Key developments on Oct. 7
- Ukraine liberates over 2,400 square kilometers in Kherson Oblast since late August
- Ukraine liberates 776 square kilometers in the east this week
- Biden warns highest nuclear risk since 1962
- Death toll of Russian strike on Zaporizhzhia rises to 14
Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s 70th birthday on Oct. 7 is hardly happy: Ukrainian forces keep advancing in the country’s east and south, while public criticism against the military commandment is mounting in Russia.
While Russian elites are not exactly urging the Kremlin to end its war in Ukraine, discontent among supporters of the invasion is growing.
A member of the Kremlin’s inner circle has directly confronted Putin in recent weeks with disagreements over the war, the Washington Post reported on Oct. 7, citing information obtained by U.S. intelligence.
According to the report, the insider shared discontent over Putin’s mismanagement of the war and mistakes being made by those in charge of the military campaign. The identity of the insider was not revealed in the report.
Earlier, high-profile Russian military bloggers and television propagandists like Vladimir Soloviev have acknowledged that things were going badly in the military and that the commandment must be held responsible.
After months without battlefield progress and Ukraine’s successful counteroffensive in September, Putin was forced to order what he called a “partial mobilization” of 300,000 reservist forces on Sept. 21.
Mounting domestic criticism over the mobilization is likely driving Putin to blame Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu for humiliating defeats in Ukraine, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said on Oct. 5.
Putin has also repeatedly hinted at the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine, including a recent comment where he vowed to defend Russian territory, as well as four Ukrainian regions he illegally declared annexed, with all available means.
And on Oct. 7, U.S. President Joe Biden warned that the world is at the highest risk of nuclear “Armageddon” since the Cold War’s Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.
In an unusually blunt statement, Biden emphasized that Putin is “not joking” about the “potential use of tactical nuclear weapons or biological or chemical weapons because his military is, you might say, significantly underperforming.”
“We have a direct threat of the use of nuclear weapons if in fact things continue down the path they are going,” Biden said at a New York fundraiser.
In the southern Kherson Oblast, Ukrainian forces have liberated over 2,400 square kilometers of land that Russia had taken since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, Deputy Head of the President’s Office Kyrylo Tymoshenko reported on Oct. 7.
This includes 29 settlements recaptured since the beginning of October, according to southern military command spokeswoman Natalia Humeniuk.
Without disclosing the names of settlements liberated so far, Humeniuk reported that the Ukrainians are focusing on securing the recent gains on the battlefield while advancing along the western side of the Dnipro River. The eastern side is still held by Russian troops.
In the east, President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Ukraine had liberated 776 square kilometers of land, including 29 settlements (six in Luhansk Oblast), this week.
A territorial defense battalion also said that it had recaptured the village of Makiivka in Luhansk Oblast, mostly held by Russia. It sits at a halfway point between the occupied towns of Kreminna and Svatove toward which Ukrainian forces are reportedly advancing.
On Oct. 7, the Ukrainian military repelled attacks near 13 settlements, mostly in eastern Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine’s General Staff reported.
Russian military’s degrading morale
The Russian military is facing morale problems.
Russians are paying off military enlistment offices, faking illness, and intentionally injuring themselves, trying to avoid the draft at all costs, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar reported, citing the findings of Ukraine’s intelligence.
“The partial mobilization announced in Russia revealed the real attitude of the population to the military adventures of the criminal leadership of the aggressor country,” Malyar said.
Malyar added that the newly mobilized conscripts are being immediately sent to the front line without adequate training, often being forced to buy equipment at their own expense.
A large number of conscripts is being sent to Luhansk Oblast but some were already captured by Ukrainian forces, Kirill Mikhailov, a Kyiv-based analyst with the Conflict Intelligence Team, a Russian military research group, told Russian media outlet Meduza on Oct. 6.
Morale is also plummeting among the Wagner group, a private military company made up of at least 5,000 mercenaries and run by Putin’s close ally, CNN reported.
Casualties and attacks
Russian forces launched two missile strikes and five airstrikes across Ukraine on Oct. 7, according to Ukraine’s General Staff.
The death toll of the Russian missile strike on residential blocks in Zaporizhzhia rose to 14, Secretary of the Zaporizhzhia City Council Anatoliy Kurtev said on Oct. 7, a day after the attack.
Hours before his latest report came out, Kurtev said that at least 15 people were still missing as of 7 a.m. local time and emergency workers were scrambling through the rubble. The Oct. 6 strike destroyed the middle section of a five-story apartment block in the southeastern city.
The night of the tragedy, Russian forces used Iranian Shahed-136 kamikaze drones for the first time to attack Zaporizhzhia, destroying two undisclosed civilian infrastructure sites, according to the regional military administration.
In Donetsk Oblast, Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko reported on Oct. 7 that two people were killed and seven were wounded over the past day.
Kyrylenko also said that there are two mass burial sites in the recently liberated city of Lyman, one of which contains about 200 bodies. Bodies of both civilians and military personnel are believed to be buried there. The exhumation process has begun.
Every 10th building is “completely destroyed” in Lyman, Kyrylenko said.
In Kharkiv Oblast, 534 bodies of civilians, including 19 children, have been found in the liberated territories, said Serhii Bolvinov, head of Kharkiv Oblast police's investigative department. The number includes those found at Izium’s mass burial site.