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Russians pull out of Urozhaine, war bloggers point fingers, smokescreens over Crimean bridge. What happened on the front line on August 14?

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In today’s summary:

  • Unable to hold down Urozhaine on the Vremevsky Bulge in Zaporizhzhia, Russian troops are withdrawing to the south.
  • Russia’s pro-war community is torn by controversy over those responsible for this failure.
  • British military intelligence reports the relocation of Russian paratroopers from the Kherson sector to the outskirts of Orikhiv.
  • Russia is using smoke screens to conceal the Kerch Bridge, which is the vital link connecting Crimea and Russia, from Ukrainian missile strikes.
  • Odesa has sustained a strike with Kalibr cruise missiles and Shahed loitering munitions.
  • As The Guardian points out, drone strikes on Moscow aim to sow doubt among ordinary Russians about Putin's ability to keep them safe.
  • News on the mysterious disappearance of Major Tomov, the commander of Russia’s 1822nd Battalion: he’s in Ukrainian captivity.
  • The US has announced a new military aid package for Ukraine totaling $200 million.

The front line

Multiple Russian pro-war Telegram channels and “patriotic military correspondents” (1, 2) have reported the loss of Urozhaine, a community on the Vremevsky Bulge in Zaporizhzhia. Ukrainian open-source intelligence (OSINT) project DeepState provided geolocation for the video of Russian troops retreating under fire to the village of Zavitne Bazhannia to the south.

Vostok Battalion

The Vostok Battalion emerged in May 2014 as a separatist military unit within the so-called “DPR,” originating from Alexander Khodakovsky's “Patriotic Forces of Donbas” movement. It currently constitutes the 114th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade of the Russian Armed Forces.

Russia’s Vostok Battalion wrote in its Telegram channel on August 12:

“The enemy has outplayed us: we're about to lose Urozhaine. We withstood the onslaught for several days, but something went wrong. We're still weathering the storm, but the situation is not in our favor. Today the enemy already tried to install their flag on the village council building, but after an enemy vehicle ran into a mine and others were repulsed by our artillery, they retreated. Their return is a matter of time, though.”

According to Voin DV, a Telegram channel dedicated to the activities of Russia's Far Eastern troops, the occupiers have indeed ceded Urozhaine, with their retreat covered by Pacific marines (40th and 155th Separate Marine Brigades).

“Military correspondent” Vladimir Romanov argues that Russia failed to keep a foothold in Urozhaine due to the lack of counterbattery capabilities in the area and warns about the possible need to give up Zavitne Bazhannia with a subsequent retreat for another eight kilometers.

The developments in Urozhaine triggered an acute (although so far verbal) conflict in Russia's pro-war community.

The Voyenny Osvedomitel (“Military Informer”) Telegram channel placed the blame for the retreat on the 36th Combined Arms Army – specifically, on its 37th Separate Motorized Rifle Brigade. According to the channel, “half of the brigade was busy boozing in the rear, and officers couldn’t bring them back to their senses”, while Kaskad (“DPR Police” joint combat group) and the 40th Marine Brigade had to bear the brunt of the fighting.

In response, Voin DV and another “military correspondent,” Alexander Garmaev, slammed the channel, accusing it of “slandering certain units” and “whitewashing the marines”. Voyenny Osvedomitel countered the allegations with a detailed account of the 36th Army's drawbacks and failures.

Russian commander and military blogger Alexander Khodakovsky blames the command for losing Urozhaine, believing the lack of reinforcement was central to Russia's defeat. He also urges to give credit to the local spetznaz and “DPR” troops, saying it’s unfair to focus on the regular army alone.

Ukrainian military observer Konstantin Mashovets details how the AFU vanguard is advancing to the east and west of Robotyne. As he reports, Ukrainian troops used the last two days to expand the area of contact with Russia's main line of defense (in the vicinity of Verbove), advancing some two kilometers to the west of the line. As a result, the total area of contact between the AFU vanguard units and the main line of the enemy's defense has reached four square kilometers.

Vostok Battalion

The Vostok Battalion emerged in May 2014 as a separatist military unit within the so-called “DPR,” originating from Alexander Khodakovsky's “Patriotic Forces of Donbas” movement. It currently constitutes the 114th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade of the Russian Armed Forces.

Situation in the Robotyne area according to Def Mon
Situation in the Robotyne area according to Def Mon

WarGonzo draws attention to the renewed use of Ukrainian armored vehicles near Robotyne, which signifies the crossing of Russian mine barriers. As the channel informs its readers, “Russian troops have found themselves in a tight spot, with the enemy incessantly attacking the outskirts of the settlement from the north and northeast following artillery strikes. Meanwhile, enemy units are also pushing toward Novoprokopivka along the forest strip, bypassing Robotyne. Finally, the AFU is advancing toward Verbove with artillery support.”

An audio recording that surfaced in multiple Russian media (1, 2) allegedly proves threats and abuse perpetrated against a serviceman from the 810th Brigade currently deployed in the vicinity of Robotyne.

As his fellow soldiers shared with the Ostorozhno Novosti channel, they “came under heavy fire” outside the town of Tokmak in Zaporizhzhia. They said they’d been left “without comms, potable water, or food”, with the command also failing to evacuate the wounded and the dead from the battlefield.

Finally, the company commander decided “to partially evacuate the unit” to save the remaining personnel. However, the soldiers subsequently received threats of “reprisals and assignment to penal battalions” for refusing to follow orders. According to them, their morale officer, Nikolai Botsman, gathered five wounded fighters who’d applied for medical examination and beat two of them. One of the five managed to make a recording that captured the moment when his victim passed out.

“What's with all the circus? Do you wanna know how far we can go? Let me tell you idiots a secret: we can take you out to the field and shoot you on the f*cking spot. We’ll just say you ran. You wanna check?” Botsman purportedly says on the tape,

As eyewitnesses recall, he then tried to force the beaten soldier to “carry a handgun”, “took him outside and handcuffed him to a tree”, and made others “dig a hole for him”.

The servicemen insist that the surviving few “are made to storm new positions under the threat of being transferred to penal battalions”, even though they are originally tasked with defense. They fear that the command may “court-martial them, shoot them down, or send them to the Storm Z units [Russian detachments made up of convicts]”.

Vystrel, a Telegram channel affiliated with Russian airborne troops, reports the expulsion of Ukrainian troops from the southern part of Klishchiivka, a village to the south of Bakhmut. The Ukrainians are making more extensive use of artillery than Russia and still hold the southwestern part of the village.

Vostok Battalion

The Vostok Battalion emerged in May 2014 as a separatist military unit within the so-called “DPR,” originating from Alexander Khodakovsky's “Patriotic Forces of Donbas” movement. It currently constitutes the 114th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade of the Russian Armed Forces.

The situation in Klishchiivka according to the “Vystrel” Telegram channel
The situation in Klishchiivka according to the “Vystrel” Telegram channel

However, Maxim Zhorin, the deputy commander of the Ukrainian 3rd Assault Brigade, asserts that the Russian paratroopers’ assault was derailed thanks to Ukrainian artillery. This sector also provided a video of the seemingly successful Russian tank attack in the vicinity of Klishchiivka and images of destroyed Russian vehicles outside neighboring Andriivka. As DeepState points out, the presence of T-90M tanks and BMP-3 armored infantry vehicles may indicate Russia's engagement of additional reserves in the area.

British military intelligence reports the redeployment of Russian airborne units from the Kherson sector to the vicinity of Orikhiv in Zaporizhzhia – a new area of intense hostilities.

The current intelligence suggests that Russia’s 70th and 71st Motorized Rifle Regiments sustained severe losses in heavy combat. “There is a realistic possibility that the arrival of [the airborne units] will allow elements of these regiments to be pulled out for rest and recovery,” intelligence officers say. They point out, however, that the repositioning of Russian troops will weaken Russian defense along the Dnipro's left bank, which is increasingly susceptible to Ukrainian landing force attacks.

Shelling and sabotage

A missile attack on the Crimean bridge occurred in the afternoon on August 12, with the Russia-installed “head” of Crimea Sergey Aksenov reporting (1, 2) the interception of a total of three missiles in the area of the Kerch Strait.

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, at 13:00 and 15:00 Moscow time, two S-200 anti-aircraft guided missiles were shot down in the air during an attempted strike on the bridge.

Numerous photo and video recordings (1, 2, 3) confirmed the use of anti-missile smokescreens at the site of the attack.

Vostok Battalion

The Vostok Battalion emerged in May 2014 as a separatist military unit within the so-called “DPR,” originating from Alexander Khodakovsky's “Patriotic Forces of Donbas” movement. It currently constitutes the 114th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade of the Russian Armed Forces.

Meanwhile, the occupation authorities in Crimea announced their intention to increase penalties for documenting Russian military installations and the aftermath of Ukrainian assaults. Aksyonov mentioned that this pertains to the sharing of images and videos depicting the whereabouts and functioning of military and strategic sites, air defense systems, and other protective mechanisms, along with showcasing “the results of terrorist attacks committed by the Kyiv regime” on various social media platforms, online chats, and messaging apps.

Russians currently potentially face charges related to high treason or espionage for gathering information about military facility locations and operations. These videos are frequently exposed on social networks by the pro-war channel Krymskiy SMERSH, which usually reveals the video creators' personal details and coerces them into issuing apologies on camera.

The Main Intelligence Directorate (HUR) of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry released footage of the use of maritime drones in the waters of the Black Sea.

Vostok Battalion

The Vostok Battalion emerged in May 2014 as a separatist military unit within the so-called “DPR,” originating from Alexander Khodakovsky's “Patriotic Forces of Donbas” movement. It currently constitutes the 114th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade of the Russian Armed Forces.

The video appears to show attacks on the reconnaissance ships Pryazovie (June 11) and Ivan Khurs (May 24), as well as the patrol ships Vasyl Bykov and Sergey Kotov (August 1).

The Air Force Command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) reported that Russian forces initiated an attack on Odesa on the night of August 14. The attack involved a total of 15 Shahed drones and 8 Kalibr cruise missiles, all of which were successfully intercepted and neutralized by Ukraine's air defense systems. Despite the success, the drones and missiles had to be shot down over residential areas, according to a statement by Natalia Humeniuk, spokeswoman for the Ukrainian military's Operational Command South. The intercepted ordnance struck a dormitory, an apartment complex, and a supermarket, with the latter sustaining so much damage it could not be rebuilt.

Sources within the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, as quoted by The Guardian, recently claimed that the increase in drone attacks on Moscow has two main goals: to make Ukrainians feel better about their efforts in the counteroffensive, and to make Russians doubt Putin's ability to keep them safe.

Losses

The high-profile story of the disappearance of Major Yuri Tomov, commander of Russia’s 1822nd Battalion, has finally come to light. The commander disappeared with a 16-man Russian reconnaissance team after a Ukrainian landing on August 8 on the left bank of the Dnipro River near the village of Kozachi Laheri. Five days after Tomov's disappearance, the well-known Ukrainian Telegram channel Mykolaivskyi Vanyok published a video of his interrogation.

Vostok Battalion

The Vostok Battalion emerged in May 2014 as a separatist military unit within the so-called “DPR,” originating from Alexander Khodakovsky's “Patriotic Forces of Donbas” movement. It currently constitutes the 114th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade of the Russian Armed Forces.

According to the channel’s author, Tomov evaluated his own battalion's training as “very poor.” However, it is nevertheless crucial to approach the statements from prisoners on both sides with great care — a sentiment echoed by Ukrainian marine Aiden Aslin, who spoke from his own firsthand experience of being in captivity.

Russian pro-war activists criticized Tomov after the publication of the video of the interrogation, hinting that he had been better off not surrendering alive (1, 2).

The Russian Defense Ministry has released a video showing the targeting and striking of a Ukrainian S-300 air defense system in the Mykolaiv Region from a distance of approximately 50 kilometers away from the front line.

A video has emerged online depicting the destruction of a Russian UR-77 demining vehicle, seemingly abandoned, near Marinka in Ukraine's Donetsk Region. The vehicle carries a significant payload, weighing at least 665 kilograms, intended for clearing pathways through minefields. This is likely what detonated when a drone-released grenade fell into the vehicle's hatch. The skilled operator can be observed swiftly maneuvering the drone away shortly before the explosion, highlighting the potentially catastrophic impact of such powerful blasts on drones.

A researcher using the pseudonym Naalsio recently updated his calculation of vehicle losses suffered by both the Ukrainian and the Russian Armed Forces in the Zaporizhzhia direction.

As of August 11, 2023, the tally of losses for Ukrainian military equipment and weaponry during the counteroffensive stood at 322 units, while 313 units were lost on the Russian side. Over the past week, confirmed losses amounted to 12 units for Ukraine and 14 for Russia.

Vostok Battalion

The Vostok Battalion emerged in May 2014 as a separatist military unit within the so-called “DPR,” originating from Alexander Khodakovsky's “Patriotic Forces of Donbas” movement. It currently constitutes the 114th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade of the Russian Armed Forces.

Arms supplies

The United States unveiled a fresh military aid package worth $200 million for Ukraine, sanctioned through the Presidential Drawdown Authority for Military Assistance (PDA), including:

  • Additional missiles for Patriot SAMs;
  • Additional rockets for HIMARS MLRS;
  • Mine clearance equipment;
  • 155mm and 105mm artillery rounds;
  • 120mm tank rounds;
  • TOW, Javelin, other anti-tank weapons and their ammunition;
  • 37 tractors;
  • 58 water tankers;
  • Over 12 million rounds of small arms ammunition;
  • Demolition equipment;
  • Spare parts, tools and other field equipment.

The Wall Street Journal published a story about unsuccessful US attempts to persuade Egypt to start supplying arms and military equipment to Ukraine.

Earlier, due to pressure from the United States, Egypt agreed to refrain from providing weapons to Russia. However, the country has not yet committed to supplying ammunition to Kyiv. In March, during a meeting in Cairo with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin requested assistance for Ukraine, and left without a definite response. Since then, senior US officials have brought up the matter on multiple occasions. The United States has formally asked Egypt to supply Ukraine with artillery shells, anti-tank missiles, air defense systems, and small arms. While engaging in talks with the US, Egypt has not rejected these appeals outright — however, behind closed doors, Egyptian authorities have conveyed that they do not currently intend to supply weapons to Ukraine.

Another report from The Wall Street Journal discussed Western plans for the upcoming year. The article suggests that Kyiv’s partners understand that the effort to regain control of occupied areas will require more time and that significant progress may not be achievable before the end of 2023.

When Kyiv’s counteroffensive began in the spring, some were hopeful that Ukrainian forces could replicate the previous year’s success by defeating Russian troops. However, the initial attempt to use Western tanks and armored vehicles to breach Russian defense lines stalled, with subsequent progress notably sluggish. The Ukrainians have had to adapt their tactics in response to the slowdown, reverting to operating in smaller units once again.

Western hopes that a Ukrainian counteroffensive could weaken Russian forces enough to bring President Vladimir Putin to the negotiating table as early as this winter have not materialized. Instead, Russia is strengthening defense lines in Ukraine by increasing troop numbers and ramping up production of ammunition and weapons. The West is also spinning up its military industry, and the prospect of a protracted war of attrition looms.

An up-armored variant of the Tigr-M infantry mobility vehicle was unveiled during Russia's Army-2023 exhibition on August 14. The developers dubbed the model “Mad Max,” drawing inspiration from the distinctive vehicles depicted in the eponymous movie.

In our opinion, the modified Tigr-M bears a stronger resemblance to the armored vehicles used for suicide missions by the Islamic State, where driver visibility was similarly sacrificed in favor of enhanced protection.

Vostok Battalion

The Vostok Battalion emerged in May 2014 as a separatist military unit within the so-called “DPR,” originating from Alexander Khodakovsky's “Patriotic Forces of Donbas” movement. It currently constitutes the 114th Independent Motorized Rifle Brigade of the Russian Armed Forces.

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