Ukraine claims breakthroughs, and Russia insists it remains "invincible."
Ukraine at D+555: Russia seeks to stop Ukrainian advance in the south.
Ukraine claimed to have broken through the first line of Russian defenses at "several points" in Zaporizhzhia and elsewhere, the Telegraph reports, adding that Russian officials claim to have destroyed an attack by surface drones against the Kerch Strait bridge to occupied Crimea.
Saturday morning the UK's Ministry of Defence confirmed the Ukrainian advance in the south. "Ukrainian Forces continue to take offensive action on the Orikhiv axis in southern Ukraine, with units reaching the first Russian main defensive line. Russian forces, primarily composed of the 58 Combined Arms Army and Russian Airborne Forces elements, seek to halt the Ukrainian counter-offensive whilst maintaining their own offensive on the northern axis around Kupiansk. Russian forces are likely seeking to distract Ukraine from its counter-offensive, thereby forcing it to divide its forces between Orikhiv and Kupiansk. Given that Russia has made modest gains near Kupiansk since the Ukrainian counter-offensive began in June, they are highly likely seeking to capitalise on these by continuing to resource the axis. However, Russia risks dividing its forces as it seeks to prevent a Ukrainian breakthrough."
The US National Security Council late Friday offered a similar view. Spokesman John Kelly said the US had “noted over the last 72 hours or so some notable progress by Ukrainian armed forces ... in that southern line of advance coming out of the Zaporizhzhia area. They have achieved some success against that second line of Russian defenses.”
Russian commanders shift forces in contact to compensate for absence of an operational reserve.
Lack of an operational reserve is apparently driving Russian commanders to shift deployed forces laterally to reinforce threatened sectors of the front. The Institute for the Study of War reports (and in fairness they source the assessment to Ukraine's GUR, but its consistent with other observations) that the recently formed and low-quality 25th Combined Arms Army has been moved into Luhansk to free the stressed and depleted (but experienced) 41st Combined Arms Army to positions in the south. "These units are likely degraded and have been operating without brigade and regiment level rotations like many frontline Russian units throughout the theater," the ISW wrote Friday. "ISW previously assessed that a lack of operational reserves would force the Russian command to conduct further lateral redeployments and make tough decisions about what sectors of the front to prioritize.The Russian military command appears to have deployed elements of the newly formed and likely low quality or understrength 25th CAA to Luhansk Oblast to free up the relatively more effective 41st CAA elements for southern Ukraine. Budanov added that elements of the 25th CAA are already participating in hostilities in Luhansk Oblast."
Ukrainian diversionary forces are operating inside Russia proper.
Recent drone strikes, including last Wednesday's attack against the military airfield in Pskov, were carried out by short-range systems launched from within Russian territory. “The drones used to attack the ‘Kresty’ air base in Pskov were launched from Russia,” the Telegraph quotes Ukraine’s GUR chief, Major General Kyrylo Budanov, as saying. He added, “Four Russian IL-76 military transport planes were hit as a result of the attack. Two were destroyed and two were seriously damaged." Thus the long-range strike weapons whose domestic development Ukraine announced this past week were not used.
Ukrainian officials are instead emphasizing the success of their diversionary operations behind Russian lines. The War Zone reports their interview with General Budanov: “'We are working from the territory of Russia,' Budanov told us, though he would not specify whether the attack was carried out by GUR personnel or Russian partisans. He also declined to say what kind of drones were used or how many." The account is accompanied by overhead imagery of the attack on Kresty and its aftermath. That anti-government Russian partisans are a realistic possibility suggests the difficulties Mr. Putin faces in managing his war.
Ukraine's and Russia's presidents have a sharply different view of the state of the war.
Saturday morning President Zelenskiy tweeted, optimistically, "Ukrainian forces are moving forward. Despite everything and no matter what anyone says, we are advancing, and that is the most important thing. We are on the move."
For his part, President Putin said that Ukraine is being pushed back on all fronts, which in fairness is something no one else sees. He added that he now understands why Russia won the Great Patriotic War, and that Russia "has been, and remains, invincible." He also said that Russia planned "over the next two and a half years," to make a major investment of almost two-trillion rubles in the development of conquered Ukrainian territories to "bring them up to the all-Russia level" in such social matters as medicine, education, and infrastructure. Two-trillion rubles, at current exchange rates, is roughly equivalent to a bit less than 21 billion US dollars.
Nobel Foundation disinvites Russian and Belarusian ambassadors to Stockholm prize ceremonies.
The Nobel Foundation has reversed its decision to invite Russian and Belarusian ambassadors to this year's Nobel prize ceremonies. Widespread outrage at the invitation, within Sweden especially, and also internationally, motivated the decision. CNN quotes the Foundation's September 2nd statement on the matter. “The decision by the Nobel Foundation to invite all ambassadors to the Nobel Prize award ceremony, in accordance with previous practice, has provoked strong reactions." That practice, the Foundation said, is a belief that “it is important and right to reach out as widely as possible with the values and messages that the Nobel Prize stands for. For example, through last year’s clear political message with the peace prize awarded to human rights fighters from Russia and Belarus as well as to Ukrainians who work with documenting Russian war crimes. We recognize the strong reactions in Sweden, which completely overshadowed this message. We, therefore, choose to repeat last year’s exception to regular practice – that is, to not invite the ambassadors of Russia, Belarus and Iran to the Nobel Prize award ceremony in Stockholm."
The ceremonies in Stockholm award the prizes in Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Medicine, Economics, and Literature. The Peace Prize is awarded separately, in Oslo. Ukrainian officials and Belarusian dissidents who applauded the Swedish committee's decision hope the Norwegian Nobel Committee will do likewise with the Peace Prize.
Russian law requiring taxicabs to share data with FSB goes into force.
Planning to visit Russia? Think twice. Going to take a cab while you're there? Think thrice, squared.