Ukraine increased the range and effectiveness of its long-range attacks in the 80th and 81st weeks of the war, while evidence mounted that it had breached Russia’s first line of defense in the south of the country.

The Russian Defense Ministry admitted on September 12 that Ukraine had fired 10 cruise missiles and three unmanned surface vehicles against the Sevastopol naval port in Crimea.

“We confirm that a large landing ship and a submarine were hit,” Andriy Yusov, spokesman for Ukraine’s military intelligence, told Reuters.

It is believed to be the largest attack against the strategically located port.

“Sevastopol … represents both a base to which supplies can be sent by ship if necessary, a naval base that can provide some protection for the Kerch Bridge, and a base from which the Russians can pose an offensive threat to can represent Ukrainian shipping from Odessa,” wrote strategy professor Phillips O’Brien on Substack. The Kerch Bridge is Russia’s only land connection to Crimea.

“The two work symbiotically to enable the Russians to supply and control Crimea. If one is completely incapacitated, the other will be in real trouble.”


It appears that Ukraine may have developed its own long-range cruise missile and is using it to attack Crimea.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on August 31 that a Ukrainian-made long-range weapon had successfully hit a target 700 km (434 miles) away, without giving details. Geolocated footage from the previous day showed an explosion near an electrical substation near Feodosia, a Russian port on the eastern side of Crimea. That day, the Russian Defense Ministry said it had intercepted a missile targeting rear positions.

A week earlier, Ukraine destroyed a Russian S-400 air defense system in Crimea. Secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council Oleksiy Danilov later attributed the attack to an unspecified Ukrainian-made missile.

Ukraine has also developed its own long-range ground drones.

On July 17, the Kerch Bridge was disabled by an explosion. Russian sources blamed naval surface drones. The Russian Defense Ministry claimed to have foiled another Ukrainian attack on the Kerch Bridge on the night of August 11.

Drone footage released by Ukraine on August 4 showed the bow of a surface drone approaching the Olenegorsky Gornyak, a Russian Ropucha-class landing ship, before disappearing within contact range. The ship was patrolling just outside Novorossiysk – reportedly a safe port to which Russia evacuated much of its Black Sea fleet last year.

Western allies have held off on using long-range munitions for fear of provoking Russia. The advantage of home-made weapons for Ukraine is that their use is possible without restrictions.

Violation in Zaporizhia

In the first half of September, Ukrainian ground forces continued their expansion and consolidated their territorial gains in the south and east of the country.

Ukrainian forces continued their flanking maneuver south of the eastern city of Bakhmut, where they attempted to take the town of Klishchyivka. They made only minor progress on September 1, and ten days later the General Staff said they had liberated 2 square kilometers (0.7 square miles) there.

However, the Ukrainian counteroffensive had its greatest success in the south.

Some of the best Ukrainian units have opened a gap in the extensively prepared Russian minefields and trenches in western Zaporizhzhia.

Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said on September 1 that Ukrainian troops had broken through Russia’s “first line of defense.” United States Defense Intelligence Agency analysis director Trent Maul told The Economist he agreed with that assessment.

“Their breakthrough in this second defensive belt… is actually quite significant,” he said, adding that Ukrainian forces had a “realistic chance” of breaking through the remaining defense layers by the end of the year.


Southern Forces Commander Oleksandr Tarnavskyi agreed, telling The Guardian he expected less resistance from the second and third lines of defense as Russian forces had spent 60 percent of their time preparing the first line of defense.

“We are now between the first and second lines of defense,” Tarnavskyi said. “In the center of the offensive, we are now completing the destruction of enemy units covering the withdrawal of Russian troops behind their second line of defense.”

On August 31, Russian military reporters reported that Ukrainian forces had reached prepared defensive positions west of Verbowe, and four days later, geolocated footage showed that they had passed through Russian defenses there.

“Ukrainian forces advanced to forest line positions east of the Russian anti-tank trenches and Dragon’s Teeth obstacles, part of a three-tiered defense immediately west of Verbove,” wrote the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for the Study of War, a think tank. Dragon Teeth are concrete triangles designed to stop tanks.

Another branch of the Ukrainian counteroffensive in this area was maneuvering between Robotyne, which Ukraine recaptured last month, and Novoprokopivka, its next target to the south. Footage released on September 5 showed Ukrainian forces overtaking Russian positions near Robotyne, and the following day the Russian occupation governor in Zaporizhia admitted that Robotyne had been abandoned to take up “more advantageous positions.”


At the same time, Ukrainian troops were seen advancing along Russian trenches towards Werbowe.

One of the biggest obstacles for Ukrainian counter-offensive forces is a dense network of minefields. However, according to a report from the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), the future depth of these minefields is unpredictable.

Russian forces adapted to early clashes by increasing the depth of their minefield from the standard 120 m (394 ft) to 500 m (1,640 ft) – a depth that could not be reached with demining equipment.

“The increasing depth of the fields means that Russian forces did not have enough mines to consistently meet this requirement at a mine density consistent with the doctrine,” RUSI wrote. “The result was the improvisation of explosive devices, the diversification of the spectrum of mines released and the decreasing regularity of the minefields.”

Ukraine’s slow, deliberate approach was designed to save lives and equipment, the RUSI report said, a tactic that drew criticism from some Western observers. The success of the counteroffensive also began to gain supporters.

“NATO must now undertake a rapid reassessment of its doctrine to develop combined arms tactics and doctrine with minimal effort,” retired Australian Army Major General Mick Ryan wrote in Foreign Affairs. “What this means overall is that Western states must find a way to conduct ground combat in an environment where they are exposed to frequent air attacks – something they have not had to do in generations, but which Ukraine must do now.” “


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