Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, September 28

Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, September 28

Russian Forces Face Imminent Defeat in Lyman

Russian milbloggers have expressed increasing concern over the potential defeat of Russian forces in the Lyman region. They have reported that Ukrainian troops are advancing from multiple directions, including west, north, and northeast of Lyman. These advances pose a threat to Russian positions and lines of communication that support the Lyman grouping. If the Lyman pocket collapses, it will have significant consequences for the Russian forces in northern Donetsk and western Luhansk oblasts. This could also allow Ukrainian troops to threaten Russian positions along the western Luhansk Oblast border and in the Severodonetsk-Lysychansk area.

Lack of Information from Russian Military Leadership

The Russian Ministry of Defense has failed to address the current losses in the Lyman region or prepare for the potential collapse of this sector of the frontline. This lack of communication and preparation is likely to further reduce the already-low morale among Russian forces. This is not the first time that Russian military authorities have failed to set sufficient information conditions for Russian losses. Similar issues occurred during the initial stages of the Ukrainian counteroffensives in Kharkiv Oblast, leading to panic among Russian forces. The failure to address these issues may result in a rift between Russian nationalists and military leadership, as well as between Russian forces and their superiors.

Possible Postponement of Annexation Announcement

While it was previously forecasted that Russian President Vladimir Putin would announce the annexation of occupied Ukrainian territory on September 30, there is a possibility that this announcement could be temporarily postponed. The Kremlin may seek to better prepare the Russian information space and administrative organization before making the announcement. However, September 30 remains the most likely date for some kind of annexation announcement. The Russian Ministry of Defense has already indicated that they will fulfill the aspirations of the residents of the LNR, DNR, Zaporizhia, and Kherson oblasts to be together with Russia in the near future. Russian State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin has also announced that the State Duma should hold its accession sessions to approve the annexation on October 3 and 4.

Recruitment of Undertrained Russian Forces

Russian authorities continue to send newly-mobilized and undertrained recruits to directly reinforce severely degraded remnants of various units. This includes units that were previously considered to be Russia’s premier conventional fighting forces. Ukrainian sources have reported that newly-mobilized Russian men arrived to reinforce elements of the 1st Tank Regiment of the 2nd Motorized Rifle Division of the 1st Guards Tank Army in unspecified areas of Ukraine with no training at all. Social media footage from September 27 shows a Russian soldier mobilized into the 1st Tank Regiment explaining that he will be sent to fight in Kherson Oblast within two days without any basic training. This indicates that even Russia’s most elite units have sustained substantial losses in Ukraine and are increasingly degraded. The addition of newly mobilized forces to these units is unlikely to significantly enhance their combat power.

Latest Ukrainian Gains in Lyman

Ukrainian forces have continued to make significant gains around the Lyman region on September 28. They have advanced from the north along the Zelena Dolyna-Kolodiazi arc and from the southeast around Yampil. Geolocated combat footage has corroborated these claims, showing Ukrainian troops taking control of key locations such as Zelena Dolyna and Kolodiazi. Russian sources have also indicated that Ukrainian troops have pushed southeast of Kolodiazi and are fighting on the outskirts of Torske, just northeast of Lyman. Ukrainian forces have also accumulated near Yampil and are breaking through Russian defensive lines to push towards Torske from the southwest. Russian sources have reported Ukrainian gains northwest of Lyman, with Ukrainian troops attacking Shandryholove. Geolocated footage has shown that Ukrainian troops have liberated Novoselivka, located just south of Shandryholove.

Ukrainian Actions in Kherson Oblast

Ukrainian military officials have largely maintained operational silence regarding specific Ukrainian actions in Kherson Oblast on September 28. However, they have stated that Ukrainian troops are continuing positional battles in unspecified locations to consolidate and improve their positions along the Southern Axis. Ukrainian forces have been conducting an interdiction campaign targeting Russian logistics, military, and transportation assets, as well as concentration areas, in Kherson Oblast. Russian forces are reported to be pulling reserves from the Crimean direction to reinforce the current southern frontline against Ukrainian counteroffensive operations. Ukrainian sources have reported that Ukrainian forces have hit two main areas in Kherson Oblast: around Kherson City and near Beryslav. These strikes have targeted Russian concentration areas and have caused damage to critical infrastructure.

Russian Ground Attacks in Donetsk Oblast

Russian forces have continued their ground attacks in Donetsk Oblast, but these attacks have been largely unsuccessful. Ukrainian forces have successfully repelled Russian attacks south of Bakhmut near Zaitseve, Mayorsk, Mykolaivka Druha, Odradivka, and Zalizne. Russian sources have claimed that Wagner Group forces have been involved in these attacks. Chechen Republic Head Ramzan Kadyrov has also claimed that Chechen “Akhmat” special forces and other Russian and proxy forces control Spirne and have repelled Ukrainian ground attacks. The Ukrainian General Staff has reported that Russian forces conducted failed ground assaults southwest of Donetsk City near Pobieda, Novomykhailivka, and Pavlivka. There are concerns that Ukrainian forces may launch ground attacks towards Vuhledar in the coming days.

Russian Mobilization Efforts

Russian military recruitment officials are openly contradicting the Kremlin’s publicly-stated guidelines for mobilization in order to meet quota requirements. They have indicated that they will mobilize men without military experience or who would violate other restrictions on mobilization. This includes individuals such as current students, parents of four or more young children, retirees, and people with disabilities. However, the Kremlin is attempting to change the public perception of mass mobilization. The Russian governor of occupied Sevastopol, Mikhail Razvozhaev, has announced that he will personally oversee cases of mistakenly-mobilized men and ensure they are returned home. Kremlin propaganda outlets are sharing individual stories of men who believe they have been wrongfully mobilized, suggesting that errors are being corrected when brought to the Kremlin’s attention.

Restrictions on Movement of Russian Citizens

Russian authorities have started to restrict the movement of Russian citizens into Russian border regions in order to cope with the hundreds of thousands of Russian men attempting to flee the country. Over 197,000 Russians have already fled through land borders to neighboring countries, causing traffic jams at border crossings. The governor of the Russian Republic of North Ossetia-Alania has declared a “high alert regime” and restricted the entry of cars into the region. Food, shelter, and hygiene facilities are being established for citizens waiting in the traffic jams at the Russian-Georgian border. There are rumors that certain entities are requiring Russians who have crossed the Georgian border to sign a document recognizing Russian aggression and occupation of Georgian territories. Russian State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin has threatened punishment for those who sign such documents and attempt to return to Russia.

Conditions in Russian-Occupied Areas

Russian-appointed occupation administration leaders of Kherson, Zaporizhia, Donetsk, and Luhansk Oblasts have each shared an appeal to Russian President Vladimir Putin, asking for recognition of their sham referenda and welcoming them to Russia. These leaders are expected to meet with Putin in the coming days to present their requests. Russian occupation officials continue to set conditions to forcibly mobilize or conscript Ukrainian civilians in the occupied parts of Ukraine. The People’s Militias of the Russian proxy Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics have shared information about stricter penalties for desertion, insubordination, surrender, and avoiding mobilization. These penalties are expected to be significantly tightened once the DNR joins Russia. The DNR and LNR have forcibly mobilized their populations to varying degrees since 2014, and it remains unclear whether Russian mobilization will be extended to these populations.

Conclusion

As the situation in Ukraine continues to evolve, Russian forces in the Lyman region are facing an imminent defeat. Ukrainian forces have made significant gains and are threatening Russian positions and lines of communication. The collapse of the Lyman pocket would have severe consequences for Russian forces in northern Donetsk and western Luhansk oblasts. The Russian military leadership’s failure to address these losses and set information conditions has further eroded morale among Russian forces. The Kremlin may postpone the announcement of the annexation of Ukrainian territory to better prepare the information space and administrative organization. Russian recruitment efforts continue to send undertrained recruits to reinforce degraded units, but this is unlikely to significantly enhance their combat power. Ukrainian forces have also made gains in other regions, such as Kherson Oblast and Donetsk Oblast, while Russian forces have continued their ground attacks with limited success. Russian authorities are facing challenges in mobilizing and retaining Russian citizens, leading to restrictions on movement and attempts to change the perception of mass mobilization. In the Russian-occupied areas, conditions are being set to forcibly mobilize or conscript Ukrainian civilians. Overall, the situation remains fluid, and further developments are expected in the coming days.