Ukrainian auxiliaries disrupt iSPs in Russian-occupied territories. Uncorroborated reports of a shake-up in the Russian command operating in the Kherson sector. An anti-Semitic riot closes a Russian airport.
Ukraine at D+613: ISPs disrupted in occupied territories.
The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) summarized Friday, "Ukrainian forces marginally advanced on the east (left) bank of Kherson Oblast and continued offensive operations near Bakhmut and in western Zaporizhia Oblast. Geolocated footage published on October 27 indicates that Ukrainian forces advanced further south under the Antonivsky road bridge north of Oleshky (7km south of Kherson City and 4km from the Dnipro River). The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations near Bakhmut and in the Melitopol (western Zaporizhia Oblast) direction."
Belarus, Russia's original and only consistent ally in its war against Ukraine, has called for a negotiated peace. The Guardian quotes President Lukashenka as saying, “There are enough problems on both sides and in general the situation is now seriously stalemate: no one can do anything and substantively strengthen or advance their position."
The UK's Ministry of Defence (MoD) sees the Russian difficulties around Avdiivka as a now-familiar story: very high casualties for a negligible return on the ground. "Over the last week, heavy but inconclusive fighting has continued around the Donetsk Oblast town of Avdiivka, where Russia initiated a major offensive effort in mid-October 2023," the MoD wrote in Saturday's situation report. "Russia has probably committed elements of up to eight brigades to the sector. These elements have likely suffered some of Russia’s highest casualty rates of 2023 so far. Russian nationalist ‘mil bloggers’ have been harshly critical of the military’s tactics in the operation. The nature of the operation suggests that Russia’s core military-political challenge remains the same as it has throughout most of the war. Political leaders demand more territory to be seized but the military cannot generate effective operational level offensive action."
Hard-war milbloggers are saying that Airborne Forces (VDV) Commander Colonel General Mikhail Teplinsky has replaced Colonel General Oleg Makarevich in command of the Russian “Dnepr” Group of Forces operating in the vicinity of Kherson. The Ministry of Defense hasn't confirmed the relief and replacement, and the milbloggers may be indulging in wishful thinking: they've long criticized General Makarevich for what they see as his poor management of the Group of Forces. They attribute local Ukrainian successes to Makarevich's negligence.
Private military corporation recruiting.
Some Wagner Group alumni, apparently having signed new contracts with the Ministry of Defense, are fighting under Ministry of Defense control in the Avdiivka zone, alongside Donetsk People's Republic units organized in that Russian-occupied territory. The ISW adds that Rosgvardia, Russia's internal security force, which is independent of the Ministry of Defense, has also been seeking to recruit former Wagnerites to its own armed service.
The UK's MoD this morning reported on Redut's efforts to recruit Russian women into combat formations operating in Ukraine. "A Russian state-backed private military company (PMC) is specifically attempting to recruit women into combat roles in Ukraine for the first time. Recent social media adverts have appealed for female recruits to join Borz Battalion, a part of Russian PMC Redut, to work as snipers and uncrewed aerial vehicle operators. Redut is likely directly sponsored by the Russian Main Directorate of Intelligence. In March 2023, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said that 1,100 women were deployed in Ukraine, which would equate to only around 0.3 per cent of its force. As Redut’s advert points out, they currently serve in mostly medical support and food service roles. It remains unclear whether official Russian defence forces will seek to follow suit and open more combat roles to women. Women have rarely taken front line fighting roles within pro-Russian forces during the current conflict; however, there was a strong tradition of female snipers and other combat troops in Soviet forces during the Second World War."
Russian universities cautioned against discussing unwelcome news.
"In mid-October 2023, Russia’s Ministry of Education and Science reportedly instructed universities to avoid open discussion of any 'negative political, economic and social trends' in Russia during academic activities," the UK's MoD reported Sunday morning. " This constitutes a further restriction of the information space in wartime Russia, making it more difficult to openly discuss policy issues. In the longer term, this will likely further the trend of Russian policy-making taking place in an echo-chamber of politically acceptable, pro-Kremlin perspectives. It is highly likely that the Kremlin wishes to further suppress negative perspectives on the ‘special military operation’ in the run up to President Vladimir Putin’s anticipated bid for re-election in March 2024."
Antisemitic demonstrations in the Russian republic of Dagestan.
The ISW reports that interethnic and interreligious tensions within Russia have begun to manifest themselves in violence, specifically in the Caspian republic of Dagestan, where there have been several recent antisemitic outbreaks. The most prominent of the demonstrations involved the storming of an airliner recently arrived at Makhachkala from Tel Aviv. The AP, citing local officials, says that at least twenty people were injured in the incident. They were sparked by the (apparently false) rumor that Russian authorities intended to resettle large numbers of Israeli refugees in Dagestan. So far Moscow is leaving the matter in the hands of regional authorities. The Makhachkala airport has been closed and is expected to remain so at least through the end of this week. The ISW sees indications that the head of the FSB, out of favor for his agency's poor record of providing intelligence on Ukraine--it was the FSB who assured the Kremlin that an invasion would be a walkover--may be exploiting the current surge in "ethnoreligious tensions" in an attempt to return to President Putin's good graces.
Ukrainian auxiliaries disrupt Internet service in Russian-occupied territory.
The Record reports that the IT Army of Ukraine conducted DDoS attacks against three Russian ISPs (Internet service providers) operating in Russian-occupied Ukrainian territory: Miranda-media, Krimtelekom, and MirTelekom. Service was up and down beginning Friday, with disruptions lasting longest in occupied Crimea. The IT Army is a true, avowed auxiliary service of the Ukrainian government, and not a deniable front group like those Russia has typically marshaled. Euromaidan Press noted that the DDoS action against the Russian ISPs was reported on 27 October by Ukraine’s Minister of Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov.