arms Army, Southern Military District) successfully counterattacked along the Kopani-Robotyne line (up to 6km northwest of Robotyne) and recaptured unspecified positions on November 17. Another Russian source claimed that Russian forces advanced 700-800 meters as a result of successful counterattacks along the Kopani-Robotyne line, but ISW has not observed visual confirmation of this claim.
Ukrainian forces continued operations in the east (left) bank of Kherson Oblast on November 18. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces maintain positions in the east of bank Kherson Oblast. A prominent Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces with artillery support unsuccessfully attacked near Poyma (10km southeast of Kherson City and 4km from the Dnipro River) and Pishchanivka (13km southeast of Kherson City and 3km from the Dnipro River) and from Krynky (30km northeast of Kherson City and 2km from the Dnipro River). Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces continue to transfer additional infantry personnel to the east bank.
The Ukrainian General Staff reported on November 18 that Ukrainian forces repelled 12 Russian attacks in the east bank of Kherson Oblast.
Reuters, citing unnamed maritime specialists and a Ukrainian government official, reported on November 17 that a Liberian flagged bulk civilian carrier transporting grain sustained damage in the Black Sea after likely striking a floating sea mine.
Russian Mobilization and Force Generation Efforts (Russian objective: Expand combat power without conducting general mobilization)
The BBC and Russian opposition outlet Mediazona reported that they have confirmed that at least 37,052 Russian personnel have died fighting in the full-scale invasion of Ukraine as of November 17. The BBC and Mediazona acknowledged that the actual death is likely significantly higher.
Russian Technological Adaptations (Russian objective: Introduce technological innovations to optimize systems for use in Ukraine)
Russian sources claimed on November 18 that Russian forces have begun using “Scalpel” multi-purpose drones as loitering munitions in Ukraine. The “Vostok” Design Bureau based in Barnaul, Altai Krai announced on September 7 that it was testing the “Scalpel” drones and that it planned to start mass-producing the new loitering munitions in October for use in Ukraine. Alexander Khodakovsky, the commander of the Vostok Battalion operating along the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border, claimed that some Russian forces ran out of Lancet loitering munitions soon after the start of the Ukrainian counteroffensive and that more of these drones would help conserve Russian manpower and target Ukrainian military assets.
Russian milbloggers claimed that Russian forces are deploying more effective artillery systems to Ukraine but still expressed concerns about Ukrainian counterbattery capabilities. A Russian milblogger claimed that the new 152mm “Malva” self-propelled artillery system is improving Russian combat operations in Ukraine. Russian state-owned defense conglomerate Rostec stated on October 26 that it had delivered the first batch of “Malva” artillery systems to Russian forces and claimed that the “Malva” artillery system requires less time for redeployment from firing positions. The focus on more quickly withdrawing from firing positions may be in response to Russian concerns about reported superior Ukrainian counterbattery capabilities along the frontline. Other milbloggers expressed concerns that the “Malva” artillery system does not have protective equipment to protect against Ukrainian FPV drone strikes and argued that they do not know a single Russian unit in Ukraine that would use an artillery system without at least some kind of defensive capability.
Activities in Russian-occupied areas (Russian objective: Consolidate administrative control of annexed areas; forcibly integrate Ukrainian citizens into Russian sociocultural, economic, military, and governance systems)
Russia has reportedly frozen prisoner of war (POW) exchanges with Ukraine since the summer of 2023. Representative of the Ukrainian Coordination Headquarters for the Treatment of Prisoners of War Petro Yatsenko stated on November 17 that POW exchange negotiations with Russia are ongoing, but exchanges are not occurring to the extent they were previously because Russia has frozen exchanges since the summer. Yatsenko stated that the last POW exchange took place on August 7. The Times reported on November 17 that 2,589 Ukrainian POWs have returned to Ukraine so far, but it is uncertain how many Ukrainian POWs remain in Russian captivity or how many Russian POWs are currently in Ukrainian captivity. Yatsenko told The Times that about a third of all Russian POWs are former convicts from the Storm-Z units.
Russian opposition outlet Astra reported that unspecified actors detonated a car in occupied Kreminna, Luhansk Oblast, resulting in the hospitalization of two Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) Ministry of Internal Affairs officials on November 16. The attack targeted acting Deputy Minister of LNR Internal Affairs Police Lieutenant Colonel Oleg Shumilov and Deputy Head of the Criminal Investigation Department of the LNR Ministry of Internal Affairs Police Lieutenant Colonel Vladimir Pakholenko.
Russian Information Operations and Narratives
Russian state-affiliated media appears to be increasingly reporting on a surge of migrants trying to cross into Finland from Russia, likely to support narratives threatening an escalation in Finnish-Russian relations. Russian state-affiliated media claimed in recent days that a record number of migrants have arrived at the Finnish-Russian border in the past year and has heavily promoted daily cases of migrants trying to cross into Finland. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov stated on November 17 that Finland’s decision to close four border checkpoints in response to the border crossings was a “path of confrontation”’ with Russia. Increased Russian media attention likely aims to similarly frame Finnish responses to an influx of migrants as escalatory against Russia.
Significant activity in Belarus (Russian efforts to increase its military presence in Belarus and further integrate Belarus into Russian-favorable frameworks and Wagner Group activity in Belarus)
Nothing significant to report.
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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 https://www.rbc dot ru/politics/17/11/2023/6557772d9a7947dbe59ed98e