Ukraine made another big push today at destroying Russian air defenses in western Crimea. The Ukrainian Armed Forces, independent Russian media and an influential Russian Telegram channel on Monday all reported that an unspecified air defense system was hit on the western portion of the peninsula. There was a difference in reporting on how and exactly where it was attacked.
The Ukrainian Armed Forces General Staff said on Telegram that its forces “successfully hit a strategic target of the air defense system on the west coast of temporarily occupied Crimea on the night of 29-30 October."
The independent Russian media collective ASTRA and the Kremlin-connected Rybar Telegram channel offered more details, saying the system hit was near Olenevka on Cape Tarkhankut.
Rybar said the attack was carried out by Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) munitions, which would mark the first known use of that ballistic missile in Crimea. ASTRA said the attack injured several Russian troops.
The Russian Defense Ministry (MoD) did not comment on that attack. The War Zone could not independently verify any of the claims. However, the strike on the air defense system appears to be part of what the Russian MoD said was a wider Ukrainian attack across Crimea.
At around 3 a.m., “two ATACMS operational-tactical missiles were launched in the vicinity of Olenevka on Cape Tarkhankut,” Rybar reported, without saying how it knew the munitions were ATACMS. That location is on the very edge of the 102-mile (165-kilometer) ranges of the ATACMS sent to Ukraine so far.
“It was not possible to shoot down the missiles, but thanks to measures taken in advance, no serious damage was caused,” Rybar added, without explaining the nature of the measures taken.
There were 17 Russian servicemen injured during an attack on air defense systems and an anti-aircraft regiment in that location, according to ASTRA, a collective of independent Russian journalists. ASTRA did not say what type of munitions were used or what kind of air defense system was hit.
Regardless of what was hit, this was the latest Ukrainian attack on Russian air defenses in that area. In August, the Ukrainian Defense Intelligence Directorate (GUR) said it destroyed an S-400 Triumf advanced air defense system in that general area and then carried out a special ops raid there the next day, which you can read more about here. We also reported that another S-400 system was attacked elsewhere in Crimea, near the town of Yevpatoriya, in September, which you can read more about here.
In our previous coverage, we talked about why the cape is an ideal location for Russian air defenses:
“Cape Tarkhankut is the westernmost part of the Crimean peninsula, jutting out into the Black Sea. Olenivka is about 90 miles south of the front lines in Kherson Oblast and about 115 miles southeast of Odesa. It is clearly a highly logical and strategic location for a long-range air defense battery. Taking out this battery would potentially open a hole in Russia's air defense overlay of the peninsula and the northwestern Black Sea. This could go a long way to ensuring the survivability of standoff strike weapons, like Storm Shadow and SCALP-EG, and other attacks, such as those by long-range kamikaze drones.”
If Rybar is correct, this would be Kyiv’s latest use of what Ukraine’s ambassador to the U.S. on Friday called a game-changing weapons system.
Answering questions at the Military Reporters and Editors conference in Washington D.C., Oksana Markarova specifically highlighted the country's first-ever ATACMS strikes on two Russian-occupied airfields in eastern Ukraine two weeks ago. As we noted last week, “those strikes destroyed a large number of helicopters and other materiel, and look to have had significant operational impacts for the Russians already.”
In addition to striking the cape Monday, Ukraine also tried to attack Crimea with uncrewed surface vessels (USVs) and cruise missiles, according to Rybar, Russian media and the Russian MoD.
A half hour after the purported strike on the Cape Tarkhankut air defense system, "sailors of the Black Sea Fleet discovered three unmanned boats of the Armed Forces of Ukraine near Sevastopol," Rybar reported. "One of them was destroyed by the Kolesnikov patrol boat near the city. Two more tried to enter the bay of Chersonesos, where they opened fire on them from the Raptor boat. One [USV] was hit and scuttled, the other turned around and left at full speed. The search for [it] continues."
The Russian Baza media outlet also reported on Telegram that USVs attempted an attack on Sevastopol.
As a precaution, Russian forces laid down smoke to camouflage Sevastopol Bay, occupation Gov. Mikhail Razvozhayev said on Telegram.
“If you see smoke in the area of the internal roadstead and the Northern Bay, it is the military that is using standard means of camouflage,” he said. “Let me remind you that the smell is unpleasant, but it is absolutely safe.”
Russia's use of large-scale smokescreens over strategic target areas is well established.
The Russian MoD reported that “targets on the Crimean peninsula” were attacked with eight air-launched Storm Shadow cruise missiles.
“As a result of repelling the attack by air defense systems on duty, all missiles were shot down,” the Russian MoD claimed.
The Russian MoD did not specify where those missiles were headed, Razvozhayev said several buildings were damaged by falling debris from an attack there.
“According to preliminary data, the military shot down two air targets over Sevastopol,” Razvozhayev said on Telegram.
Among buildings hit was a school, according to Razvozhayev. Though it was a vacation time, there were some students taking classes, and they were taken to a shelter without incident, he said.
In an exclusive interview with us last month, Lt. Gen. Kyrylo Budanov, head of the GUR, explained the multiple reasons Ukraine is targeting Russian air defenses.
"So first of all, the fact itself is that we're engaging the military infrastructure and military targets in occupied Crimea and the occupier’s infrastructure. If we're going deeper into strikes against the air defense system, it's more complicated here. First of all, the air defense systems themselves are very costly equipment and it takes a lot of time to produce those and Russian flags those systems because all this inventory is currently engaged in fighting against Ukraine and also in protection of Moscow. They've taken away air defenses from everywhere else."
"That is why, naturally, when we engage in another and another air defense battalion of the Russian military, they need to think about where they can pull those systems from and where are they able to tolerate less defenses in other places."
This latest attack is a good indication that the campaign explained by Budanov is continuing.
Before getting into the newest developments in Ukraine, The War Zone readers can first get up to speed through our prior rolling coverage here.
On the battlefield, Ukraine continues its slow push in the Robotyne-Verbove salient of Zaporizhzhia Oblast, while maintaining a bridgehead across the Dnipro River in occupied Kherson Oblast and fighting off a huge Russian push in Avdiivka in Donetsk Oblast.
“Geolocated footage posted on October 29 indicates that Ukrainian forces have advanced southwestward to a field west of Robotyne,” the Institute for the Study of War said Monday in its midday assessment.
“In the Zaporizhzhia direction, the enemy tried five times to restore the lost position in the Robotyne region of the Zaporizhzhia region, without success,” the Ukrainian MoD said on Telegram. “At the same time, the defense forces of Ukraine continue to conduct an offensive operation in the Melitopol direction, inflict losses in manpower and equipment on the occupying forces, and exhaust the enemy along the entire front line.”
The Russian MoD said that “units of the Russian Group of Forces, supported by aviation, artillery, and heavy flamethrower systems, have repelled one attack by an assault group of the 65th Mechanised Brigade of the AFU close to Roboytne.”
“...after several unsuccessful attempts to break through the defenses of the Russian Armed Forces, Ukrainian formations regrouped, sending additional reinforcements to the contact line,” Rybar reported.
Ukrainian Marines say they have established a bridgehead across the Dnipro River in the town of Krynki in occupied Kherson Oblast.
A Ukrainian milblogger who says he is a combat medic of the 35th Marine Brigade reported that Ukraine is using drones to resupply its forces across the Dnipro.
"Now the guys have gone very deep to the left bank of Kherson and it is difficult to deliver gasoline to them by water and land, it is risky for life!" the milblogger said on Telegram Monday. "The bomber drone we bought can lift 15 kg on board and carry radio batteries, power banks, food, water to the guys, and now that's how we use it."
Russian forces are struggling to dislodge the Ukrainians, according to Russian milbloggers.
"The situation along the Dnipro remains the same," Rybar reported Monday. "In Krynki, the forces of the 35th Marine Brigade continue to hold the central part of the village, holed up in several houses. The approaches to them are completely under fire from the Ukrainian Armed Forces, which does not allow Russian troops to clear the bridgehead."
A Telegram account purporting to be run by a Russian Marine said the fighting in this area has been difficult.
"The (AFU) work very hard with kamikaze drones and destroy any equipment in a fairly large radius from the shore, after which they cut us off from the support of the equipment, and strike with cluster munitions at the places where our infantry is concentrated, preventing us from developing an assault; either our electronic warfare cannot cope with the (AFU) drones or there is none, so those who are screaming that we cannot recapture a couple of houses there for so long - join us," said the man, claiming to be a fighter of the 810th Marine Brigade, call sign "Avust."
In Avdiivka, Russia is continuing a massive push to surround Ukrainian troops.
"The enemy does not stop trying to surround Avdiivka, but our soldiers firmly hold the defense, inflicting significant losses on the enemy," the Ukrainian MoD said on Telegram. "The offensive actions of the enemy in the areas of settlements of Novokalynove, Avdiivka, Opytne, and Pervomayske of the Donetsk region were unsuccessful. Here, our defenders repelled more than 10 enemy attacks."
The Russian MoD did not address Avdiivka on Monday. Rybar said that "to the south of the Avdiivka fortified area, Russian troops continue the attempts to reach the Khimik district. The offensive is developing from the Donetsk Ring Road and forest plantations from the Opytne side."
A Russian milblogger named Filatov complained that Russian troops are being mismanaged around Avdiivka.
Donated Ukrainian Leopard 2A6 main battle tanks were spotted heading to battle in Avdiivka with turret-mounted slat armor.
Beyond the battlefield, Russia continued attacks on Ukrainian cities and critical infrastructure as the weather turns cold.
"Around 11:28 a.m., the enemy launched a rocket attack on the Zaporizhzhia district," Yurii Malashko, head of the Zaporizhzhia Oblast Military Administration said on Telegram. "As a result of the hit, the object of social infrastructure was destroyed. Specialists of the State Emergency Service are working on the spot, eliminating the consequences of the attack. Information about the victims was not received."
Malashko did not specify what type of social infrastructure facility was hit.
Russia also struck a ship repair plant in Odesa, injuring two people, regional Governor Oleh Kiper said Monday on Telegram.
"As a result of the attack, a fire broke out, which was promptly extinguished by our rescuers," Kiper said. "The administrative building and equipment of the enterprise were damaged."
As the need for drones and the munitions they drop only grow, Ukraine is turning to 3-D printing to manufacture munitions based on 82mm mortar shells, which you can see in this video below.
And finally, meet Slavik the raccoon, another "pet" adopted by Ukrainian troops.
That's it for now. We'll update this story when there is more news to report about Ukraine.
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