The Ukrainian army is preparing for a decisive blow before winter. The course of the war in 2023 depends on it. We analyze the situation on the 230th day of the full-scale invasion — with maps

Oleksiy Yarmolenko
Tetyana Lohvynenko
The Ukrainian army is preparing for a decisive blow before winter. The course of the war in 2023 depends on it. We analyze the situation on the 230th day of the full-scale invasion — with maps

Ukrainian artillery works on Russian positions in Donbas, October 10, 2022.

Getty Images / «Babel'»

The Ukrainian army continues its offensive in the northeast of Ukraine, liberating the city of Lyman in the Donetsk region and almost the entire Kharkiv region, and has begun the deoccupation of the Luhansk region. In the Kherson region, the Defense Forces of Ukraine also struck at the Russians and broke through the front, liberating more than a thousand square kilometers of the right bank of the Kherson region and forcing the occupiers to retreat to new frontiers. In the near future, we should expect another large-scale offensive by the Ukrainian army — it will probably be the last this year and will have a serious impact on the course of the war in 2023.

Ten days have passed since Russia annexed four Ukrainian regions: Kherson, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk and Luhansk regions. During this time, the Russians legally completed the process from the point of view of their legislation, although Putin himself solemnly reported on the annexation on September 30. Nothing has changed since then — the very next day, the Ukrainian army liberated the city of Lyman in the Donetsk region, which had been part of Russia for less than a day. The annexation of Ukrainian regions did not stop the counteroffensive of the Defense Forces of Ukraine, which continue to liberate the Kharkiv, Luhansk, and Kherson regions. The West announces new arms deliveries to Ukraine. And nuclear threats from Putin remain just threats.

Moreover, it isnʼt known exactly where, according to Russia itself, its "state border" now passes. With Donetsk and Luhansk regions, everything is more or less clear — the border lies according to the administrative boundaries of the regions in which Putin recognized the so-called “L/DPR”. As for the Kherson region and Zaporizhzhia region, no one gives exact answers. In response to a direct question about borders, Putinʼs spokesman Dmitriy Peskov said that the occupiers would continue to “consult with the local population” about administrative borders.

So, Russia has annexed four Ukrainian regions but does not fully control any of them and is losing territory almost every day. This proves that during the active phase of the war, the actual “border” is the frontline, which is constantly changing. And no “documents” issued in Moscow can freeze this.

Mobilization continues in Russia. Some regions have already managed to report on the implementation of the plan and its completion. According to the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, more than 200,000 men were mobilized throughout Russia. However, Ukrainian intelligence doubts this number and tells a different number — a little more than 100 thousand. Despite this, videos continue to appear on social media showing how the Russian Federation mobilizes those unfit for military service, and the mobilized themselves receive old equipment, weapons, and clothes, live in barracks or even in the field, and some are immediately thrown to the front without training.

The entire process of mobilization was actively criticized both by the Russian state media and pro-Russian Telegram channels. A massive campaign of criticism of the Ministry of Defense and the General Staff began in the Russian information space. The head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, and the founder of Wagner private military company Evgeniy Prigozhin, also joined it.

Personnel reshuffles in the Russian army can be called an attempt to respond to criticism due to mobilization and failures at the front. The commanders of some districts were changed, and a new head of all Russian troops in Ukraine, general Sergei Surovikin, was appointed. Previously, he led the military and space forces of Russia and in 2017 — the Russian military group in Syria. This is not the first attempt by the Russians to appoint a single commander of their entire army in Ukraine — in the spring, General Dvornikov was appointed to this position, and they stopped mentioning him after a few weeks. Probably, something similar will happen this time as well because the change of commanders wonʼt solve the fundamental problems that the Russian army is currently facing. And these are the lack of motivation, lack of personnel, poor coordination between different branches and types of troops, and centralized decision-making.

Kharkiv region

For the past ten days, the Ukrainian army has been gradually expanding its three bridgeheads on the left bank of the Oskil river in order to connect them. At least two have already succeeded in this: the Ukrainian military from the villages of Yatskivka and Rubtsi moved north and from Kupyansk town — to the south. The Defense Forces of Ukraine liberated the largest settlement in the Kharkiv region which was occupied yet — Borova — and connected the two bridgeheads. There is no information about the advance of Ukrainian troops on the bridgehead near Dvorichna village, the situation there is unknown.

So, the Ukrainian army almost completely liberated the Kharkiv region. As of the beginning of September, Russia occupied about 33% of the entire Kharkiv region, and now itʼs not more than 5%. Even on the maps of the Russian Ministry of Defense, it is indicated that the occupiers control only a small part of the territories on the left bank of the Oskil, which is tangent to the border with the Russian Federation. There is a border crossing point “Pisky-Logachivka”.

The Kharkiv region was the only territory from which the Russians could withdraw without serious strategic losses. The occupation of the Kharkiv region, especially the Izyum district, was necessary for the occupiers to create a flanking threat to the grouping of Ukrainian troops in Donbas or potentially even the encirclement. In addition, through the Kupyansk and Izyum railways, they could supply their troops from the city of Izyum all the way to the city of Sievierodonetsk, Luhansk region. However, when the occupiers realized that they did not have the strength to surround Ukrainians, there was no point in staying there. The fact that the Kharkiv region became the last occupied territory where the Russians created their administrations and “governments” is cursory evidence of this — this happened only in August.

It is likely that soon the Kharkiv region will disappear from our surveys, and the hostilities in the northeast of Ukraine will completely move to the Luhansk region.



After the Defense Forces of Ukraine took Lyman into operational encirclement on October 1, the Russian troops completely left the city. They fought their way out of it, and many of the occupiers couldnʼt get out — along the roads around the city, journalists saw many corpses of Russian soldiers and burned equipment.

From Lyman, the occupiers moved to the city of Kreminna, which is already in the Luhansk region, and are preparing it for defense, because the Ukrainian army has actually reached its outskirts. And from several sides at once.

To the northeast of Lyman, Ukrainian troops crossed the administrative borders of the Luhansk region and began to de-occupy it. The head of regional military administration, Serhiy Haidai, says about the seven freed settlements, all of them are located in the Svatove district.

After taking Lyman, the Defense Forces of Ukraine regroup and pull up logistics, command posts, and artillery. Obviously, they will continue to advance along the line between the cities of Svatove and Kreminna. Russians have been posting photos and videos on their Telegram channels for the past ten days, showing how they are preparing for the defense of cities, and local residents are leaving them en masse due to the threat of hostilities.

It is likely that the Ukrainian military will attack these cities as usual — they will try to surround them from all sides and force the occupiers to leave them or find themselves surrounded. This tactic allows not to engage in urban battles and not to cause serious destruction to cities. If Svatove is liberated, the Defense Forces of Ukraine can advance further on the city of Starobilsk and cut the last railway line in the north of the Luhansk region, which the Russians can use to transfer their troops. And the liberation of Kreminna will open the way for the Ukrainian army to the cities of Rubizhne, Sievierodonetsk, and Lysychansk.

The situation around the city of Bakhmut is extremely difficult. Even President Zelensky confirmed that the Russians have significantly increased pressure in this direction. And if in the northeast of the city, in the area of Soledar, the occupiers continue to be restrained, then on the southern side, they were able to make some progress. Most likely, the Russians captured the villages of Vesela Dolyna and Zaitseve and came close to the Bakhmut-Horlivka road. This will allow the Russians to start fighting for the villages of Opytne and Ivanhorod, which are on the southern outskirts of Bakhmut. The fate of another village of Zaitseve, located near the former checkpoint “Mayorsk”, is still unknown.

The aspirations of the Russians are obvious: to try to surround Bakhmut from several sides in order to launch an assault. While they approached the city from the east and are trying to do it from the south and north as well.

There are no significant changes on the western outskirts of Donetsk, where the occupiers are trying to advance. All their attacks are successfully repelled by the Ukrainian military. The only thing the Russians made progress in was capturing the first buildings in the village of Pervomaiske, just beyond Pisky.

On the line from the city of Vuhledar to the village of Velyka Novosilka, there are no changes on the front; the Russians have also abandoned attempts to attack there.



Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions

On the frontline in the Zaporizhzhia region, no significant events have taken place since the spring. It actually froze, just artillery duels continue along it. Neither Ukraine nor Russia resorts to serious attacks in this direction.

Probably the only actual consequence of the annexation of these regions was that Russia legally seized the Zaporizhzhia NPP. Or rather, it “officially” decided that the Zaporizhzhia NPP became a Russian state enterprise. Putin even issued a corresponding “decree” about it. This means that in the near future, most likely, Russia will stop supplying energy from the ZNPP to the territory controlled by Ukraine and switch it to work for Russia.

The International Atomic Energy Agency does not recognize Zaporizhzhia NPP as the property of Russia. The occupiers even kidnapped the director of the station, Ihor Murashov, released him in a few days, and in fact, expelled him to the territory controlled by Ukraine. Petro Kotin, the head of Ukrainian Energoatom, took over the duties of the director of the ZNPP — the plant will now be managed directly from Kyiv. In addition to the director, the Russians also stole the seal of Zaporizhzhia NPP with the right to sign documents. In response to this, Kotin quickly issued an order declaring it invalid.

The head of the IAEA, Raphael Grossi, will visit Ukraine and Russia again this week. He will discuss the creation of a security zone around the ZNPP, although it can be predicted that the Russians will not agree to this because they already consider it their property.

The fighting in the Kherson region has intensified significantly — on its right bank, where the Russian garrison has been defending itself against the counteroffensive of the Ukrainian army for more than a month. All this time, the Defense Forces of Ukraine constantly hit the crossings across the Dnipro, and because of this, it is much more difficult for the Russians to bring in reinforcements and ammunition.

Since August 29, the Ukrainian military has achieved certain successes and liberated several villages in the north of the Kherson region and on the left bank of the Inhulets River. On the left bank, they also wedged themselves shallowly into the orders of the Russian defense. But on October 2, the Ukrainian army managed to make a serious breakthrough, which collapsed part of the occupantsʼ front and forced them to withdraw to another line of defense. Defense forces of Ukraine broke through along the right bank of the Dnipro from the village of Osokorivka. In one or two days, the Ukrainian army advanced approximately 25 kilometers to the village of Dudchany. This created a great flanking threat for the Russian troops in the north of the Kherson region, and they hastily abandoned their positions. The Ukrainian military liberated the villages of Arkhanhelske and Velyka Oleksandrivka, the village of Davydiv Brid, which was an important logistics center for the occupiers, as well as a number of other settlements. In total, since the beginning of October, Ukraine has recaptured more than 1,100 square kilometers in the Kherson region.

As usual, after serious breakthroughs by the Ukrainian troops, there is a period of regrouping. Defense forces are entrenched, clean the liberated settlements of the enemyʼs possibly remaining forces, and line up communications, command posts, and artillery for the next phase. It is likely that in the near future, the Ukrainian army will once again launch a large-scale offensive in this direction in order to reach the city of Beryslav and the Kakhovka HPP. Then the Russians will not be able to use its dam as one of the crossings across the Dnipro at all.

Active hostilities also continue to the west of Kherson. The Ukrainian army has not had much success here, but the Ukrainian Defense Forces actually approached the outskirts of the town of Snihurivka, Mykolaiv region. It is the largest settlement in the occupied part of the Mykolaiv region and an important logistics hub — the railway track and the highway to Kherson pass through the town. Even the Russians published a video with the gauleiter of Snihurivka, which confirmed the shooting battles on the outskirts of the town.




On October 8, an explosion occurred on the Crimean Bridge. It destroyed one lane of the road section and damaged the railway section. The explosion occurred when a fuel train was moving along the railway, so a large-scale fire broke out there. According to the Russian authorities, a truck transporting fertilizers exploded. Three of the road bridge fell, but the railway lane stood. Already at the end of the same day, the occupiers started the first trains and also opened a part of the road for cars. The carrying capacity of the bridge fell, so there were long queues on both sides of it.

The Russian authorities hastened to accuse the Ukrainian special services of the incident. Ukrainian mass media, citing their own sources, also confirm this information, although officially Ukraine does not take responsibility for what happened on the bridge.

The Crimean Bridge is an extremely important facility for the provision of Russian troops. Ammunition and reinforcements from the peninsula to the occupiers along the entire front from Kherson to Mariupol are delivered through it. As the railway is the basis of Russian logistics, only thanks to it they manage to quickly and cheaply deliver a large amount of equipment and ammunition to the frontline.

The railway bridge withstood the blast, so the Russians will continue to transport ammunition and equipment to the peninsula. In addition, the occupiers have been turning Crimea into a military base since 2014, and there are also enough reserves for conducting hostilities there. The explosion will have little effect on the course of the war, but psychologically and informationally, it hit the Russians and Putin personally, for whom this bridge is a symbol of his entire rule in Russia.

Supply of weapons

As always, at least one military aid package is announced by the US every ten days. This time it should arrive in Ukraine in the near future. The United States will provide Ukraine with four more HIMARS multiple-launch fire systems. The rest is standard: 16 howitzers of 155 mm and 105 mm caliber, ammunition for them, including high-precision ones, various mines and projectiles, as well as 200 more protected MaxxPro vehicles. The Ukrainian army uses such armored vehicles to quickly break into the rear of the Russians and suppress their firing points.

France promises to deliver from six to 12 self-propelled Caesar artillery systems. President Emmanuel Macron noted that negotiations with Denmark are currently ongoing; it ordered such self-propelled guns. The French want to give these self-propelled guns to Ukraine, and the Danes want to make new ones a little later.

In general, over the past ten days, many countries have announced the provision of new packages of military aid to Ukraine. These are the Czech Republic, Spain, Estonia, and other countries. They will transfer armored vehicles, small arms, ammunition, medical supplies, and much more.

Ukraine began to more actively ask its Western partners for air defense systems. All because the Russians are now massively using Iranian Shahed-136 drones to attack the infrastructure of Ukrainian cities. In addition, the Ukrainian authorities were concerned that during the cold weather, Russia would begin to attack critical infrastructure, in particular the power stations, and for their protection, modern air defense equipment is urgently needed.

Already on October 10, it became clear that Ukraine was right. That day, the Russians launched a massive missile attack on Ukrainian cities: Kyiv, Lviv, Dnipro, Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, and many others. They aimed mainly at objects of critical infrastructure, especially in the energy sector. Due to this, interruptions in electricity, water supply, and communication began in the cities. The Russians also hit civilian infrastructure and residential areas; in particular, several missiles fell in the center of Kyiv, in the Dnipro. As of the evening of October 11, 20 people were killed, and another 108 were injured. In total, the occupiers fired 84 missiles and drones, of which 56 air targets were shot down by air defense forces.

Such missile strikes donʼt affect the situation at the front but only increase the motivation of the Ukrainian military to resist, the desire of civilians to support the army, and also increase the reluctance of Ukrainians to make concessions and peace negotiations with Russia. The effectiveness of such steps by Russia from a military point of view is close to zero and even negative values — usually, such open and cynical attacks by Russians on civilian infrastructure lead to the strengthening of sanctions against the Russian Federation and an increase in the supply of weapons to Ukraine. So it is worth expecting that in the near future, the West will announce new measures to put further pressure on Russia, including handing over more modern weapons to the Ukrainian army.

Translated from Ukrainian by Olya Panchenko and Anton Semyzhenko.

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A Ukrainian soldier with a portable anti-aircraft missile system in Donbas.

Getty Images / «Babel'»