Key takeaways from the ISW:

  • The tactical situation in Verbove remains unclear as Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations in western Zaporizhia Oblast on September 26.
  • Likely degraded elements of the Russian 58th Combined Arms Army’s 42nd Motorized Rifle Division are increasingly counterattacking in the Novoprokopivka area, suggesting that Ukrainian counteroffensive operations may have degraded relatively more elite Russian Airborne (VDV) elements that were responsible for counterattacking in the area.
  • Elements of the 42nd Motorized Rifle Division are reportedly deployed as far back as Tokmak, continuing to suggest that the Russian command has not manned the multi-echeloned defense in southern Ukraine in depth.
  • Interethnic tensions appear to be sowing division between elements of the Russian 42nd Guards Motorized Rifle Regiment defending against the Ukrainian counteroffensive in western Zaporizhia Oblast.
  • Interethnic tensions may also threaten Chechen Republic Head Ramzan Kadyrov’s broader standing within the Russian political sphere amid an ongoing controversy surrounding Kadyrov’s son.
  • Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu discussed ongoing Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) efforts to increase Russian Airborne (VDV) Forces’ combat capabilities and add elements similar to those normally found in motorized rifle units to the VDV, likely to better align VDV elements with their current combat roles in Ukraine.
  • Russian forces conducted a series of Shahed-131/136 drone strikes on port and military targets in Ukraine on the night of September 25-26.
  • Russian and Western sources largely claimed that Russian Black Sea Fleet (BSF) Commander Admiral Viktor Sokolov is alive after the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) posted footage of Sokolov allegedly attending a meeting on September 26, although the situation remains unclear at this time.
  • The Russian MoD has reportedly recruited some former Wagner Group personnel for MoD-affiliated private military companies (PMCs) fighting in Ukraine, while negotiations between the reported Wagner leadership and the Russian National Guard (Rosgvardia) have allegedly stalled over disagreements concerning Wagner’s independence and cohesion.
  • Russian forces conducted offensive operations along the Kupyansk-Svatove-Kreminna line, near Bakhmut, along the Avdiivka-Donetsk City line, and in western Zaporizhia Oblast and reportedly advanced in some areas on September 26.

Read the full report here.

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