Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, October 4
Kateryna Stepanenko, Karolina Hird, Katherine Lawlor, Riley Bailey, Grace Mappes, and Frederick W. Kagan
October 4, 10:00 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.
Ukrainian forces continued to make significant gains in Kherson Oblast while simultaneously continuing advances in Kharkiv and Luhansk oblasts on October 4. Ukrainian forces liberated several settlements on the eastern bank of the Inhulets River along the T2207 highway, forcing Russian forces to retreat to the south toward Kherson City. Ukrainian forces also continued to push south along the Dnipro River and the T0403 highway, severing two Russian ground lines of communication (GLOCs) in northern Kherson Oblast and forcing Russians south of the Kherson-Dnipropetrovsk Oblast border toward the Beryslav area. Ukrainian military officials noted that the Ukrainian interdiction campaign is crippling Russian attempts to transfer additional ammunition, reserves, mobilized men, and means of defense to frontline positions. Ukrainian forces also continued to advance east of the Oskil River in Kharkiv Oblast, and Russian sources claimed that battles are ongoing near the R66 Svatove-Kreminna highway.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement of partial mobilization is having more significant short-term impacts on the Russian domestic context than on the war in Ukraine, interacting with Russian battlefield failures to exacerbate fractures in the information space that confuse and undermine Putin’s narratives. Ukrainian sources have rightly observed that the partial mobilization is not a major threat in the short term because the Ukrainian counteroffensive is moving faster than the mobilization can generate effects. Ukrainian Intelligence Chief Kyrylo Budanov even stated that mobilization in Russia is a “gift” to Ukraine because the Kremlin is finding itself in a “dead end,” caught between its failures and its determination to hold what it has seized. The controversies surrounding the poorly executed partial mobilization, coupled with significant Russian defeats in Kharkiv Oblast and around Lyman, have intensified infighting between pro-Putin Russian nationalist factions and are creating new fractures among voices who speak to Putin’s core constituencies.
Putin is visibly failing at balancing the competing demands of the Russian nationalists who have become increasingly combative since mobilization began despite sharing Putin’s general war aims and goals in Ukraine. ISW has identified three main factions in the current Russian nationalist information space: Russian milbloggers and war correspondents, former Russian or proxy officers and veterans, and some of the Russian siloviki—people with meaningful power bases and forces of their own. Putin needs to retain the support of all three of these factions. Milbloggers present Putin’s vision to a pro-war audience in both Russia and the proxy republics. The veteran community is helping organize and support force generation campaigns. The siloviki are providing combat power on the battlefield. Putin needs all three factions to sustain his war effort, but the failures in Ukraine combined with the chaotic partial mobilization are seemingly disrupting the radical nationalist community in Russia. Putin is currently trying to appease this community by featuring some milbloggers on state-owned television, allowing siloviki to generate their own forces and continue offensive operations around Bakhmut and Donetsk City, and placating veterans by ordering mobilization and engaging the general public in the war effort as they have long demanded.
Russian failures around Lyman galvanized strong and direct criticism of the commander of the Central Military District (CMD), Alexander Lapin, who supposedly commanded the Lyman grouping, as ISW has previously reported. This criticism originated from the siloviki group, spearheaded by Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov and Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin. Kadyrov and Prigozhin represent an emerging voice within the regime’s fighting forces that is attacking the more traditional and conventional approach to the war pursued by Russian Minister of Defense Sergey Shoigu and the uniformed military command. The chaotic execution of Putin’s mobilization order followed by the collapse of the Lyman pocket ignited tensions between the more vocal and radical Kadyrov-Prigozhin camp, who attacked the MoD and the uniformed military for their poor handling of the war. Putin now finds himself in a dilemma. He cannot risk alienating the Kadyrov-Prigozhin camp, as he desperately needs Kadyrov’s Chechen forces and Prigozhin’s Wagner Group mercenaries to fight in Ukraine. Nor can he disenfranchise the MoD establishment, which provides the overwhelming majority of Russian military power in Ukraine and the institutional underpinnings needed to carry out the mobilization order and continue the war.
The Kadyrov-Prigozhin incident sparked a rift between the siloviki and the milbloggers, with the milbloggers defending Lapin. Milbloggers are criticizing Kadyrov’s attack on Lapin, claiming that it stems from competition between Lapin and Kadyrov-Prigozhin. The Kremlin did not punish Kadyrov or Prigozhin for their direct attacks on Lapin and the Defense Ministry but has instead deflected blame for the Russian defeat in Kharkiv Oblast onto the Western Military District (WMD). Kremlin-affiliated outlets have even interviewed milbloggers who have painted Lapin as a hero for saving the stranded WMD units in Lyman, likely in an effort to divert responsibility for the Russian defeat there onto recently fired WMD Commander Colonel-General Alexander Zhuravlev. Milbloggers, who had frequently complimented Kadyrov or Prigozhin before this incident, are now more skeptical of the siloviki community, attacking it for being too self-interested.
Fractures are emerging within the Russian milblogger community itself, moreover. Milbloggers have begun increasingly questioning each other's military credentials and rights to offer recommendations for the Russian Armed Forces. One milblogger complained that commentators without appropriate military experience have been improperly criticizing current military commanders and should be focusing on simply portraying the situation on the frontlines without editorializing. These critiques have been largely aimed at the milblogger discourse following the Russian defeat in Lyman and the Kadyrov-Prigozhin incident. These attacks on some milbloggers’ credentials have drawn responses from milbloggers who have met with Putin himself and are being featured on Kremlin-controlled television channels, who now declare that they are the ones who have shown the true shortcomings of the Russian forces to Putin so that he can address them.
The veterans’ community is dissatisfied with the execution of Putin’s mobilization. ISW reported in May that an independent Russian veterans’ organization, the All-Russian Officers Assembly, published an open letter calling on Putin to declare war on Ukraine, announce partial mobilization, and form new war-time administrations to execute the mobilization order. Those new administrations would likely have improved or supplanted the military commissariats that have been mishandling the current partial mobilization. The Assembly also encouraged Putin to recognize that Russia is fighting NATO in Ukraine, not Ukrainians, long before this narrative gained prominence in the Kremlin’s justifications for its defeat in Kharkiv Oblast and Lyman. This elder nationalist military community has long been warning Putin of the limitations of his forces, problems in the Russian military-industrial complex, and the failings of the Russian mobilization system. Putin has refused to order general mobilization or declare war against Ukraine, and the partial mobilization has likely been executed as poorly as those who had recommended fixing the mobilization system had feared. Former Deputy Commander of the Russian Southern Military District Andrey Gurulev stated that the Russian military command must disclose its inability to mobilize 300,000 combat-ready reservists and broaden the mobilization criteria if Russia is to have any hope of regaining the initiative in this war. Gurulev even expressed his support for Kadyrov’s and Prigozhin’s attack on Lapin, highlighting the growing fractiousness of the nationalist information space.
The fragmentation of the Russian nationalist information space could have significant domestic impacts and could even affect the stability of Putin’s regime. Putin will be unable to meet the mutually exclusive demands of various groups. Kadyrov and Prigozhin are pushing for a change in the way Russia fights the war to one more suited to their unconventional modes of mobilizing personnel and fighting. The veterans have been pushing for a more traditional overhaul of the Russian higher military command and MoD and for putting Russia on a conventional war footing and the Russian MoD. Russian milbloggers are currently defending the Kremlin’s selection of uniformed commanders while continuing to attack the MoD and making a variety of extreme demands and recommendations of their own—all the while reporting on Russia’s frontline failings in detail even as the MoD tries to silence them. Putin cannot afford to lose the support of any of these groups, nor can satisfy them all as the war wears on and Russian troops continue to sustain losses. The shocks of the Kharkiv and Lyman defeats, energized by the partial mobilization and its poor management, have exposed these deepening fissures within Putin’s core constituencies to the view of all Russians. They could even begin to seed the notion that Putin is not fully in control of his own base. The ramifications of such a development for his regime are hard to predict.
- Ukrainian forces continued to make significant gains in Kherson Oblast while simultaneously continuing advances in Kharkiv and Luhansk Oblast.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement of partial mobilization is having more significant short-term impacts on the Russian domestic context than on the war in Ukraine, catalyzing fractures in the information space that confuse and undermine Putin’s narratives.
- Ukrainian forces continued to make substantial gains in northern Kherson Oblast on October 4, beginning to collapse the sparsely-manned Russian lines in that area.
- Ukrainian forces continued to make gains in eastern Kharkiv Oblast west of Svatove on October 4, pushing past the Oskil River and increasingly threatening Russian positions in Luhansk Oblast.
- Russian forces continued to conduct artillery, air, and missile strikes west of Hulyiapole and in Dnipropetrovsk and Mykolaiv Oblasts on October 4.
- Russian forces continued ground attacks in Donetsk Oblast on October 4.
- The Kremlin effectively ordered local Russian administrations and non-Ministry of Defense institutions to fund a significant part of the mobilization effort from local budgets.
- Russian security officials are attempting to maintain their domestic security apparatus as Putin’s partial mobilization drains the Russian security sector to generate additional forces to fight in Ukraine.
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.
- Ukrainian Counteroffensives—Southern and Eastern Ukraine
- Russian Main Effort—Eastern Ukraine (comprised of one subordinate and two supporting efforts);
- Russian Subordinate Main Effort—Capture the entirety of Donetsk Oblast
- Russian Supporting Effort—Southern Axis
- Russian Mobilization and Force Generation Efforts
- Activities in Russian-occupied Areas
Ukrainian Counteroffensives (Ukrainian efforts to liberate Russian-occupied territories)
Eastern Ukraine: (Oskil River-Kreminna Line)
Ukrainian forces continued to make gains in eastern Kharkiv Oblast west of Svatove on October 4. Geolocated footage shows Ukrainian troops in Bohuslavka and Borivska Andriivka, both within 30km west of Svatove and near the Kharkiv-Luhansk Oblast border. Bohuslavka and Borivska Andriivka are on the left bank of the Oskil River. These gains, along with other Ukrainian advances on the east bank of the river, have essentially deprived Russian forces of the ability to use the river as a defensive line. A Russian milblogger described this inflection by noting that what used to be the Kharkiv front (the front bounded by the line of the Oskil River) has now become the Luhansk front as Ukrainian troops are threatening Russian positions within Luhansk Oblast itself.
Russian sources continued to discuss Ukrainian advances toward Svatove and noted that while Russian troops still control the R66 (Svatove-Kreminna) highway, which Russian milbloggers regard as a critical Russian ground line of communication (GLOC), Ukrainian reconnaissance groups are operating along the road to set conditions for future attacks toward Svatove. A Russian source reported that fighting is ongoing in Krasnorichenske, a settlement near the R66 and between Svatove and Kreminna. A Russian milblogger claimed that elements of the Russian 1st Guards Tank Army and elements of the 144th Guards Motor Rifle Division of the 20th Combined Arms Army are preparing to defend Svatove. As ISW has previously reported, these units and formations were severely degraded during the Kharkiv counteroffensive and are unlikely to establish a stable defense of these critical areas if Ukrainian forces press their attacks. Russian sources will likely continue to reinforce their positions along the R66 highway in anticipation of further Ukrainian attacks.
Southern Ukraine: (Kherson Oblast)
Ukrainian forces continued to make substantial gains in northern Kherson Oblast on October 4. Geolocated footage shows Ukrainian troops in Velyka Oleksandrivka, Novopetrivka, and Starosillya, all in northwestern Kherson Oblast within 20km south of the Dnipropetrovsk Oblast border. Russian sources acknowledged that Ukrainian forces have also captured at least half of Dudchany, a critical settlement in northeastern Kherson Oblast that lies along the T0403 highway, which runs along the west bank of the Dnipro River into the Beryslav-Nova Kahkovka area. Several Russian sources indicated that Russian troops are withdrawing south toward Beryslav and regrouping in the area of Mylove (15km southwest of Dudchany) and that the northeastern sector of the Russian line in Kherson Oblast is collapsing along the Kakovkha reservoir. One Russian source reported that Ukrainian forces captured Kachkarivka, less than 9 km from Mylove. The Ukrainian 35th Marine Brigade also liberated Davydiv Brid in western Kherson Oblast. An established Ukrainian position on the east (left) bank of the Inhulets River and on the right bank of Kakhkovka Reservoir (which feeds the Dnipro River) will enable Ukrainian forces to essentially squeeze Russian troops up against the Dnipro River to the east and force them southwards toward Kherson City and Beryslav-Nova Kakhkova according to a Russian milblogger. The Ukrainian General Staff noted that Russian troops attacked Ternovi Pody (20km northwest of Kherson City), likely to expand Russian control northwest of Kherson City and afford Russian troops more defensible positions around the city as other elements withdraw from the north.
Russian milbloggers provided insight into the sparse allocation of Russian forces that are collapsing under Ukrainian advances in northern Kherson Oblast. A Russian source claimed on October 4 that elements of the 126th Coastal Defense Brigade of the Black Sea Fleet have operated in the area without rotation since March and that the frontline is stretched so thin that some villages in this sector have 15 men defending them. The milblogger claimed that a frontline of 20km needs two battalions of 500 men to defend at approximately 20m per person and that, due to under-staffing in battalions in northern Kherson Oblast, the ratio was one soldier per 60m of line. This description of a thin and undermanned frontline, along with effective Ukrainian offensive operations, partially explains the rapid rate of Russian collapse in this sector.
Ukrainian forces additionally continued the interdiction campaign in Kherson Oblast to support ongoing ground operations. Ukrainian military sources reported that Ukrainian troops targeted Russian military, logistics, and transportation assets and concentration areas on October 3 and 4. Russian sources reported that Ukrainian troops once again struck the Antonivskyi Bridge in Kherson City.
Russian Main Effort—Eastern Ukraine
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 continued ground attacks in Donetsk Oblast on October 4. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian ground attacks southeast of Siversk near Vyimka and Spirne; on and south of Bakhmut near Mayorsk, Ozeryanivka, Zaitseve, and Bakhmutske; north and west of Avdiivka near Vesele, Kamianka, and Pervomaiske; and near Novomykhailivka in western Donetsk Oblast. Russian sources claimed that Russian forces and Wagner Group fighters fought in eastern Bakhmut and south of Bakhmut in Vesela Dolyna and Zaitseve. A Russian source claimed that Wagner Group fighters are reinforcing positions in the Bakhmut area. Russian sources claimed that Russian forces are fighting in the Avdiivka area near Pervomaiske and Nevelske to expand Russian control over the Donetsk City Airport. Russian sources expressed continued concern that Ukrainian forces may launch a counterattack on the eastern Donetsk Oblast and western Zaporizhia Oblast front line in the coming days. Footage posted on October 4 reportedly shows Russian drones and artillery striking a Ukrainian equipment column in the Vuhledar, western Donetsk Oblast area on an unspecified date.
Supporting Effort—Southern Axis (Russian objective: Maintain frontline positions and secure rear areas against Ukrainian strikes)
Russian forces continued to conduct artillery, air, and missile strikes west of Hulyiapole and in Dnipropetrovsk and Mykolaiv Oblasts on October 4. Ukrainian sources reported that Russian forces struck Zaporizhzhia City and Nikopol, Dnipropetrovsk Oblast. Ukrainian sources also reported that Russian forces struck Ukrainian positions near Bereznehuvate and Ochakiv in Mykolaiv Oblast. Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command reported that Ukrainian forces shot down a Russian Shahed-136 drone attempting an attack in Odesa City.
Mobilization and Force Generation Efforts (Russian objective: Expand combat power without conducting general mobilization)
Russian President Vladimir Putin is doubling down on promises to conduct only partial mobilization but will be increasingly unable to deliver on that promise while meeting his manpower needs. The Kremlin and Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) officials are going on record to reiterate or adjust Putin’s partial mobilization plan, likely in an effort to downplay reported deviations from the original reservist call up order. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reaffirmed that 200,000 newly mobilized servicemembers are undergoing training at 80 training grounds and six educational centers prior to deployment to Ukraine, despite the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) reporting that mobilized men from Kaliningrad Oblast have already departed for Ukraine as of October 4, only 13 days after the declaration of partial mobilization. Social media footage also indicated that mobilized men from Sverdlovsk Oblast are training in unspecified Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine, instead of in domestic Russian training grounds. Other outlets reported that Russian military leaders are not providing recruits physical training opportunities and only teaching them to march instead of training them for impending combat operations. Russian veterans are increasingly stepping in to train mobilized men, indicating the shortage of active-duty trainers. The Russian military has also likely already deployed skilled officers who would be instrumental in training mobilized men, with the Ukrainian General Staff reporting that a Russian aerospace defense academy had to suspend certain courses due to a lack of teaching staff. Missing teachers participated in the invasion of Ukraine.
Shoigu also added that mobilized men will reinforce existing units rather than forming new ones, likely to as part of the Kremlin’s efforts to rush troops to the frontlines. Ukrainian military officials reported that some mobilized elements will reinforce the 205th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade of the 49th Combined Arms Army that has likely operated in southern Ukraine since March. Ukrainian officials added that mobilized men will reinforce the 810th Separate Marine Brigade that fought in Mariupol. The Ukrainian General Staff did note that Russian forces are forming a new motorized rifle division in Crimea with mobilized residents from Crimea, Krasnodar Krai, and the Republic of Adygea, however, indicating that not all mobilized servicemembers will join existing units.
Shoigu also claimed that Russian conscripts who are currently completing their military service will not be subject to mobilization. A Kremlin decision to covertly mobilize recent conscripts would likely lead to further societal discontent. Shoigu also instructed the Russian General Staff to provide Russian draft commission and military enlistment officials with comprehensive lists of the categories of deferrals for men not subject to mobilization such as part-time and full-time students, IT workers, employees of the military-industrial complex, and media representatives, among other criteria. The Kremlin and enlistment centers are unlikely to follow such deferral rules, however. Social media users reported instances of the enlistment centers admitting to men that they were wrongfully mobilized, only to then proceed to draft them regardless.
Russian security officials outside the Ministry of Defense are attempting to maintain Russia’s domestic security apparatus as Putin’s partial mobilization drains the Russian security sector to generate additional forces to fight in Ukraine. Putin decreed on October 4 that former Russian contract soldiers who are now members of the Russian reserves and are therefore eligible for mobilization (per Putin’s September 21 mobilization order) can elect to complete their post-mobilization service with the FSB in place of their military assignment. Putin’s decree indicates that the FSB, Russia’s principal security service, may be understaffed, particularly as the Kremlin requires greater regional intelligence capabilities and more FSB border guards to prevent Russian men from fleeing the country. The emphasis on former contract soldiers and not former conscripts suggests that this track may only be available to older veterans and retired officers, not to the newly and illegally mobilized men with no military experience or to young men who will be sent to fight on the front lines in Ukraine. A Russian news outlet reported on October 4 that the heads of the Moscow Police Department and the Russian Interior Ministry instructed their subordinates to notify their superiors if they receive mobilization notices and to avoid going to military enlistment offices. The outlet claimed that Russian security officials did not submit the proper paperwork to exempt their employees from partial mobilization. The Ukrainian General Staff reported on October 4 that Russian military leadership ordered the transfer of Rosgvardia troops from Siberia and Syria to fight in Ukraine. Russian officials are likely hard-pressed to maintain domestic and non-Ukrainian international security functions while so many state and military resources are tied up in the invasion of Ukraine.
The Kremlin essentially ordered local Russian administrations and non-MoD institutions to help fund the mobilization effort from local budgets. Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin decreed on October 3 that all Russian administrative districts, including federal subjects and local governments, are authorized to use their local budgets to purchase military and dual-use equipment on behalf of the Russian Ministry of Defense. That equipment includes drones, night vision and thermal imaging devices, communications devices, vehicles, uniforms, camping equipment, medicines, food, and hygiene products. Mishustin decreed that local governments can purchase only the equipment asked for by the MoD or other authorized bodies, including local military commissariats, and must transfer that equipment to the federal government free of charge. The Ukrainian General Staff reported on October 4 that the Kazan Higher Tank Command School is funding the formation of three motorized rifle and two artillery regiments for newly mobilized forces. The burden of supporting the war effort is also falling on individual men and their communities—a Russian milblogger reported that a community in Krasnodar raised 19 million rubles to purchase basic equipment like sleeping bags and body armor for mobilized men in their community and to support the families of those mobilized men while their men are away.
Activity in Russian-occupied Areas (Russian objective: consolidate administrative control of occupied and annexed areas; forcibly integrate Ukrainian civilians into Russian sociocultural, economic, military, and governance systems)
The Russian government continued legislative processes for the illegal accession of Russian-occupied Ukrainian territories into the Russian Federation on October 4. Russian sources reported that Russia’s upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, unanimously ratified the treaties on the entry of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR), Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR), Zaporizhia Oblast, and Kherson Oblast into the Russian Federation. The final formality in Russia’s annexation process is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ratification of the treaties. The DNR People’s Council announced on October 4 that it had ratified the accession treaty for the DNR.
Occupation administration officials continued to increase restrictions on Ukrainian movement out of occupied territories on October 4. The Ukrainian Resistance Center reported that since occupation administrations introduced temporary travel permit regimes on October 1 movement to Ukrainian-held territory has increasingly slowed. The Ukrainian Resistance Center reported that since October 1 only 52 residents have been able to leave Kherson Oblast, despite queues at checkpoints exceeding 1,000 people. Ukrainian sources also reported that Russian and occupation officials are building an “official state border” at the checkpoint in Vasylivka, Zaporizhia Oblast that will act as the official entry and exit point into Ukrainian-held Zaporizhia Oblast. Ukrainian sources reported that queues at the Vasylivka checkpoint exceed 4,500 people.
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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