Russian President Vladimir Putin is consolidating his power projection system around those willing to pursue his unchanged maximalist goals in Ukraine. He is increasingly spotlighting and relying on a smaller cadre of highly devoted followers in his power circles and a silent majority in the Russian population who will simply comply.
Russian forces conducted a series of drone and missile strikes against residential areas and critical infrastructure throughout Ukraine on October 17. Russian troops struck Kyiv, Zaporizhzhia City, and areas in Vinnytsia, Sumy, Dnipropetrovsk, and Mykolaiv Oblasts and launched nine missile strikes and 39 air strikes on October 17. Ukrainian Air Force spokesperson Yuriy Ignat noted that Russian forces launched 43 drones from southern Ukraine, 37 of which Ukrainian troops destroyed and the majority of which were Iranian Shahed-136 drones. Five Shahed-136 drones struck infrastructure in the Shevchenkivskyi district of Kyiv, including the UkrEnergo (Ukrainian electricity transmission system operator) building.
This campaign assessment special edition focuses on the specific parts of Ukrainian territory currently under Russian occupation that are important for the long-term viability of an independent Ukraine. Ukrainian forces are currently conducting a counteroffensive push in Kherson Oblast as of October 16. We will update our maps after information about the new front lines unambiguously enters the open-source environment.
Russia continues to conduct massive, forced deportations of Ukrainians that likely amount to a deliberate ethnic cleansing campaign in addition to apparent violations of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin stated on October 14 that “several thousand” children from Kherson Oblast are “already in other regions of Russia, resting in rest homes and children’s camps.” As ISW has previously reported, Russian authorities openly admitted to placing children from occupied areas of Ukraine up for adoption with Russian families in a manner that may constitute a violation of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
Russian President Vladimir Putin likely attempted to make a virtue of necessity by announcing that his “partial” mobilization will end in “about two weeks”—the same time the postponed fall conscription cycle is set to begin. Putin told reporters on October 14 that “nothing additional is planned” and that "partial mobilization is almost over." As ISW previously reported, Putin announced the postponement of Russia’s usual autumn conscription cycle from October 1 to November 1 on September 30, likely because Russia’s partial mobilization is taxing the bureaucracy of the Russian military commissariats that oversee the semiannual conscription cycle. Putin therefore likely needs to pause or end his partial mobilization to free up bureaucratic resources for conscription. Putin ordered the conscription of 120,000 men for the autumn cycle, 7,000 fewer than in autumn 2021. However, Russia’s annexation of occupied Ukraine changes the calculus for conscripts. Russian law generally prohibits the deployment of conscripts abroad. Russian law now considers Russian-occupied Kherson, Zaporizhia, Donetsk, and Luhansk oblasts to be Russian territory, however, ostensibly legalizing the use of conscripts on the front lines.
Public reports of the first deaths of ill-prepared mobilized Russian troops in Ukraine have sparked renewed criticism of the Russian military command. Russian media reported that five mobilized men from Chelyabinsk have already died in combat in Ukraine just three weeks after President Vladimir Putin’s declaration of partial mobilization on September 21. The report led many pro-war milbloggers to claim that the number of dead and wounded among mobilized servicemen is likely higher than this due to lack of promised training, equipment, unit cohesion, and commanders, as well as repeated instances of wrongful mobilization.
Russia has seemingly intensified its information operation to falsely portray Ukraine as a terrorist state, likely to set information conditions to counter efforts to designate Russia as a terrorist state. Several Russian sources made unverified claims that Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) officers detained Ukrainian citizens for allegedly planning “terrorist attacks” in Sverdlovsk, Moscow, and Bryansk oblasts on October 12. Russian milbloggers relatedly amplified rhetoric accusing Ukraine of being a terrorist state and calling for Russian authorities to enhance “counterintelligence” procedures and formally designate Ukraine as a terrorist state. Claims of preparations for alleged and subversive Ukrainian activity in Russia align with a wider attempt to set information conditions to respond to Ukrainian attempts to formally designate Russia a terrorist state, especially in the wake of recent massive attacks on critical Ukrainian infrastructure and residential areas. The Russian information space may also be setting conditions to justify further massive strikes on Ukrainian rear areas; although, as ISW has previously assessed, these tactics are part of the Russian way of war and will likely be utilized regardless of informational conditions. Russian authorities may also be setting conditions for false-flag attacks against Russia framed as Ukrainian-perpetrated acts of terrorism.
Russian forces conducted massive missile strikes across Ukraine for the second day in a row on October 11. The Ukrainian General Staff stated that Russian forces fired nearly 30 Kh-101 and Kh-55 cruise missiles from Tu-95 and Tu-160 strategic bombers and damaged critical infrastructure in Lviv, Vinnytsia, Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk, and Zaporizhia oblasts. Ukrainian air defense reportedly destroyed 21 cruise missiles and 11 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Social media footage shows the aftermath of strikes throughout Ukraine. Russian forces additionally continued to launch attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure with Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian air defense destroyed eight Shahed-136 drones in Mykolaiv Oblast on the night of October 10 and 11.
Russian forces conducted a massive missile strike attack against over 20 cities, including Kyiv, on October 10. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces launched over 84 cruise missiles and 24 drone attacks, 13 of which were carried out with Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones. Ukrainian air defense shot down 43 cruise missiles, 10 Shahed-136 drones, and 3 unspecified drones. Russian forces launched missiles from 10 strategic bombers operating in the Caspian Sea and from Nizhny Novgorod, Iskander short-range ballistic missile systems, and 6 missile carriers in the Black Sea. Russian forces launched the Shahed-136 drones from Crimea and Belarus. Ukrainian media reported that Russian missile strikes hit 70 targets, including 29 critical infrastructure facilities, 4 high-rise buildings, 35 residential buildings, and a school.
This campaign assessment special edition focuses on Russian domestic responses to the Kerch Strait Bridge explosion on October 9 and changes within the Russian chain of command. Ukrainian forces continued to make advances towards Svatove-Kreminna highway on October 9. Those developments are summarized briefly and will be covered in more detail tomorrow.