Ukraine at D+574: Breaching the Surovikin Line.
N2K logoSep 21, 2023

Signs of a breach in the Surovikin Line occur as Ukrainian missiles hit the Black Sea Fleet headquarters and Ukraine claims successful sabotage of military aircraft near Moscow. Russia continues to strike cities indiscriminately.

Ukraine at D+574: Breaching the Surovikin Line.

The Telegraph reports that this morning Ukrainian armor has broken through the Surovikin Line, Russia's main defenses in southern Zaporizhzhia. Infantry had been seen penetrating the defenses, but now "geolocated footage showed Marder and Stryker armoured vehicles belonging to Kyiv’s 82nd Air Assault Brigade had poured in through defensive gaps."

A large Russian wave of missile strikes hit six Ukrainian cities across the country overnight. Two deaths are reported so far, the AP reports, in what was the biggest strike this month. For its part Ukraine used air-launched Storm Shadow missiles against Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters in Sevastopol.

The Institute for the Study of War's (ISW)Wednesday update reports a continuing advance of Ukrainian forces near both Bakhmut and in the Zaporizhia Oblast, where the Ukrainian General Staff claims to have "inflicted significant losses on Russian manpower and equipment in the Melitopol (western Zaporizhia Oblast) direction."

Russian milbloggers are distressed by their commanders' tactics.

The ISW also reports that Russian milbloggers (and remember, these are hard-war ultras, not accommodationists) have been accusing Russian commanders of ordering “ill-conceived and unsupported” counterattacks on Bakhmut’s southern flank to regain lost ground. "Elements of Altai Krai’s 1st Battalion of the 1442nd Regiment (a mobilized unit) published a video appeal in which the soldiers claim that they abandoned their military equipment in the Klishchiivka (7km southwest of Bakhmut) area after receiving an order from the Russian military command to form an assault group and attack in the Bakhmut direction." There are widespread complaints of inadequate artillery support, including the failure of shells to explode. The ISW reads this as further evidence of the erosion of quality control in an overstressed industrial base. That may be so, but it might also indicate training shortfalls as gunners fail to set fuses properly, or even to use fuses at all, simply firing projectiles with nose plugs still installed.

Ukraine claims successful sabotage at Chkalovsky air base.

The Institute for the Study of War also quotes claims by Ukrainian intelligence of a successful diversionary action near Moscow. "Ukraine’s Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) reported that unspecified saboteurs damaged Russian strategic aircraft at Chkalovsky airfield near Moscow on September 18. The GUR reported on September 20 that the saboteurs planted explosives on an An-148 and an Il-20 aircraft subordinate to the Russian 354th Special Purpose Aviation Regiment and an Mi-28N helicopter that Russian forces use to repel Ukrainian drones. The GUR stated that the explosions severely damaged the aircraft, including the Mi-28N's tail, and inflicted minor damage on a second An-148 nearby. Russian authorities have not yet reported an attack at the Chkalovsky airfield as of September 20." The Drive offers details on the raid, including some inconclusive photographic evidence of claimed destruction. Chalovsky is said to be used by Russian Presidential aircraft as well as military transports.

The effects of Russia's partial mobilization.

The UK's Ministry of Defence this morning assessed the effects of Russia's partial mobilization on readiness. "Today, 21 September 2023, is the anniversary of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement of the 2022 ‘partial mobilisation’ which saw around 300,000 Russian reservists called up to serve in Ukraine. On 15 September 2023, Russian State Duma Defence Committee Chair and former general Andrei Kartapolov reiterated that mobilised personnel were obliged to serve for the duration of the ‘special military operation’." Russian formations are being burned out at the front. "In a new admission of the stark situation at the front, he also said that it was not possible for personnel to be rotated out of the operational zone during their service. The absence of regular unit rotations out of combat duty is highly likely one of the most important factors contributing to low Russian morale, and the Russian Army’s failure to conduct higher-level training since the invasion. The lack of such training is highly likely contributing to Russia’s difficulties in conducting successful complex offensive operations."

Russian hacktivist auxiliary disrupts Canadian border control and airport sites.

NoName057(16) has claimed responsibility for recent attacks against Canadian sites, notably airports, according to La Presse. The Record summarizes some of the auxiliary's recent activity in Canada. Canada has been a prominent and vocal supporter of Ukraine throughout Russia's war. On September 15th the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security issued an alert warning that Canadian organizations, particularly government agencies, were the targets of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. The Centre offered a measured attribution of the activity to pro-Russian actors, saying " Open-source reporting links some of this activity to Russian state-sponsored cyber threat actors whose tactics, techniques and procedures have been extensively documented. In July 2022, the Cyber Centre assessed that Russian state-sponsored cyber threat actors would almost certainly continue to perform actions in support of the Russian military's strategic and tactical objectives in Ukraine. On February 24, 2023, the Cyber Centre reported on similar activity involving DDoS campaigns towards Ukraine-aligned nations."

ICC remains tight-lipped concerning cyberattack.

The Register reports that the International Criminal Court (ICC) is closely holding information about the recent cyberattack it sustained. Circumstantial evidence--mostly motive, opportunity, and a record of attempts to compromise the Court--still points to Russia, but little more is known at this time. The New Voice of Ukraine argues that the ICC might well construe an attack on itself as a war crime. The essay cites a Foreign Policy Analytics report by leading prosecutor Karim Khan, who warned that such cyberattacks might be integrated into future war crimes investigations. “Disinformation, destruction, the alteration of data, and the leaking of confidential information may obstruct the administration of justice at the ICC and, as such, constitute crimes within the ICC’s jurisdiction that might be investigated or prosecuted,” Khan wrote.