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ISW: Ukrainian advances in Zaporizhzhia Oblast prompt Russian defensive focus

by Olena Goncharova September 17, 2023 5:49 AM 2 min read
Ukrainian soldiers of the infantry unit from the Territorial Defense Unit (TRO) 62nd Battalion of the 103rd Brigade go to their positions for a mission with a military vehicle in Zaporizhzhia Oblast on Aug. 23, 2023. (Photo by Andre Alves/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
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Russian volunteer battalions "Storm Ossetia" and "Alania" which are operating in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast, shared a photo on Sept. 16, allegedly depicting a small unit from the Russian 83rd Separate Guards Air Assault Brigade stationed in Nesteryanka, some 57 kilometers southeast from Zaporizhzhia and near the current Ukrainian breach.

Elements of the 83rd Brigade had previously been deployed to counter Ukrainian offensives around Klishchiivka in late June and were observed in combat in late August, the Institute for the Study of War said in its latest update. Some elements of the 83rd Brigade were reportedly still active in the Bakhmut area as of Sept. 11, suggesting Russia's concern regarding Ukrainian advances in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast.

The ISW has previously assessed that Ukrainian counteroffensive operations would compel the Russian command to prioritize specific front sectors and conduct lateral redeployments. These operations have engaged elite Russian units, including the 98th Air Assault Division, the 83rd Air Assault Brigade, the 11th Air Assault Brigade, the 31st Air Assault Brigade, the 106th Air Assault Division, and the 364th Special Force Brigade.

These formations, however, have not yet been redirected to bolster the defense in Zaporizhzhia, partly due to ongoing Ukrainian actions around Bakhmut.

Ukrainian counteroffensive efforts have effectively immobilized these elite Russian units within the Bakhmut area, preventing their large-scale relocation to the western Zaporizhzhia Oblast defensive front.

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