The noose is tightening around Kherson under Russian occupation

Ukrainian forces are back in Kherson Oblast, with reports of fierce fighting on the front lines and various stages of panic among Russian Telegram channels.

Reports indicate that the offensive remains concentrated on the western bank of the Dnipro with the aim of trapping Russian forces in a rapid race to cross the river.

The Russian position in Kherson has reportedly weakened enough that some Western officials believe Kherson could be liberated within a week. If Ukraine’s offensive continues on the river bank, it could capture or cut off the oft-targeted crossing points of Nova Kakhovka and the two Antonivksiy bridges long before entering the city of Kherson itself. Their capture with the Russians still in Kherson would indicate a massive encirclement.

This decision forces Russia to choose between maintaining its broad front line or withdrawing out of the city and crossing the river. The prospect of encirclement has apparently panicked many Russian military bloggers and Russian occupation officials.

There is also the choice to surrender as Ukrainian forces close in. New video shows a Russian soldier traveling somewhere in Kherson Oblast, a tense exchange that is becoming more common as Ukraine advances and more rapidly mobilized Russians face the front line.

The supply situation for these troops remains paralyzed after the October 8 attack on the Kerch Strait bridge. Things won’t improve any time soon, as bad weather at the critical choke point has reportedly suspended ferry service and bridge repairs, which could take several months.

Before we learn more about a busy day in Ukraine, The war zone readers can keep up to date with our previous continuing coverage here.

The last

Here are the latest control charts from the Institute for the Study of War, as well as the latest intelligence update from the UK Ministry of Defence.

Russian troops arrive in Belarus as part of Moscow’s regional group of forces in its client state. Reports of @MotolkoHelp suggest that Russian forces arrived at three railway stations in northern and western Belarus, not areas near the border with Ukraine.

Video from one of the rail yards showed soldiers unloading trucks and other equipment from railcars in the morning fog.

However, while Russian troops are heading towards the client state of Moscow, Belarusian tanks are heading towards Russia. It is believed that the T-72s seen on these wagons in Orsha, Belarus, will replace continued Russian losses on the Ukrainian front line. Russia desperately needs functional armor. For example, an initiative is currently underway to restore and upgrade hundreds of Cold War-era T-62 tanks, a process that will take years to complete.

Despite these moves, there are reports of Russian troops massing in the southeastern town of Gomel, just across the border from the Ukrainian town of Chernihiv. Ukraine has been worried about Belarus’ formal entry into the war since Russia staged its multi-pronged invasion from the country in February. However, any attack could be strictly diversionary to reduce pressure on the deteriorating situation of Russian forces in Kherson.

The ongoing Starlink satellite internet service saga for Ukraine may be over, if Elon Musk’s tweet on Saturday is to be believed. Musk tweeted ‘Damn it…even if Starlink continues to lose money and other companies get billions of taxpayer dollars, we will continue to fund the Ukrainian government for free’ days after reports emerged that SpaceX sent a letter to the Pentagon last month saying it could not continue free Starlink service to Ukraine as it has since the start of the war.

The satellite internet debacle began earlier this month when Musk tweeted a much-criticized “peace plan” that drew immediate criticism from Ukraine and its supporters. This, coupled with reports of Starlink outages, cast doubt on the network’s service.

The only gains reported by Russia this fall were near the town of Bakhmut in Donbass. Frontline video shows an apocalyptic scene on a line of trenches besieged by Russian troops for months.

It is difficult to process the level of damage done to men, machines and land in months (if not years) of attacks, evoking the horrors of trench warfare in the First World War. Sending wave after wave of infantry and artillery against fortified positions creates a lot of casualties, and observers believe that the death rate among the Russian wounded is extremely high.

Russian forces in Lugansk have built a heavy defensive line of trenches and concrete tank traps, likely boosted by Ukraine’s mechanized successes last month.

In the town of Bakhmut itself, Russian incendiary ammunition, probably 9M22S “Grad” 122mm rockets, started numerous fires.

Things continue to explode in Belgorod, across the border from Kharkiv, as Ukrainian strikes on local infrastructure continue. A huge plume of black smoke and flames rose from an oil depot hit on Saturday.

Continued strikes are pushing Russian air defenses to follow, with remnants of a missile used by the S-400 system having been found after such an engagement.

Russia’s “partial” mobilization still looks rather pear-shaped, with personnel issues and little battlefield gains despite the unrest it has created across the country. Russian Telegram accounts report that the mobilized units take all the people they can get, regardless of their specialty. Those mobilized would turn to YouTube to learn combat skills otherwise taught in specialized training.

For what looks like quite a few soldiers mobilized in southern Russia, military units refused them entry because they did not have the correct stamps on the mobilization papers. The result is a large number of conscripts trapped outside the base gate and forced to camp in the woods.

On that note, it looks like prominent Russian blogger Igor Girkin may have swapped the keyboard for a gun. A Russian Telegram channel claims that Girkin, a central figure in Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and separatist governments in Donbass, is heading into combat in a volunteer unit. Girkin’s reported deployment has led some Ukrainians to put an alleged and growing $50,000 bounty on his live capture.

The transition from conscription to the front line, followed by death or capture by Ukrainian forces, remains short for those mobilized by the Russian armed forces. The Moscow Times reported that men had been killed in action within two weeks of mobilization.

There remains considerable and understandable unrest in Russia over mobilization, with a recruiting officer believed to have been found hanged in a town outside Vladivostok in the Far East. A conscription office also burned down in the city of Cherkessk in the northern Caucasus.

A shooting also took place at a Russian base in the Belgorod region. The Russian Defense Ministry reported that two gunmen “from the CIS country” were killed in the attack, with 11 servicemen dead and 15 others injured. It is not immediately clear whether the shooters or the victims were part of the Russian forces mobilized.

The quality of equipment supplied with Russian troops mobilized on the front lines remains poor, as evidenced by the rusting AZP S-60 57 mm anti-aircraft guns seen heading towards Ukraine. By no means effective in their anti-aircraft role circa 1940s, they were only viable at best as fire support against soft vehicles and infantry. This also assumes that they are not rusty.

The Ukrainian Air Force remains active, with two clips showing Ukrainian Su-27 Flankers maneuvering at low altitude with the air war still contested.

However, Russian drones and floating munitions still threaten Ukrainian targets. A Lancet-2 roving round hit a pair of valuable Ukrainian S-300 SAM launchers far behind the front line, despite an attempt by an unknown man-portable air defense system (MANPADS) to intercept it.

The threat of drones may well become even more serious for Ukraine. Reports claim that Iran will soon send ARASH-2 attack drones to Russia. More like a cruise missile than a drone, Iran claimed the type was designed to strike “Tel Aviv and Haifa” when it was unveiled in September. And don’t expect immediate sanctions from the European Union over Iran’s drone deliveries, either.

Russian strikes struggle to follow Ukraine’s power grid after infrastructure hits. Kyiv would therefore be in the dark on Saturday, and if Bastion-P missile launches from Sevastopol are any indication, long-range attacks have continued, at least at a much slower pace.

Ukrainian air defenses and fighter jets have been chasing Iranian-made drones since Russia adopted their widespread use in September. Ukraine’s Defense Ministry tweeted a photo claiming to be the MiG-29 pilot, named Vadym, which allegedly shot down five Shahed-136 drones and a pair of cruise missiles before ejecting on October 12.

We wrote about this claimed ace-in-a-day achievement, which you can read more about here.

On the subject of foreign aid to Ukraine, there are also images of a German Flakpanzer Gepard self-propelled anti-aircraft gun in Ukrainian service. While the clip doesn’t show the Gepard’s radar active or rampaging with its Oerlikon 35mm autocannons, they likely get their money’s worth with continued drone and cruise missile attacks.

Saudi Arabia reportedly pledged $400 million in humanitarian aid to Ukraine. Riyadh appears to be walking the middle line of the war, mediating prisoner swaps and providing aid despite US anger over OPEC+’s decision to cut oil production last week.

Last but not least, for fans of Her Majesty’s Cold War armored cars, we have an ex-British Ferret Mk 1 reconnaissance car used by Ukrainian forces. This model is also equipped with an Italian buzzsaw MG42/59 chambered in 7.62x51mm NATO. We first spotted ferrets in Ukraine in August, but this is the first time we’ve seen one in operation.

Russian state television commentators are back, this time with a galactic mastermind idea to proliferate weapons to US enemies in an effort to force negotiations on Ukraine.

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

Contact the author: [email protected]

Amanda J. Marsh