Ukraine Situation Report: Counteroffensive Pushing South From Robotyne

Ukraine is continuing to push southward in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, branching out past Robotyne, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said Monday. She also said that the southern front is the main effort in Ukraine’s ongoing counteroffensive.

“Robotyne has been released and our troops are moving southeast” of this town, she told the Ukrainian Military Media Center, according to its Telegram channel. Maliar added that the Armed Forces of Ukraine are advancing towards Novoprokopivka and Ocheretuvaty “despite fierce enemy resistance.”

“In the south, we are carrying out an offensive,” she said on the nightly national TV program, according to Ukrainian Pravda. “This is our main offensive front.”

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry (MoD) also noted that today was the first official announcement that Robotyne was liberated, despite the widely seen image of the Ukrainian flag displayed there. In an interview, members of the 47th Separate Mechanized Brigade talked about the challenges of fighting in that heavily mined town.

The Ukrainian 3rd National Guard Brigade also released video of its participation in the liberation of Robotyne.

As we have reported in the past, this represents a breach of the first section of the so-called “Surovikin Line” of Russia’s dense defensive system and puts Ukraine within about 10 miles of the city of Tokmak. The line was named for Russian Gen. Sergie Surovikin, who developed that defensive plan, but who has since been fired after news broke that he was aware of the late Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin’s putative pitch ahead of time.

Taking or bypassing Tokmak on a push south, as we have noted before, will be a major step toward making it to Melitopol, which as we said in December, is a major objective in Ukraine’s desire to reach Crimea and cut off the so-called land bridge to choke off Russian forces.

The Russian Defense Ministry said it “repelled seven attacks” by units of Ukraine’s 82nd Air Assault Brigade and 46th Airmobile Brigade “close to Robotne and Verbove.”

The Russian MoD did not specifically deny Maliar’s claims.

The Kremlin-connected Rybar Telegram channel on Monday said fighting is still taking place around Novoprokopivka, about two miles south of Robotyne, and that Ukrainian forces are taking heavy casualties.

But Rybar added that “the Armed Forces of Ukraine are preparing a massive offensive in the south…”

“The task of the entire active offensive will most likely be to reach and pass through the Surovikin defense line, which runs south of Robotyne, to develop and consolidate success before the onset of rains” in October, Rybar suggested.

Ukraine is pushing south past Robotyne, Ukrainian and Russian sources alike agree. (Google Earth image)

In a recent Wall Street Journal story, Ukrainian Gen. Valeri Zaluzhny, commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, was quoted as telling U.S. commanders that his troops were “on the cusp of a breakthrough.”

How fast and how far that breakthrough happens remains to be seen.

Before we head into the latest news from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can catch up on our previous rolling coverage here.

The Latest

For the second time in about a week, a Ukrainian First Person Video (FPV) drone struck a facility in Energodar, Zaporizhzhia Oblast, housing occupation authority police.

At 9.50 a.m. local time, “an explosion occurred at the specified address,” the GUR said on its website. “As a result, the personnel of the invaders were injured…Information is currently being clarified on the number of killed and wounded…There are no casualties and casualties among civilians.”

Russian-installed official Vladimir Rogov claimed there were no deaths or injuries as a result of this attack.

The staff was already evacuated, he said Monday on his Telegram channel.

The video, released by the Ukrainian Defense Intelligence Directorate (GUR) shows the drone flying toward a converted bank building, passing over cars driving on the street below, then entering a window before the transmission cuts off.

Ukrainian officials are finding an increasing number of Russian-made components in the remains of Shahed-136 drones they’ve recovered, the Defense Intelligence Directorate (GUR) said Monday.

That’s an indication that Russia is moving closer to its goal of producing the deadly drones domestically, rather than by purchasing them from Iran, GUR Maj. Gen. Vadim Skibitsky said, according to the Ukrainian RBC news outlet.

Earlier this month, we published new details about a Russian plan to domestically manufacture Iranian Shahed-136 drones. The drones will be built in a facility 500 miles east of Moscow in the Tatarstan region with a goal of building 6,000 drones by summer 2025. You can read more about that in our story here.

“Previous data from the GUR indicate that the enemy planned to produce 1,300 units of the so-called ‘Geran-2,’” RBC reported. “For them, it is planned to use components for both foreign and own production. However, in reality, Russia is not able to produce such a number of UAVs, Skibitsky noted.”

Skibitsky did not address the discrepancy between his figures on the number of Iranian-designed drones Russia hopes to produce and those that were previously reported.

Ukraine too is working to boost its line of locally produced uncrewed systems, Mykhailio Fedorov, Ukraine’s Minister of Digital Transformation, said on his Telegram channel Monday.

The ministry, along with the Ukrainian Brave1 defense technology innovation portal, recently tested 25 different Ukrainian uncrewed systems.

The systems range “from logistical to combat, from remote turrets to kamikaze robots,” Fedorov said. “Soon they will help the military to destroy the enemy more effectively.”

While he did not provide any specifics about exactly what types of systems or when they may become operational, he said “we have significant progress in the drone market – companies are scaling and actively developing. Next, we will extend this experience to the Robot Army.”

Speaking of Ukrainian-developed drones, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry (MoD) said its forces have used the domestically produced Great Banderik octocopter drone in combat.

The octocopter is able to carry a payload of up to 31.5 kilograms (nearly 70 pounds), the Ukrainian MoD claimed on its Telegram channel Monday.

Operated by a remote control ground system, the Great Banderik “showed an excellent result during the [electronic warfare] EW tests: it functioned successfully despite the snow, gusty wind and the operation of all the EW equipment that was on the test site.”

The drone was approved for operational use by the MoD in April. That approval took just one month “thanks to the accelerated procedure from the Accelerator of the Ministry of Defense,” the Ukrainian MoD said.

However, it did not offer any specifics about where or when the drone has been used or any visual evidence to support that claim.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said it has already used the Great Banderik octocopter in combat.

In an opinion piece published Sunday, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius suggested that there is “growing backing in Washington for providing rocket-launched cluster munitions” to Ukraine, which could strike deeper than the artillery-fired versions the United States began supplying last month.”

Ignatius offered no specific sources for who suggests that Washington is getting closer to providing the rocket-launched cluster munitions. Nor did he name which what type of system would deliver them. But in addition to the Dual-Purpose Improved Conventional Munitions (DPICM) 155mm artillery rounds the Pentagon has provided Ukraine, the U.S. had two other artillery munitions capable of carrying the bomblets contained in the warhead. There are 227mm artillery rockets that can be fired from the M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) and M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers. Also, some versions of the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) short-range ballistic missile had DPICM-filled warheads. 

You can read more about how these cluster munitions work, their role on the battlefield and why they are controversial in our story here.

A US Army briefing slide discussing the functioning of a more modern DPICM-XL projectile. US Army

Battles over the Chornomorneftegaz drilling rigs in the Black Sea, located about 70 kilometers south of Odesa, are heating up again, the U.K. Defense Ministry (MoD) noted in its daily intelligence assessment on Sunday.

As we reported last week, Russia’s Defense Ministry (MoD) claimed that its combat jets attacked two small Ukrainian military vessels in the Black Sea. Russia produced video of its jet attacking one of the vessels while Ukraine produced video of personnel aboard one of those vessels firing a man-portable air defense system (MANPADS) at a Russian jet.

The outcome of each engagement remains inconclusive.

“The platforms command valuable hydrocarbon resources,” the British MoD noted. “However, like Snake Island to the west, they can also be used as forward deployment bases, helicopter landing sites and to position long-range missile systems.”

Ukraine has frequently fired at these locations, the British MoD said, while both Russia and Ukraine have occupied them.

Even in this age of drone warfare, where troops movements are seemingly ubiquitously spotted by hovering overhead reconnaissance platforms, combatants still stumble into each other. That’s especially true in the thick growth of Ukrainian forests, where this video shows Russian and Ukrainian forces unknowingly approach each other. Until the Ukrainians apparently got the drop first and opened up on the Russians.

There will be a memorial Tuesday in Kyiv for Ukrainian Air Force Major Andrii Pilshchykov, better known by his callsign “Juice”, who was one of three pilots killed in a crash involving two L-39 jet trainer aircraft Aug. 25.

He was often quoted by The War Zone, offering many key insights, which we recalled in our story about his death:

“Juice served as something akin to the informal ‘voice’ of the Ukrainian Air Force at times, providing numerous first-hand accounts of Ukraine’s air war to The War Zone and other media outlets, sometimes from the cockpit of his MiG-29 Fulcrum as he sat alert on the ground. These included detailed perspectives, from the first desperate hours over Kyiv to fighting the scourge of Iranian-made drones heading for Ukrainian cities.”

You can read more about Juice and the fatal crash in our story here.

The memorial starts at 11 a.m. local time in the Patriarchal Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ UGCC. Anyone who wants to pay tribute to the legendary pilot and support his mother and loved ones can attend the farewell.

The training of Ukrainian forces continues. NATO announced that almost 1,000 Ukrainian Marines are returning home after a six-month training course conducted by British Royal Marines, Army Commandos and instructors from the Norwegian and Dutch marines.

But there are some serious challenges with training.

It’s hard enough to learn how to operate a tank in just six weeks, for instance, but it’s even more difficult when you can’t understand the instructions.

When German, Dutch and Danish officers gathered in a lush green patch of the North German countryside to train Ukrainian men, they were not expecting a shortage of competent interpreters to be the top issue, Financial Times reported Monday

“Interpreters are challenge number one,” said Martin Bonn, a Dutch brigadier general who is deputy head of the multinational EU training mission launched last November to educate Ukrainians on a range of weapons and tactics. 

Kyiv and Western capitals are providing translators, “who often struggle with the necessary vocabulary,” the publication reported. 

By the end of the year, 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers will have received training in Germany, part of a broader Western drive to equip the Ukrainian armed forces with tanks, artillery and air defense systems that has seen 63,000 recruits dispatched by Kyiv to attend training camps in Europe and the US. 

“The big challenge is the translation of words used in a military or technical context . . . Words no one uses in everyday life,” Bonn said after Ukrainian soldiers took part in a tank shooting exercise at a military base near Klietz in northeastern Germany. European trainers were full of praise for the “tremendous motivation” of the recruits, despite the stress of the brutal war they are fighting and the daily dangers to friends and family back home. But they also said that the age and ability of the soldiers they are sent varies wildly, as Ukrainian commanders on the front line are often unwilling to spare their best men. One volunteer who turned up in Germany was 71 years old.

A Russian RB-636AM2 Svet-KU mobile radio emission detection system parked behind a home somewhere in Luhansk Oblast was reportedly destroyed. These electronic warfare systems are designed to monitor and track sources of radio signals as well as protect information transmitted over wireless channels from interception. In the video below, the munition appears to land just to the right of the Svet-KU. The video cuts off before we can see what happened, but from the proximity of the blast it was likely destroyed. As of Monday at 10:30 a.m. Eastern, the Oryx open source tracking group listed only one such system, and that was captured by Ukrainian forces back on Feb. 11, 2022. However, because Oryx only tabulates equipment for which there is visual verification, more may have been damaged, destroyed or captured.

We have frequently seen old military equipment show up on the battlefield for both sides, but it appears the Russians are really going retro. Two horses from the central Russian Republic of Bashkortostan are now taking part in the full-on war in Ukraine, according to the Russian Bashinform news outlet.

“Bashkir horses Abzelil and Buyan, as planned, are involved in the detour of positions and silent transportation of goods,” the outlet reported.

And finally, Beyonce once against showed off her support for Ukraine.

The music icon wore a metallic dress made by Ukrainian designer Ivan Frolov during a recent appearance.

That’s it for now. We’ll update this story when there is more news to report about Ukraine.

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Howard Altman Avatar

Howard Altman

Senior Staff Writer

Howard is a Senior Staff Writer for The War Zone, and a former Senior Managing Editor for Military Times. Prior to this, he covered military affairs for the Tampa Bay Times as a Senior Writer. Howard's work has appeared in various publications including Yahoo News, RealClearDefense, and Air Force Times.