Key developments on Oct. 28-29:
- Umerov: Russia has lost 4,000 soldiers in battle for Avdiivka
- UK Defense Ministry: Russian forces in Avdiivka likely suffer some of the highest casualty rates in 2023
- Drone strikes reported in Russia, occupied Crimea
- Kherson Oblast attacked with 32 guided bombs, artillery
- ISW: Russia’s special forces commander confirms Rosgvardia recruits former Wagner fighters into Chechen battalion
- Military: Russian troops arrive in Belarus to train local drone operators.
Russian losses in Avdiivka amount to approximately 4,000, Defense Minister Rustem Umerov said on Oct. 28 in a phone call with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Ukraine's Ministry of Defense reported.
The previous day, President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Russia had lost at least a brigade trying to capture the embattled city of Avdiivka, located in Donetsk Oblast, on the outskirts of the city of Donetsk.
A brigade in the Russian army can include between 2,000 and 8,000 personnel, according to open sources.
Russia has been intensifying its attacks against Avdiivka for several weeks. Moscow has reportedly thrown in extensive force in an effort to encircle the town, suffering heavy losses in manpower and equipment in the process.
Russia has likely committed parts of at least eight brigades in the fight to capture Avdiivka, and the forces operating there have likely suffered some of Russia's worst casualty rates in 2023, the U.K. Defense Ministry reported on Oct. 28.
The U.K. Defense Ministry also noted that Russian milbloggers (typically nationalist, pro-war bloggers) have been "harshly critical of the military's tactics in the operation."
Russian milbloggers have previously gained attention for castigating Russia's poor performance on the battlefield and seeming inability to defend Russian territory from Ukrainian attacks.
It represents an increasing dilemma, the U.K. Defense Ministry emphasized, as "political leaders demand more territory to be seized, but the military cannot generate effective operational level offensive action."
Drone strikes reported in Russia, Crimea
An explosive drone struck the Afipsky oil refinery in Russia's Krasnodarsk Krai at 3:24 a.m. on Oct. 29, Russian Telegram channel Baza reported, adding that a fire broke out at the facility following the strike.
According to Baza, there were no casualties. The refinery’s headquarters reportedly said that the fire was localized and contained within 30 minutes.
As with many similar smaller strikes on Russian territory, Ukraine has not claimed responsibility.
Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Ministry claimed it had shot down 36 fixed-wing drones over the Black Sea and Crimea overnight on Oct. 29.
There have been reports of explosions near Chornomorske in Russian-occupied Crimea, the Telegram channel Crimean Wind reported late on Oct. 28.
Near the city of Yevpatoria in western Crimea, eyewitnesses have reported sightings of drones.
Reports of explosions in occupied Crimea continue to surface regularly, with the Russian Defense Ministry attributing them to Ukrainian attacks.
Starting in the summer of 2023, there has been a notable escalation in assaults targeting Russian military installations throughout occupied Crimea.
Kherson Oblast attacked with 32 guided bombs, artillery
The Russian air force dropped 32 guided bombs on Kherson Oblast early on the morning of Oct. 29, southern forces spokesperson Natalia Humeniuk said on national television.
Humeniuk said that the Ukraine-controlled western riverbank was hit, and there were casualties, though she didn't say how many.
Meanwhile, a Russian artillery attack on the village of Novoberyslav in Kherson Oblast killed a 46-year-old man, Governor Oleksandr Prokudin reported on Oct. 29.
"Unfortunately, it was not possible to save the man's life," Prokudin said in a Facebook post, expressing his condolences to the victim's family. "The injuries were too severe, and he died in the hospital."
Novoberyslav is located across the Dnipro River from Russian-occupied Kakhovka and roughly 80 kilometers northeast of Kherson.
Two civilians were also wounded in a Russian artillery strike against the city of Kherson, the regional military administration reported on Oct. 29.
One of the victims, a 43-year-old woman who received a shrapnel injury, was reportedly hospitalized following the attack.
Ever since Ukrainian forces liberated the west bank of the Dnipro River in Kherson Oblast in the fall of 2022, Russian troops have intensified deadly attacks from across the river.
ISW: Russia’s special forces commander confirms Rosgvardia recruits former Wagner fighters into Chechen battalion
Former Wagner Group mercenaries are joining Chechnya’s Akhmat battalion and heading to the war in Ukraine, Akhmat Battalion Commander Apti Alaudinov confirmed in an Oct. 28 interview, the Institute for the Study of War said in their latest report.
Alaudinov said that a “massive” number of Wagner soldiers have joined various detachments of the Akhmat forces and are operating in several unspecified sectors of the front in Ukraine.
Alaudinov claimed that former Wagner soldiers follow their former commanders to the Chechen Akhmat units.
Alaudinov noted that Wagner fighters have “always spoken very respectfully about [‘Akhmat’],” likely in an attempt to stifle discussions of possible tension between the Wagner and Chechen forces after the feud between deceased Wagner Group financier Yevgeny Prigozhin and Chechen Republic Head Ramzan Kadyrov.
The ISW continues to assess that former Wagner forces fragmented between the Russian Ministry of Defense and Rosgvardia Chechen units across various sectors of the front are unlikely to reemerge as an effective military organization.
The ISW believes that those fragmented forces "will lack the strength Wagner had drawn from being a unitary organization under clear and coherent leadership."
Military: Russian troops arrive in Belarus to train local drone operators
Russian military instructors are arriving in Belarus to train Belarusian forces, Ukraine’s military National Resistance Center reported on Oct. 28.
Citing Belarusian underground sources, the Ukrainian military said that Russian specialists are arriving at the military base in Byaroza, Brest region in western Belarus.
According to the report, the instructors use Russian fixed-wing reconnaissance drones like Supercam S100, S150, and S350.
The National Resistance Center also alleged that Russian forces would likely continue recruiting Belarusians to fight in Ukraine alongside Russian troops.
Earlier on Oct. 10, the center reported that Russian and Belarusian special forces planned a false flag attack on Belarusian territory that they intended to blame Ukraine for.
The center alleged that the plot involves a drone dropping munitions on an oil depot in the town of Pryluki, by the Polish-Belarusian border, a move likely aimed at increasing support for Russia's war in Belarus.
The Kyiv Independent can't verify such claims.