Ukraine Situation Report: Another Week, Another Fired Russian General

Moscow has relieved Colonel-General Alexander Lapin from his post in the latest shakeup of Russia’s high command in Ukraine.

Lapin, who commanded the Central Military District and its group of forces in Ukraine, was aligned with Russian Chief of the General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov and Defense Minster Gen. Sergei Shoigu in what has been seen as a power struggle between them and Russian nationalists.

Colonel-General Lapin. (Russian MoD image)

Rob Lee (@RALee85 ) has an excellent thread on all the leading and supporting characters in Lapin’s saga. He also noted Lapin was the last of the senior commanders from Russia’s four military districts and VDV airborne forces who led the February 24 invasion, with all now having been replaced after eight months of war.

Since this summer and subsequent Ukrainian counteroffensives, Lapin faced regular criticism from Wagner Group PMC’s Yevgeny Prigozhin and Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov’s faction of vocal supporters for his perceived incompetence. Lapin was seen in a series of videos in early October showing him with his troops near the frontline, apparently in response to claims he was too far from the front to lead.

Wagner-affiliated Telegram channel ‘Grey Zone’ claimed Lapin’s removal may be a result of him poorly utilizing mobilized conscripts, who were reportedly thrown into combat in Lapin’s sector with minimal training and predictable results.

Lapin’s removal comes only three weeks after Russian Aerospace Forces’ Gen. Sergei Surovikin took overall command of Russian operations in Ukraine. The firing could well be warranted even if it angers the Gerasimov-Shoigu faction, but high-profile command reliefs becoming a theme in Russia’s eight-month-long invasion is much more indicative of its many tactical, operational, and strategic failures in its war thus far.

Before we head into more of the latest news from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can get caught up with our previous rolling coverage of the war here.

The Latest

Saturday’s big story came with the swarm of Ukrainian kamikaze unmanned surface vessels (USVs) used to attack the Russian Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol. You can read our coverage of those attacks here.

Russia has responded by alleging that British personnel, the same they claim were involved in sabotaging the Baltic Sea’s Nordstream pipelines in late September, participated in the USV attack. Moscow said it will take its dubious claims to the United Nations Security Council, and has simultaneously announced it will no longer honor the agreement to allow Ukrainian grain exports through the Black Sea.

Here are the most recent control-of-terrain maps from the Institute for the Study of War. Things have been pretty frozen, which will be increasingly the case in some areas due to the deep mud that permeates eastern Ukraine around this time of year.

The most recent intelligence update from the British Ministry of Defense noted Russian claims that 70,000 people had left occupied Kherson city, along with the remains of 18th-century Russian Prince Grigory Potemkin, who annexed Crimea for the Russian Empire in 1783.

Our recent exclusive interview with Ukraine’s intelligence chief, Ukrainian Maj. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, provides far greater detail on Kyiv’s perspective on the operation to retake Kherson city. Here is a part of that exchange and be sure to read the entire very in-depth interview here.

TWZ: How long will it take Ukraine to recapture Kherson City?

KB: Most likely the seizure operation of Kherson will last until the end of the next month.

TWZ: How have the Russians fortified the city and who do they have fighting there?

KB: The most trained and most capable Russian units are currently in Kherson. A large share of them are from airborne troops of the Russian Federation, Russian special operation forces and the naval infantry, so the most capable units that Russia has. Those units form the backbone of the grouping and it’s being strengthened by the mobilized personnel also.

TWZ: How many Russian forces are in Kherson right now?

KB: So the combat component –  the units that can pose any danger to us with our operation – is about 40,000. So it’s the grouping. Kherson [City] is in the middle of that grouping. Those are troops in Kherson and also just in areas of the western bank [of the Dnipro RIver] and also troops that support actions of the western bank but that are stationed on the eastern bank. 

TWZ: That sounds like it will be a bloody fight.

KB: We’re trying to alleviate that to the extent that we’re able to but it won’t go through without a fight.

TWZ: Why not just encircle the city and isolate the troops there?

KB: That’s exactly what we’re trying to do. But they’re opposing outwardly. They’re trying to obstruct our movement forward, and you should understand that fighting is going on every day.

Ukrainian attacks on Russian forces near Kherson’s Antonivskiy Bridge continued, with explosions again reported near the besieged crossing. The bridge and the temporary pontoon bridge next to it that cross the Dnieper River remain favored targets for Ukrainian M142 HIMARS and their GMLRS rockets.

Speaking of HIMARS, the explosive strikes on the Shakhtarsk rail yard left tank cars in partially melted ruin. It appears the rails themselves have warped from the intense heat from the burning cars.

Ukrainian forces are making extensive use of 155mm M982A1 Excalibur precision-guided artillery rounds like the one shown below. One reportedly killed a stationary Russian T-90M tank in a strike this week.

Back on the Kherson frontline, satellite imagery appears to show Russian forces have left many of their dug-in revetments near the Chornobaivka air base, possibly to avoid becoming targets from long-range fires like HIMARS and Excalibur in such known, fixed positions. We wrote about a devastating Ukrainian attack on the occupied base in March that left many of the helicopters on the flight line inoperable or engulfed in flames.

The drone war continues not only in Ukrainian cities but also at the frontline, where footage reportedly shows Ukrainian Gepard self-propelled anti-air guns engaging drones.

There are also undated clips of Russian Lancet loitering munitions striking both a Ukrainian Buk SAM transporter-erector-launcher vehicle and an M777 howitzer.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced the reported end of the much-maligned Russian mobilization as of October 28. With the next cycle of conscription looming on November 1, it’s likely to open up valuable administrative capacity to process those new draftees. Shoigu said 300,000 have been drafted in total and 82,000 have already been sent to Ukraine.

Mobilization’s decidedly chaotic results have been widely reported, with more debacles today. Video from conscript training in Russia shows a soldier hiding deep in a worn trench as a 2S19 Msta self-propelled howitzer speeds over him. We’re not sure what tactical value such a dangerous maneuver provides, but it’s certainly interesting to watch.

As to the state of affairs for mobilized men already in Ukraine, it’s not much better than dodging tank treads. The below clip of an intercepted call makes it sound like foot soldiers are being forced to get food and water from puddles while their commanders enjoy full supply. And then there’s a disturbing video of an attempted surrender to Ukrainian forces that goes awry when a Russian soldier decides to go out with a grenade instead of a white flag (VIEW DISCRETION ADVISED).

The Bakhmut frontline has seen some of the most intense fighting and for a time it was the only place where Russian forces remained on the offensive. Trench warfare has become the norm, with an incredible volume of artillery fire and combat having turned the area into something out of the First World War.

We will continue to update this story until we state otherwise.

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