Ukraine Situation Report: The Muddy Season Has Arrived

The increasingly nasty fall weather in Ukraine hasn’t halted fighting, but it is slowing things down for Ukrainian and Russian troops alike across an already stagnant battlefield. The notorious ‘muddy season’ has arrived in the war torn country.

Ukrainians refer to the muddy seasons as ‘bezdorizhzhia,’ translated as ‘roadlessness.’ This Ukrainian armored vehicle fighting its way through thick mud is a good example of why it’s called this:

The weather is also making it harder for Ukraine’s de-mining efforts.

Russian troops are also bogged down in the soupy mud and snow near Avdiivka in Donetsk Oblast.

“An American HMMWV of the Ukrainian army, gurgling fervently in the mud after freshly fallen snow,” is how the Russian Military Informant Telegram channel described the scene. “It can be stated that in such weather, large-scale offensives involving equipment of both sides on most sectors of the front will either finally come to naught before the ground hardens, or will reduce their intensity several times over.”

“Winter has arrived in the Luhansk region, or rather the first snow has fallen,” the Russian Wrapped in Z War Telegram channel wrote. “He lay down on the unfrozen ground, slippery like butter, where KAMAZ and Urals get stuck in ruts. Now the most difficult thing is precisely everyday difficulties: dirt, dampness, cold, myriads of mice, water dripping from the ceiling of the dugout, squelching underfoot in the communication passages, kilogram pieces of dirt sticking to the boots. They probably did the right thing before, leaving for winter quarters during the cold season, leaving the war the right to rest.”

According to the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), Ukrainian officials have noted that muddy roads have slowed down logistics for both sides near Avdiivka.

“Ukrainian officials and military stated that rain and mud in the Donbas impedes the speed of ground maneuvers and fog and rain complicated both Russian and Ukrainian aerial reconnaissance efforts,” ISW said in an assessment Monday.

One Ukrainian military official noted that “fallen leaves also complicate efforts to hide equipment and personnel, and the Ukrainian military also observed that Russian aviation has been less active in southern Ukraine due to poor condition,” ISW said.

Russian milbloggers “claimed that recent heavy rains reduced shelling and claimed the strong winds interfere with Russian drone operations. ISW continues to assess that fall weather conditions will decrease the tempo of Russian and Ukrainian operations, but will not hold them entirely…. While rain, fog, and mud is slowing the tempo of operations in Ukraine, both sides will continue fighting through the autumn and winter seasons,” ISW said.

As colder and wetter weather strangled operations on the battlefield, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin made a visit to Ukraine today. His visit comes as uncertainty over funding and arms shipments to Ukraine grow.

Speaking to reporters in Kyiv after his meeting with Ukrainian officials, Austin said Ukrainian forces are “prepared for combat in the winter, and certainly they did a great job last year. This year, we expect for them to be, just based upon what President Zelensky has said, for them to be even more aggressive. In this latest drawdown package that I just mentioned, we’ve included in there some winter gear as well. We provided winter gear last year.”

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

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Elsewhere on the battlefield, there was little ground gained by either side.

Russian forces conducted offensive operations in several areas, ISW noted in its latest assessment. The Russians pushed forward along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, near Avdiivka, and west and southwest of Donetsk City, in the Donetsk-Zaporizhzhia Oblast border area. They also attacked in western Zaporizhzhia Oblast and marginally advanced in some areas.

Despite the lack of any major progress, Austin said the U.S. “will continue to support Ukraine. We talked about the things that we’re going to continue to do to make sure that they have what they need to be successful on the battlefield.”

Austin noted the 51st Presidential Drawdown Authority military aid package to Ukraine announced by the Pentagon Monday as further proof of U.S. enduring support. The package, valued at up to $100 million, provides additional air defense capabilities, artillery ammunition, anti-tank weapons, cold-weather gear and other equipment. It includes:

  • Stinger anti-aircraft missiles;
  • One High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) and additional ammunition;
  • 155mm and 105mm artillery rounds;
  • Tube-Launched, Optically-Tracked, Wire-Guided (TOW) missiles;
  • Javelin and AT-4 anti-armor systems;
  • More than 3 million rounds of small arms ammunition;
  • Demolition munitions for obstacle clearing;
  • Cold weather gear; and
  • Spare parts, maintenance, and other ancillary equipment.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked Austin for the continued support.

Last week, however, he was noting that the delivery of 155mm artillery shells from Western allies “have really slowed down” since the beginning of the latest Israel-Hamas war Oct. 7, according to the Kyiv Independent.

Zelensky added that the U.S. did not formally say that they would stop or decrease the flow of artillery shells to Ukraine, but rather that “everyone is fighting for (stockpiles) themselves.”

“This is life. I’m not saying that this is positive, but this is life, and we have to defend what’s ours.”

Earlier Monday, the U.S. Mission to NATO published a Tweet with a message that “We are focused on setting the conditions for a just, durable and sustainable peace.”

Hours later, however, it sent out another message, offering more clarity.

Zelensky said that the number of mobile ‘drone hunting’ units formed to combat Russian suicide drones has increased. We profiled those units nearly a year ago in a story you can read here.

Ukraine continues to flood the front with its own drones.

The first 3,000 First Person View (FPV) drones were delivered to frontline units through Operation Unity, a joint fundraiser by UNITED24@BackAndAlive and @monobankua . Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Mykhailo Fedorov said Ukraine is producing tens of thousands of drones of “certain categories” per month.

“The Russians have been investing in the UAV market for many years, we started developing it only a year ago,” he said on Ukrainian television. “Now we have a market economy, many companies are emerging, with time we will not only be able to catch up, but also outsprint the Russian Federation.”

Armenia will transfer Tochka-U tactical ballistic missile systems and Osa-AK air defense systems to Ukraine, according to the Kremlin-connected Rybar Telegram channel. Rybar claims agreements on this may have been reached during a meeting between Armen Grigoryan, Secretary of Armenia’s National Security Council and Ukrainian president’s chief of staff, Andrii Yermak with the assistance of the United States. Rybar did not specify how many of each system. The War Zone cannot independently verify these claims.

Armenia’s relations with Russia, however, have soured over the years. Armenian officials have accused Russia of being too preoccupied with the war in Ukraine to ensure their security. At the same time, Armenia has criticized Russian peacekeepers in Nagorno-Karabakh for failing to do their job

Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence Directorate (GUR) says it attacked Russian radar systems inside Russia via drone.

“On November 18, 2023, an enemy radio position was discovered near the settlement of Dmitriev, Kursk region,” GUR said on its Telegram channel Monday. GUR said “two expensive Russian radar stations were affected.” One was a 55Zh6 “Sky” radar and the other was likely a “Gamma-S1E,” according to GUR, which did not say how they were attacked.

“The total losses of the enemy are being clarified,” GUR said.

The U.S. State Department has imposed travel restrictions on two Russian military officers and their families for human rights violations.

Russian Col. Azatbek Omurbekov, also known as “The Butcher of Bucha,” and Guard Cpl. Daniil Frolkin, were sanctioned for their “involvement in gross violations of human rights, namely the extrajudicial killings of unarmed Ukrainian civilians from Andriivka, Ukraine,” the State Department announced Monday. 

A well-known Ukrainian milblogger and reserve officer who goes by the pseudonym Tatarigami offered his analysis of the number of Ka-52 Hokum attack helicopters still operational. In a Twitter thread he posted Friday, Tatargami estimated that there are at least 25 operational Ka-52s. The helicopters had a major effect during Ukraine’s initial thrust in the counteroffensive, which you can read more about here. But many have been shot down or damaged over the course of the nearly two year old war. Just wear and tear and limited support due to sanctions has also taken its toll on Russia’s tactical aviation fleet. More Ka-52s were just recently lost during the first known ATACMs strike against forward operating bases in Eastern Ukraine. Estimates vary, but between 125 and 145 Ka-52s are thought to have been in Russian inventory before the war began.

 

The Bradley Fighting Vehicle is once again being hailed by Ukrainian troops for its ability to provide protection for its crews over Soviet designs, something we noted in January that was a big part of what it would bring to the table for Kyiv.

The first Danish Leopard 1A5DK main battle tank was reportedly just seen in Ukraine, which you can watch in the video below.

The war in Ukraine has been hell on tanks for both sides, This video shows one of Russia’s advanced T-90M Proryv-3 (Breakthrough-3) main battle tanks being obliterated, possibly by a mine. According to the Oryx open source tracking group, Russia has lost at least 50 T-90Ms, including 29 destroyed, eight damaged, 10 damaged and abandoned and three captured. The real number could be higher since Oryx only tabulates equipment it can visually confirm.

There was another deadly Russian missile attack on Kherson City Monday, with at least two people killed according to Ukrainian officials.

And finally, despite the ongoing horrors of war, Ukrainians are still finding time to rescue animals.

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

Contact the author: howard@thewarzone.com

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.

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