Date: 28 September 2023 Author: Grzegorz Kuczyński

Ukraine Advances Around Bakhmut, Continues Heavy Fighting In Zaporizhzhia Region

In early September, Ukrainian forces decisively breached Russia’s first defensive line in Zaporizhzhia region. The fighting also continues in the direction of Bakhmut where Ukrainian troops––slowly albeit steadily––seize areas south of the city.


Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrskyi, the commander of Ukraine’s ground forces, on September 17 confirmed the recapture of the key village of Klishchiyivka near Bakhmut. Two days before Kyiv announced its forces had recaptured Andriyivka, a village south of Bakhmut. The recapture of Klishchiivka, located on higher ground near the destroyed town of Bakhmut, was an important breakthrough. These settlements were important elements in the enemy’s defensive line which stretched from Bakhmut to Horlivka. If Ukrainian troops spread Russian forces thin and break the supply line, only one route between Bakhmut and Popasna will remain. Ukraine’s strategy appears to flank Bakhmut and break Russian supply routes to make the enemy’s units retreat without bloodshed. Ukraine has made substantial gains on the southern flank, but its forces are struggling north of Bakhmut where Russia has a robust supply route running towards Popasna. “In the fighting in the Bakhmut section, some of the enemy’s best units have been crushed and have completely lost their combat power,” Syrskyi said in a statement. The Russian units in question were the 72nd Motor Rifle Brigade as well as the 31st and 83rd Air Assault Brigades. Russia concentrated 52,000 troops in the area near Bakhmut, an Eastern Force Grouping press officer reported back on September 17. Also, Moscow massed 150,000 personnel and some 100 tanks in eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian forces have penetrated Russian defenses along part of the southern front lines near the village of Robotyne in Zaporizhzhia region. As Ukraine began making small gains along the front line, Russia moved some units of its 83rd Air Assault Brigade. Those were involved in heavy fighting around Klishchiivka only on September 11. Fighting intensified in mid-September to recapture the two small settlements of Robotyne and Verbove. Ukraine said on August 28 that its troops had liberated the southeastern settlement of Robotyne. The village is on an important road towards Tokmak, a Russian-occupied road and rail hub, Melitopol, and the border with Crimea. In recent days, Russian forces have likely reinforced their defenses around the occupied town of Tokmak in southern Ukraine, which is approximately 16 km behind the current front line. Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley said on September 10 that Ukraine likely had about 30 days for the counteroffensive before the weather worsened on the ground. However, Ukraine’s military intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov argued that Ukraine planned to continue the counteroffensive no matter the weather conditions. Moscow has deployed inexperienced volunteer troops and military reservists to the eastern part of the Kherson province in southern Ukraine. Better trained soldiers have been moved to Zaporizhzhia region. Ukrainian troops still control two strongholds in the Russian-occupied region of Kherson––near the Antonivka bridge around Kherson and in the areas northwest of Pidstepne.

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