Russian forces made marginal territorial gains in Donetsk Oblast, especially around Bakhmut. All of Ukraine territory remains under risk of Russian missile attacks as Russian forces continue targeting civilian and military infrastructure far from the front line. The threat of the Russian forces launching missiles and air strikes from the territory and airspace of the Republic of Belarus also remains.
In northern Ukraine, Russian forces continue to hold units in the Russian Federation border regions of Bryansk and Kursk to limit the actions of Ukrainian Defence Forces units. Multiple Russian shelling has been reported in Sumy Oblast over the past week targeting civilian infrastructure. On 16 August alone, Russian forces shelled with artillery the Kamianska Sloboda district of Chernihiv Oblast and the Khodyne district of Sumy Oblast.
In the east of Ukraine, Russian forces increased shelling in Kharkiv Oblast over the last week. Russian forces continued conducting heavy shelling in settlements in north, northeast and east of the city of Kharkiv, and carried out ground attacks north of the settlement. On 15 August alone, the Ukrainian authorities reported that at least 10 rocket and artillery attacks from the Russian city of Belgorod targeted the Chuhuiv district, south of the city of Kharkiv, injuring five people. In addition, Ukrainian forces continued to target Russian ground lines of communication on the Kharkiv City-Izyum line.
Russian forces continued to shell settlements along the Kharkiv-Donetsk Oblast border. On 16 August alone, Nova Dmytrivka and Dibrovne in Kharkiv Oblast (both within 28km southwest of Izyum) were targeted with incendiary ammunition.
In the Donbas, Russian forces continued to shell civilian infrastructure in Slovyansk and Kramatorsk. On 16 August only, Russian strikes killed two civilians and wounded 13 others in Kramatorsk. According to Ukrainian sources, Russian forces withdrew after an unsuccessful ground assault near Mazanivka (24km northwest of Slovyansk) on 15 and 16 August.
Russia continued conducting ground attacks around Siversk. Russian forces have additionally attempted to advance from Spirne and Ivano-Darivka, 20km and 15km southeast of Siversk, respectively.
Russia continued conducting ground attacks east and south of Bakhmut. Intensive fighting continued around Vershyna (15km southeast of Bakhmut), Kodema (20km southeast of Bakhmut) and Zaitseve (10km southeast of Bakhmut). Russian troops are reported to advance from positions in Vershyna towards the outskirts of Zaitseve and will likely continue to push north towards Bakhmut from Zaitseve. Heavy shelling continued in the city of Bakhmut, Soledar and Yakolivka.
Russia continued conducting ground assaults and missile attacks in Avdiivka and in settlements southwest of the city. On 16 August, Russian forces launched an offensive operation from Staromykhailivka towards Nevelske (around 15km southwest of Avdiivka). Fighting and heavy shelling also continue around the city of Donetsk, where Russian forces made limited gains southwest.
In the south, Russian forces continued to launch airstrikes along the line of contact in Kherson Oblast. Ukrainian forces continued to target Russian supply lines with long-range systems on a daily basis, especially in Kherson Oblast. During the night of 13-14 August, Ukraine again attacked the Antonivsky road bridge near the city of Kherson, ensuring that the three road bridges to the centre of Kherson oblast were disabled. The attack has prevented the movement of heavy military equipment and the supply of ammunition to the Russians on the right bank of the Dnipro River. Ivan Fedorov, Mayor of the occupied city of Melitopol, said that the destruction of a railway bridge south-west of the city on 13 August had further complicated Russian resupply routes. Ukrainian military forces are targeting rail links from Crimea to Melitopol, as Russian forces have reportedly moved from Kherson to Melitopol.
Ukrainian sources reported that Russian military forces opened fire at least six times in Energodar, Zaporizhzhia Oblast, on 14 August, killing an employee of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. Russian sources accused Ukrainian forces of attacking the nuclear power plant and Russian social media are spreading that Ukraine is planning to shell the nuclear power plant to drive out Russian troops. These developments have led the European Union, together with 42 other countries, including the United States, to issue a joint statement calling on Russia to immediately withdraw its troops from the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has recently reported that, given the recent attacks on the nuclear power plant, there is a high risk of radiation leakage.
Russia blamed pro-Ukrainian saboteurs for the attack on a Russian military base in Dzhankoi, northern Crimea, on 16 August. Ukraine has not publicly admitted the attack, but Presidential Office Adviser Mykhailo Podolyak described the incident as ’demilitarisation in action’. In addition, a spokesman for the Ukrainian air force command blamed the explosion on Russia’s failure to observe fire precautions. Almost 3,000 people have been evacuated from nearby villages and two people have been injured. The explosions damaged power lines, an electricity substation, residential buildings, and railway infrastructure, disrupting railway traffic between northern Crimea. Ukrainian forces have used US Himars multiple rocket launchers to attack up to 50 weapons depots and also bridges in southern Ukraine, endangering vital supply lines from Crimea to Kherson.
In western Ukraine, on 16 August, Russia flew Su-34 fighter jets into Belarusian airspace to launch missiles over Zhytomyr Oblast in northwestern Ukraine, damaging an airfield and surrounding infrastructure. No casualties have been reported so far. The whole territory of Ukraine remains under risk of Russian missile attacks; however, the risk of a Russian ground invasion of central and western Ukraine remains low.
Developments in Russia
The annual Army Technical Forum and Army Games, a series of competitive military sporting events that the Kremlin uses to demonstrate Russian weapons systems in the field and develop relations with foreign militaries, began in Moscow on 13 August. President Vladimir Putin declared during the opening ceremony that Russia is ready to supply military equipment to allied countries in Latin America, Asia and Africa and to Moscow, and is open to training foreign fighters. However, these statements do not pose an immediate military threat to Ukraine.
According to Ukraine’s National Nuclear Power Generation Company, Energoatom, the company’s website suffered a three-hour cyberattack on 17 August. Energoatom blamed the attack on Russian-based hackers; however, it claims that the attack did not significantly affect the site’s operations. The Ukrainian statement, which claims the attack was carried out from the Russian Federation, blames the Russian group ”People’s Cyber Army”, which used 7.25 million user bots that mimicked hundreds of millions of visits to the company’s homepage.
On 08 August, US Administration announced another USD 1 billion in military aid for Ukraine due to the analyst warnings of Russia moving troops and equipment to the southern port cities. The US have been sending more powerful weapons, such as US M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket systems in order to meet Ukraine’s critical security and defence needs and defeat Russian troops. Joe Biden administration has reached to more than USD 9 billion since the Russian troops invaded Ukraine in late February.
North Korea was one of the few countries to recognise the Russian-backed separatist ”People’s Republics” of Eastern Ukraine after Russia declared them independent. Because of these North Korean actions, Ukraine cut off all diplomatic relations with Pyongyang. Russian sources and sources in the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics have indicated that North Korea is likely to send armed forces to the breakaway areas. Diplomatic ties with both breakaway republics were strengthened given North Korean participation in reconstruction efforts in the Russian-controlled areas of Donetsk and Luhansk. Donetsk People’s Republic seeks ”equally beneficial bilateral cooperation” with North Korea, according to state media. The head of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Denis Pushilin, made the pledge in a message congratulating Kim Jong-un on Korea Liberation Day, 15 August. Russian President Vladimir Putin also congratulated Kim on Korea Liberation Day, according to the North Korean state news agency. Governments and international entities should monitor closely the relations between the two countries.
Several EU member states are discussing completing the Schengen visa ban on Russian citizens as a means to help end the war in Ukraine and increase pressure on Moscow. The draft decision on the ban was put fourth for consideration as part of the seventh sanctions package adopted by the European Council last month. On 26 February, the European Commission ruled out a total ban on Schengen tourist visas for Russians as it was against EU rules. Some European countries, such as the Baltic states, the Czech Republic, Belgium and Denmark, have limited or suspended part of the entry documents for Russians. Latvia, Lithuania and the Czech Republic demanded a ban on issuing visas to tourists from Russia within the EU. Poland is working on a solution to deny visas to Russians. Latvia and Finland require visa restrictions. On 11 August, Estonia banned entry to Russian citizens with Schengen visas through the Estonian authorities themselves. German government Spokesman Steffen Hebestreit recently stated that the proposal had been submitted for discussion. On the other hand, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov considered the attempt to isolate Russians as hopeless and warned of retaliatory measures if Russian citizens are denied Schengen visas. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that EU countries alone do not have the right to restrict the granting of visas to any group of people on a national level and that it would be inhumane to deny entry to the EU to Russians in need of medical services.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine, the food crisis has worsened dramatically, with an estimated 40 million people suffering from food shortages. The combination of the war in Ukraine, COVID 19, rising food prices and the worst drought in 100 years in East Africa is alarming. A Senegalese minister recently warned that more people could die from the food crisis than from COVID. The countries most affected by food insecurity are Afghanistan, Yemen and the Horn of Africa. Ukraine and Russia together account for a quarter of world wheat exports, which have stagnated since the war. The UN brokered a deal on 01 August that resumed grain exports with the shipment of a 26,000 metric tonne shipment of maize to Lebanon. Before the war, Ukraine was supplying the world market with 6 million metric tons per month of sunflower oil, wheat, barley and maize. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Lviv on 18 August to further discuss and monitor the grain deal.
Russian troop dispositions suggest that the Kremlin is likely prioritising the advance around Bakhmut due to the presence of the “Wagner Group” a private military commando around the Popasna-Bakhmut area, and possibly towards Siversk given the presence of units of the Russian Central Military District. The high concentration of volunteer battalions around Izyum and Slovyansk suggests that this area is not currently the focus of Russian efforts and is likely to be vulnerable to Ukrainian counter-attacks. The conglomerations of different forces in and around Kherson Oblast are likely to pose significant challenges to Russian command and control, especially if Ukrainian forces launch a counteroffensive there.
Ukraine’s Independence Day is celebrated on 24 August. Several Ukrainian media and Belarusian opposition sources have pointed out that Russia is accumulating significant forces in Belarus to fire missiles into Ukraine. It is expected that the entire Ukrainian territory could be targeted by Russian missiles before and during 24 August. In addition, the Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine, Oleksiy Danilov, has claimed that Russia is likely planning provocations against the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky ahead of the Ukrainian Independence Day celebrations.
Russian analyst Ruslan Putkhov recently claimed that Russia’s military forces will face major problems in the near future. This is because ”weapons technology is obsolete, the number of soldiers is too small and the air force is not sufficiently detailed”. The weapons provided by Western countries are making the fight increasingly uneven. Russia’s hopes now depend on the West’s ability to provide weapons. At the same time, the West is pressuring Ukraine to make progress or it will not be able to provide the necessary amount of ammunition. Ukraine’s ability to conduct offensive manoeuvres is unclear at the moment.