Key Takeaways

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced that Ukrainian forces liberated two unnamed settlements in southern Ukraine and one settlement in Donetsk Oblast. ISW has independently confirmed the liberation of the settlement in Donetsk Oblast and one of the settlements in Kherson Oblast.
  • Geolocated footage shows Russian forces firing MLRS rounds from positions on the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant.
  • Ukrainian forces continued to strike Russian ground lines of communication (GLOCs), ammunition depots, and key positions to exhaust Russian forces and restrain Russian combat power.
  • The Ukrainian liberation of Vysokopillya ignited critical discussions among some Russian milbloggers while the Russian Defense Ministry maintained that Ukrainian forces continued to conduct “unsuccessful attempts” to advance.
  • Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) 127th Regiment of the 1st Army Corps personnel reportedly refused to fight due to a lack of supplies.
  • Ukrainian forces regained territory on the left bank of the Siverskyi Donets River in Donetsk Oblast.
  • Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks northeast of Bakhmut and west of Donetsk City.
  • Russian forces are reportedly moving military assets to areas situated along major ground lines of communication (GLOCS) in rear areas in Zaporizhia Oblast.

The Ukrainian counteroffensive is making verifiable progress in the south and the east. Ukrainian forces are advancing along several axes in western Kherson Oblast and have secured territory across the Siverskyi Donets River in Donetsk Oblast. The pace of the counteroffensive will likely change dramatically from day to day as Ukrainian forces work to starve the Russians of necessary supplies, disrupt their command and control, and weaken their morale even as counteroffensive ground assaults continue. The Russians will occasionally counterattack and regain some lost ground and will of course conduct likely fierce artillery and air attacks against liberated settlements and advancing Ukrainian troops. Ukrainian forces have made substantial enough progress to begin evoking more realistic commentary from the Russian milbloggers, who had been hewing very closely to the Kremlin’s optimistic rhetoric until today.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced that Ukrainian forces liberated two unnamed settlements in southern Ukraine and one settlement in Donetsk Oblast on September 4.[1] Zelensky added that the Ukrainian 54th Mechanized Brigade also advanced in the direction Lysychansk-Siversk and established positions on unspecified heights. Ukrainian officials shared geolocated footage that shows Ukrainian forces raising a Ukrainian flag on a hospital building in Vysokopillya, south of the Kherson-Dnipropetrovsk Oblast administrative border.[2] Social media sources confirmed that Ukrainian forces crossed the Siverskyi Donets River and liberated Ozerne, 20 km northwest of Siversk.[3]

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Geolocated footage from September 2-3 shows Russian forces firing MLRS rounds from positions on the grounds of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) within 1km of a nuclear reactor.[4] Russian opposition outlet The Insider’s footage of Russian forces operating MLRS systems at the ZNPP reaffirms ISW’s prior assessment that Russian forces have militarized the ZNPP.[5] The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced on September 3 that the ZNPP has been disconnected from the power grid for the second time in its operational history (the first instance occurred on August 25), likely due to continued Russian false flag attacks and other military activities in and around the ZNPP.[6] Russian sources claimed the ZNPP has stopped providing energy to Ukraine.[7]

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Kremlin Spokesperson Dmitry Peskov stated that Russia is ready to negotiate Moscow’s conditions for ending the Russian war in Ukraine on September 4, but the Kremlin is maintaining its maximalist goals to  “denazify” Ukraine. Peskov said that the Kremlin would discuss with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky how Ukraine would meet Russian conditions during peace negotiations and noted that Russia will complete all stated objectives of the “special military operation.”[8] Peskov also noted that all conflicts end at the negotiations table and expressed that relations between Russia and the West will improve soon. Peskov’s statement comes amidst the reports of the Ukrainian counteroffensive progress in southern Ukraine. The stated objectives of the “special military operation” include regime change in Kyiv as well as the surrender of all of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts to the Kremlin. Russian efforts to integrate occupied areas of Kherson, Zaporizhia, and Kharkiv Oblasts demonstrate that Moscow expects to keep those territories permanently as well. Peskov’s statement is thus a reiteration of Moscow’s demands for Ukrainian surrender and offers no indication that Moscow is willing to negotiate seriously and on the basis of a realistic assessment of its prospects in a war that is turning in Ukraine’s direction.

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Authors: Kateryna Stepanenko, Grace Mappes, Layne Philipson, Frederick W. Kagan

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